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Teach Your Child About Procrastination

Procrastination is a fancy word for not doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. We have all put things off and know first hand the damage procrastination can do.

People procrastinate for many reasons. Not knowing where to start, how to break a job down into manageable parts, or how to prioritize can keep a child from even beginning a task or project. Young children do not yet have the experience that would help them plan their time and follow through to completion.

Teaching your child to get things done before they become urgent is part of helping them become a responsible and independent person. Learning to manage time and complete tasks starts early. It will take your vigilance and support during each stage of their development.


Very young children can be convinced that anything is important or fun to do! Having enthusiasm for completing any task, whether it be getting dressed or getting into their car seat can be done more easily when Mom or Dad are smiling and eager to help perform the task. Making a game out of performing a job or using a timer are also fun ways to gain cooperation.

Toddlers and children 4 to 6 love ritual. Doing things that must be done in a certain order at a specified time will encourage compliance. Always picking up the toys before lunch or brushing teeth before bed will create rituals that will stick with your child as he grows.

Setting a timetable or agenda each morning with your child will prepare them for the day, letting them know what they can expect to do or complete each day. Reviewing the day before bed will give you both a sense of accomplishment.

Your youngster watches you to see what, when, how and why you do what you do. If you are in the habit of managing your time wisely and approaching tasks cheerfully, they will probably follow your example.

Main points to address:

  • Young children will generally be more willing to perform tasks if you are enthusiastic.
  • Create daily and weekly rituals and be consistent in performing them.
  • Go over your agenda for the day. Each night review what you were able to complete and what you will do tomorrow.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children really need to be able to start and complete tasks by a certain time and without complaint by the time they enter school. All children are different of course, so tasks will need to be tailored to their ability and developmental readiness.

Children 5-9 love to do new things. They are actively exploring the world and learning about cause and effect. This is a good time to introduce the use of a sticker or star chart listing desired outcomes such as making their bed daily, remembering to feed the dog and completing homework by a specified time. Perhaps a small reward could be given for having a successful week.

Your child may enjoy filling in important events or tasks on a calendar of their own. Learning to manage time using a visual prop is useful for people of all ages! Helping your youngster set a personal goal and identify steps to get there will be the beginning of an important organizational skill.

Again, your consistency with keeping a schedule will be the best example for your child. Watching you answer a letter promptly, pay bills when due, and complete daily and weekly tasks will show them that an orderly routine and environment is possible.

Main points to address:

  • The use of a sticker chart for daily and weekly activities will provide positive reinforcement for responsible behavior.
  • Children this age can use a calendar as a visual prop.
  • Help your child break a personal goal into manageable steps.
  • You remain their best example.

Grades 4-6th

Older children are fairly set in their disposition. Some may tend to be resistant to a regular routine and way of doing things, but most will be ready to take on more complex tasks willingly.

The use of a day planner can help your child. Help them create a “to do” list for each day, prioritize tasks and check off jobs as they are completed.

At this stage, kids are developing intrinsic rewards for their own success, but reinforcement, especially in the form of praise, is still meaningful and effective. A sincere remark such as, “I notice I did not have to remind you to change the hamster’s cage this week!” will encourage continued timeliness and independence.

Setting your child up for success is important. Do they have a desk or work area with a calendar, planner, cork board and pens? If they have set a goal to complete something, have you provided them with materials and made time in your schedule to help them? Eventually you will have to do less of this!

Last notes: Stay enthusiastic! Keep your expectations regarding procrastination reasonable. Guide your child for as long as seems wise, then gradually trust them to manage their own schedule and routine and to live with the consequences. The training you have provided will very likely carry over into adulthood.

Main points to address:

  • A day planner and “to do” lists are helpful props.
  • Continue using enthusiasm and positive reinforcement.
  • Set your child up for success- they still need your involvement.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Character.

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