Why Your Kids Might Be Procrastinating

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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 their 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 their role or doesn't have the skill set to tackle a job, they are 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 them exactly how to complete the responsibility and answer any questions your tween may have. It might also be a good idea to watch them 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 they are not understanding a concept or if they don'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 their mom or dad is bluffing. If you threaten to take away television time from your child if they don'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 their responsibilities are, what the deadline is, and what the consequences are should they fail to do the job. Then, follow through. That may help your tween take the duties a bit more seriously and motivate them 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 responsibility because they don't have the confidence or the skills to do it, then your job is to motivate or teach them so that they 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 they are afraid of sounding bad, teach them that working through mistakes is what practice is all about, and that you don't expect your child to get it right on the first try.
  • They need rest: 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 downtime every day, 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 your child stick to it. And if you think your child's schedule is too busy, consider removing activities that aren't really important. 
3 Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Chores and responsibility.

  2. Bong M, Hwang A, Noh A, Kim S. Perfectionism and motivation of adolescents in academic contexts. J Educ Psychol. 2014;106(3):711-729. doi:10.1037/a0035836

  3. Brown SL, Nobiling BD, Teufel J, Birch DA. Are kids too busy? Early adolescents' perceptions of discretionary activities, overscheduling, and stress. J Sch Health. 2011;81(9):574-580. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00629.x

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.