Stop the Stalling: Motivating a Procrastinating Child

Child doing homework

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, July 26, 2016 –

Does your child put things off until the last possible moment? Does he find other things to do when an important task needs to be completed?

When a child procrastinates it can be extremely stressful and frustrating for everyone involved.

As a parent you might feel discouraged when your child fails to complete tasks. It may feel like your child is being defiant or lazy, but in reality he is more likely bored or distracted from what he should be doing.

There are some simple ways to help your child get back on track and minimize the stress of completing tasks on time.

Allow your child to participate in setting up their after school schedule. This routine doesn’t have to have time limits attached; it could just be a list. Fun things should fall to the bottom of the list. Make sure they know they can’t move on to step B until step A is completed.

This will give your child something to look forward to and incentive to complete the tasks on the list. It is very important to stick to the schedule, however. If you allow your child to skip the “boring” parts one day, he will expect it every time.

Since your child will have a say in creating the schedule, the fun activities listed are things they actually enjoy. The schedule does not have to be set in stone; you could change activities weekly.

If you feel as though you are always giving out punishments or consequences, offer rewards instead when you see good behavior. Offer praise when you see your child doing even small things you like to see. Positive encouragement will boost self-esteem and make them feel more productive.

Be a positive role model for your child. It is much easier for them to procrastinate when they see parents procrastinating. By setting a schedule, staying in a routine and completing necessary tasks on time, you are teaching them important steps to being successful.

Give concrete instructions. Instead of telling your child to complete their homework, be specific and tell them to complete their spelling homework. This way there are no questions about what needs to be done, and they are able to focus on one subject at a time. If possible, break up homework subjects into different nights of the week to help prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed.

When asking your child to clean up, be specific about what you are looking for. If you ask a child to put their clothes away, there is a good chance the clothes will just get shoved out of sight. If you ask them to fold their clothes and put them in the dresser, they will know exactly what you are asking, and there is less room for a misunderstanding.

Procrastination is a learned behavior, which means that it can be unlearned. To help your child be successful, it is important for you to be consistent and a good role model of the behaviors you want to see.