The Procrastinating Child

The Procrastinating Child

A Parent Says…

After school, my boys come in and get a snack and it’s homework time. At the blink of an eye, the seven-year old is at the table and saying he is finished with everything. And he is.

On the other hand, when my ten-year old sits down to do his homework, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “Here we go again!” I feel that we have tried just about everything to speed this process along but, most days, homework time extends into bedtime. While sometimes, it’s true, there is just too much homework (see  TOO Much Homework!), many times it is a case of the, “Hang on. Just a minute. I just have to….(fill in the blank).”

My typical suggestion to my son is to do his homework up in his room. He has a desk with a light and all of the needed supplies. It is also lacking one younger brother. When I go up to check on the progress made, I usually find a blank paper (or close to it) and a little something that is very, very interesting in my child’s hands. When I ask how things are going, I usually get, “This is too hard. I can’t do this!” According to test results, this child is gifted. I’m thinking he probably can “do” it. The question is, why doesn’t he? You may be thinking ADD or ADHD. Nope. He was cleared of all that business. So what is up with spending hours before he gets going on the task at hand?

Okay, I must come clean here. I spent years in school doing the exact same thing. I waited until the pressure was so great that I was in tears before I would put pen to paper. Is this some sort of perfectionism? Is this an overwhelming need to create a situation that is insurmountable so that there is a glorious excuse not to succeed? It might feel better to fail because the “teacher gave us way too much homework” than to fail because I just didn’t know an answer or wasn’t quite up to the high standards I set for myself.

I can see that if we do not get a handle on this problem, it will plague my son for years to come. Will it stop when he enters the workforce? I’m going to take a stab at this and say, “No, it won’t.” If I had papers to grade as a teacher, I waited until I had a stack as tall as my brain could handle before I’d sit down and dig into it. When I was a writer, the situation was grave. I put so much pressure on myself that I would be literally sick with worry about the assignment I had not yet started.

I don’t feel that I get much support from teachers on this, though I believe many of his at-home assignments are a result of him not completing things in school! At my suggestion, my son is now recording all assignments in his “planner” and the teachers are initialing it. This seems to help. It felt like I had to move a mountain before I got this accomplished, (one more thing for them to do?) but the routine is now in place. We also use a timer and try to break longer assignments into chunks. I will admit, though, that it is hard to remember to do this every time. However, I

There has to be some great idea out there that will take the misery out of learning. Help!


A Teacher Says…

It’s not easy for kids to focus against the competing forces of TV, computer programs and video games. Parents and teachers have their work cut out for them. Some kids procrastinate because they fear failure — this is particularly true of gifted children. Avoiding the task seems like a better alternative than not doing it perfectly. We all pay greater attention, of course, when we’re interested, but it’s important to teach your child ways to focus. Talk to him about procrastination and how it has negatively affected you. Let him see you sticking to and completing a project that frustrates you.

Using a timer and breaking the homework session into segments is a good idea, as long as you’re consistent. At the onset of each session, ask your child questions and help him devise a plan of attack for completing the task at hand. Do this each time, right before you set the timer. Even if you’re frustrated, try to focus on the positive. Praise him for his accomplishments: “I’m proud of the way you kept working on those math problems, even though I know you get frustrated with fractions.”

Psych Central offers 8 good tips for helping your child pay attention.


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One Response to “The Procrastinating Child”

  1. Barry says:

    Good suggestions. Thanks!

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