Why Does My Child Procrastinate?

This question has undoubtedly been asked by millions of parents, causing endless conflict.  Sometimes procrastination can be a symptom of an underlying problem.  How can you tell if your child is just a procrastinator or if he or she is struggling with something else?  Before you go into battle consider the following:

Is the procrastination specific to one or two tasks?  If so, fully explore what the activities are.  For example, is the procrastination mostly about doing household chores, writing assignments or math assignments?  These details are important clues that can help determine if there is an underlying problem. 

If your child is consistently procrastinating in one academic area, you may want to speak to his or her teacher to see if they have any idea why this subject is so problematic for him or her.  Sometimes children can have an underlying issue such as difficulty with sequencing or processing, which could make the task extremely overwhelming.  Another issue that can often go unrecognized is dyslexia or ADD. 

If your child is consistently procrastinating in multiple areas it is important to see if there are any connecting variables.  For example, do the tasks require a number of steps or organization?  Does your child become frustrated about his or her own procrastination?  Is the procrastination negatively impacting social or fun activities?  If you answered yes to any of the above, you may want to have your child evaluated as he or she could be struggling with anxiety, a learning disability or ADD.

Things to try if your child is just a procrastinator:

1)        Do not get into power struggles.  (If you take away privileges, make sure that you are not in a constant battle to reinforce this.  For example if you take away video games, confiscate the controllers and the cords)

2)       Use a large calendar and break down tasks into small manageable parts, such as writing one paragraph of a report per day.

3)       Use a reward system.  If your child cleans their room, they may watch an extra 15 minutes of television.  You can also teach your child to utilize short-term rewards, such as after they have completed a task, they get a 5 minute break.

4)       Tell your child that he or she can be in charge of their own privileges and how much time they get to enjoy their privileges (i.e.:  when they are done with their chores they can do the things that they want to do: video games, friends, television etc.)  Consistency is key as well as being relentless.  Many children will challenge this by saying they don’t care if they can’t do anything.  This usually only lasts so long.  Whatever you do, do not get into a battle.  If they refuse to complete the tasks, simply tell them that this is fine and when they are ready to do so you will resume privileges but in the meantime they have none.

5)       You could also have a set routine.  For example, you could have quiet time for an hour.  This could be a time where everyone does something quiet like pay bills

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