Does Your Child Procrastinate?
Published 20 February 2019 at 20:04
The primary school that my girls went to did not have much workload in terms of homework. Whatever they had was easily manageable with all the other activities they were involved in. The only time management they needed was to learn to be on time at various places. Things changed dramatically when they entered secondary school. The demand was high not only in terms of the workload but they also were expected to be able to plan for:
- homework due by next class;
- projects due in a few weeks;
- assessment in a few day’s time;
- extracurricular activities.
According to them, they had:
- too much work
- too many activities
- too busy
- not enough hours in the day
- not enough holidays
This problem I have also found with quite a few teen clients of mine. They are always busy, but work doesn’t seem to get done. At the end of the day, they are spending late hours studying and sometimes even finishing tasks at school.
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Most parents tend to think that kids are spending time on social media or entertainment. While that is true, there is more to it. Based on my coaching sessions with some of the teens, I have found, helping others is where they end up losing their time the most. A ping, or message, or call from a friend can throw best of us off track. This is something that requires their attention “now”, but doesn’t help them achieve their goals. Helping others makes them feel important and gives a sense of satisfaction. They are not necessarily bad, but these activities quickly eat into the time they should be spending on themselves. This time spent on entertainment and “helping” others, leave them with very little time for their own work and most of the time they end up doing their work last minute.
This rushed work does not end up being quality work and may not reflect their true potential. Some examples of these tasks which don’t need to be “last minute” and generally a lot of time is provided by schools are:
- revising for assessment;
- long essays or analysis of a story;
- application submission for a competition (e.g. story submission);
- project work.
This attitude of not doing something till they are pushed to the corner is seen not just for academics but in other areas too:
- Wellbeing – exercising, getting good and regular sleep and lastly socialising with family and friends;
- Building extracurricular skills – learning sports skills, instrument skills, language skills, soft skills.
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We, parents, are often baffled and frustrated by these “fire-fighting episodes” and ask, "Why don’t they do it?" When they have plenty of time and all the resources available, what excitement do they get out of doing their work last minute?
Here are some of the reasons:
- The activities that are long term in nature like improving their academic skills, improving themselves, and relationships, are usually not one-time projects but long-term goals that need to be consistently in small portions over a long period of time. Since they do not typically have a pressing and urgent deadline (mostly), they are easily put on the back burner. Though these are the things one should be spending some time every day.
- While they might understand that these things are important but because they are so overwhelmed by things that need immediate attention, they don’t know the implications of not doing them. For them, these tasks are things they need to do because the adults in their ecosystem want them to do it.
- Because of the long-term nature of these activities, they need a lot of will power and self-discipline to do them. Along with these characteristics, they also need planning skills which are never formally taught to them. Neither at school nor at home.
As one will imagine, the above reasons lead them to procrastinate as far as they can.
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Help them plan
If they get the planning bit right, other things easily fall in place. This is where the role parents become of paramount importance. Parents need to spend time with kids in instilling planning to ensure that they plan the walk and finally walk to plan. It is easier said than done. Most of the time we, parents, assume that this planning is easy for them because it comes easily to us, adults. My experience of working with children shows it is extremely difficult for them. And that is the main reason why they end up doing everything else instead of focussing on these.
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Below are some tips for parents to help their children:
- Start with breaking up a large project, essay or assessment into smaller portions and get your kids to add it in their calendar. This may need to be adjusted as the exams come near and prep leaves start. This is an important bucket. This needs to include time they need for practicing their extracurriculars.
- Next, pick up on work that they get from school that day and is due soon. Get them to work on it the same day. Follow it by preparation time that may be required for any subject. Again, add it in the calendar.
- Each day, they make their “To Do List” which has a list of things that they must achieve before they call it a day. The “To Do List" has long term and short-term items as described in 1 and 2.
- Above requires an agreement between parents and teens, e.g. no phones/chat while in “Work Mode”. Lastly, they can use the remaining time in helping friends with whatever they need.
- It is only at the initial stages that we, adults, need to work with them. Once they get a hang of planning skills, it is a skill for a lifetime.
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Adolescence is the most crucial and beautiful time in a person’s life. The time spent in school and after-school activities lays the foundation for their physical, emotional and academic well-being now and in the future. A little help in planning how and where they spend their time and energy goes a long way in building a strong balanced future for them. The key question we need to teach them to ask themselves when making their to-do list each day is: The tasks on my list, are they important or are they urgent or neither?
Do you find your child procrastinating? Do you know the reasons? Reach out for a 30-minute free session to explore how coaching can help train him/her to change this habit.
By Shalini Bindal
About the Author:
Shalini Bindal is an ICF-trained, Certified Professional Coach. She does personal and group coaching for Career Moms and Teens. Before becoming a Life Coach, she was an HR Professional and Corporate trainer. She also trains tweens and teens on Soft Skills including: Public Speaking Skills, Assertive Communication Skills, Social Skills. A mother of 2 teenagers, Shalini has lived in India, Belgium and now Hong Kong. Email her for a free 45-minute session (in-person or virtual) firstname.lastname@example.org