The Dangers of Procrastination (and Tips for Children to Overcome It)

Many parents have experienced the frustration of watching their child put off important school work or studying until it is a stressful, “fire drill” situation. But procrastination isn’t just annoying, says Eileen Huntington of Huntington Learning Center. It can be downright harmful. “Parents often ask us what they can do to teach their children how to not procrastinate, and we feel there are two aspects to discuss,” Huntington says. “First is helping children understand why procrastination is so detrimental to their learning, and the second part comes down to adopting good habits.”

Here are some of the dangers of procrastination:

Everything takes longer than it needs to. The most obvious problem with procrastination is that it wastes precious time. Homework that could take an hour instead takes an entire night. Often, children who procrastinate do everything school-related at the last minute—or worse, they run out of hours in the day—and squander away all their free time.

Children hold themselves back. What children don’t realize when they procrastinate repeatedly is that they are not fulfilling their potential. The time they spend goofing around instead of doing what they need to do is time they could be bettering themselves—in school or some other extracurricular passion.

It causes stress. Procrastination puts children in the bad situation of having something to do and not enough time to do it. That is certain to lead to stress and tears for children and their parents. Long term, this can take a toll, causing children to feel overwhelmed and disappointed in themselves.

Even with good intentions, children set themselves up to fail. Picture a child who wants to earn a good grade but continuously undermines his or her abilities by waiting until the last minute to study and do homework. Children simply cannot achieve goals they set for themselves when they put things off over and over.

And now the tips. Here are five suggestions to help your child conquer procrastination:

  1. Embrace the planner. The planner is a great tool to help your child stay organized and on track. Each day, your child should record all homework and upcoming tests or deadlines. The planner should drive your child’s nightly to-do list and serve as the master checklist for everything school related.
  2. Prioritize each day’s to-dos. Have your child make a list of homework at the start of each homework session and rank each task in order of importance. That exercise alone helps children get into work mode and gives them clear direction on what to start with when sitting down for homework.
  3. Make homework time screen-free time. Get your child into the habit of putting the smartphone or tablet in a drawer during homework time. And under no circumstances should your child do homework in front of a television.
  4. Set time goals. Research shows that set periods of work time combined with regular breaks help students maintain focus longer. Set a timer during homework to have your child work for 25 minutes before earning a five-minute break.
  5. Rely on programs to help with tech distractions. Many children (especially those in middle and high school) need computers to do homework. If you’re concerned about making sure your child doesn’t waste time on the internet or social media, programs like RescueTime are a great way to track the amount of time spent on different websites, email, and applications like Microsoft Word. You can block distracting websites during “focus” periods and set up alerts for spending too much time on websites or social media.

Last and certainly not least, Huntington reminds parents to address the matter at hand: why their children might be procrastinating. “Some children who are struggling avoid work because they fear failure,” she says. “Others are disorganized and lack good time management skills. Procrastination is also one symptom of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Bottom line: there are many reasons children procrastinate, but parents can help by addressing the underlying causes.”

For help getting your child focused on school and into a good homework routine, call Huntington at 1-800-CAN LEARN.

 

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