By Amanda Miller
“Mom, can I please do it later?” Ah, it’s the dreaded question asked to put off tasks such as homework, chores, or really anything a child isn’t looking forward to doing. It’s a question you may have heard several times already during your child’s life and one that you give in to from time to time. As long as the mentioned tasks are completed in a timely manner, what’s the harm, right?
But your child’s desire to procrastinate doesn’t stop from getting under your skin. Why won’t he just get the tasks over with so he can do other things? And where did he pick up such a habit, anyway? Well, Mom and Dad, your child’s procrastination habits may have come from watching you.
All In the Genes?
It’s safe to say that we have all procrastinated at some point. We live busy lives and have a lot on our plates on a daily basis, so pushing a task off until tomorrow isn’t laziness, sometimes it makes room for other tasks to get completed. But our children are still witnessing this “pushing off” as they grow up. They see that mom and dad put things off, too.
Kelli L. Ewing, LPC, says, “When a parent consistently displays patterns of procrastination in front of their child, he or she can adopt the behaviors as a means of handling daily responsibilities or appropriate timelines as older children, teenagers, and adults.”
Small children often look to their parents for how they should govern their own lives. And if they see that their parents are “constantly questioned by others as to why it never seems they get important things accomplished by set deadlines, the child can and will view this as a rulebook for their own behavior.” They will see that it’s okay to not get things done on time just as long as they eventually get completed.
Pinpointing the Procrastinator
While determining whether or not your child is procrastinating may seem easy, it isn’t always easy to tell if he or she is simply just wanting to be a kid. For instance, instead of doing his homework, he wants to go to a game with friends and do his homework after the game.
So, how do you know when a child is a procrastinator? When he experiences negative effects that stem from procrastination and is unable to understand the consequences, you may be noticing that this behavior may be an issue.
Ewing shares, “It may become evident that the child has started to procrastinate when he or she expresses confusion or irritability when learning that homework assignments have a set time to be turned in in order to keep up grades in the classroom. If the child or teenager does not respect the set times for which school begins and ends, he or she will begin to experience disciplinary actions at the school, such as truancy, detention, or suspension.”
Because they aren’t sure why there are negative effects to their procrastination, Ewing notes, “It would be normal for a child growing up in a household where procrastination is consistent to question teachers or authority figures in the school about the importance of these particular rules as they are not made to recognize or abide by certain rules within the household.”
How to Help
What do you do if your child is a procrastinator? How do you break his habit? How do you keep him on track and from becoming a procrastinator professional? The best thing to do is nip these habits in the bud, starting with the parents’ behaviors.
Ewing shares, “As parents, if we tend to procrastinate in a lot of major areas in life, then there’s a possibility that we may procrastinate as far as our child’s needs are concerned as well. A good place to start is for the parent to list the main areas in life in which he or she has difficulty in maintaining timely responsibilities. Under each responsibility, the parent should list what is expected of them in that category and what realistic goals may be obtained in slowly starting to change behaviors related to that area of life.”
Through working on their own tasks and responsibilities, parents will be able to cut back on their need to push off tasks. They will begin to complete things rather than procrastinate, and in turn, help their children to do the same.
“With age-appropriate discussion, we should model to children how procrastination can ultimately serve to hurt us at school and at work. The parent might suggest that both he or she and their child work on ways of being respectful towards the things we are expected of in everyday life as a team. The parent can also speak with the child’s teacher to form a plan which helps to assist with procrastination both inside and out of the home,” Ewing adds.
It’s never too late for procrastinating parents to change their behaviors. We are all human beings, and we all have faults. While these negative behaviors are less than ideal, they are still playing a role in shaping our children. However, we can still work through them together to help stop parental procrastination and keep our children from developing the behavior. ■