Kids and Procrastination - What Parents Should Know

Is your tween putting things off? Here's what you should know

Girl talking to father
Try to get to the bottom of your tween's procrastination. kali9/E+Getty Images

For a parent, dealing with a child who procrastinates can be frustrating and challenging. Daily schedules can be hard enough to get through, and when a child puts off his or her responsibilities, everyone suffers. But there are reasons behind your child's procrastination, and they may surprise you. It's true, sometimes children put off chores, finishing homework or other responsibilities simply because they don't want to tackle them.

But sometimes kids procrastinate for other reasons. Understanding what's behind your child's procrastination may help you better understand your child's needs, and avoid encountering the behavior in the future.

What's Behind Your Child's Procrastination?

  • They Don't Understand What's Expected: Children may put off chores, homework or other duties simply because they don't understand what it is they are supposed to do. When a child is unsure about his or her role, or doesn't have the skill set to tackle a job, he or she is not likely to want to take it on. If you assign your child a chore at home, be sure you take the time to show him or her exactly how to complete the responsibility, and answer any questions your teen may have. It might also be a good idea to watch him or her a time or two, in order to offer up advice on how to make it easier. Parents can help children deal with troubling homework assignments with a little tutoring -- but also be sure your child understands how necessary it is to speak up in class if he or she is not understanding a concept or if your child doesn't grasp the homework assignment. Also, be clear about your child's after school expectations. If you want your child to finish homework before playing computer games, make that clear. A chart or a daily schedule can help keep your child on track and avoid procrastination.
  • They Can Get Away With It: Children are smart, and they know at an early age when mom or dad is bluffing. If you threaten to take away television time from your child if he or she doesn't clean their room but then fail to follow through with the consequence, don't be surprised if your tween procrastinates the next time you assign the chore. Be sure your child knows what his or her responsibilities are, what the deadline is, and what the consequences are should he or she fails to do the job. Then, follow through. That may help your tween take the duties a bit more seriously, and motivate him or her to follow through when asked.
  • They're Afraid They'll Do it Wrong or Badly: Sometimes, procrastination goes hand in hand with perfectionism. If you think your child is avoiding a responsibility because he or she doesn't have the confidence or the skills to do it, then your job is to motivate or teach him or her, so that he or she can do the job. Preteens can be afraid of failure, and they don't always understand that practice is the best teacher. If your child avoids practicing an instrument because he or she just can't understand how to play a certain note, teach him or her that that's what practice is all about, and that you don't expect your child to get it right on the first try.
  • There's Something Better to Do: OK, it's true, tweens sometimes put off their chores or homework assignments because they have something better to do, like hanging out with friends, watching television, or going to the movies. Be sure your child does have down time everyday, and try to find a time to schedule chores when there aren't so many distractions. As for homework, some children need a little time after school to relax before they take on additional studies. Try to create a schedule that works with your tween's needs, and then help him or her stick to it. And if you think your child's schedule is too busy, consider removing activities that aren't really important. 

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