“Not now” and “later on” are common things that a household with older children or teenagers will hear. It could be relating to homework, chores, or just general helping around the house. And in many ways, it can be completely normal. Even us as parents can put off the less than desirable tasks as we have other things to do instead or don’t have the energy right then and there to do them. What is important is noticing if you or your child are an occasional delayer, or if you or they are a proper procrastinator and do so because of an underlying issue. Dealing with children that delay tasks for either reason can be a challenge, but knowing the difference and why your child does it can be even more of a challenge.
The thing is, if children are delaying these kinds of thing at home; by simply not starting them with enough time, not completing them, or not even bothering with them, it can cause them some challenges in life. It can mean lower grades, less freedom due to parental punishments, or the inability to take part in extracurricular activities.
Some reasons why they will put doing things off could be:
• Boredom or lack of interest
• Poor time management
• Lack of self-discipline
• Lack of empathy and seeing the relevance of the task to them
• Fear of failure or anxiety
As parents, we need to identify why it might be that our children are putting off doing certain things, or just not wanting to do them at all. Do any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, then it is a good idea to intervene. Here are some ways that you can help your child to be more focused and productive…
Use Your Experiences to Share and Relate
Whether our children like it or not, we have been there and done that, so to speak, and can share some of our life experiences. You could talk about how to become a productive student and what changes you had to make when you went off to University, for example. You could share what you struggled with as you were growing up and what you learned, or strategies that helped.
Clarify Your Expectations
If your child puts things off because of anxiety or the perceived thought of failure, then make sure you are clear in what you expect of them. You are highly likely not expecting perfection; so let them know. Focus on the effort it takes to do something, rather than the end product, or the score, or grade.
Help Teach Problem Solving
Children with anxiety will be likely to make a small situation much bigger than it is, in their head. If they perceive failing at a certain task before they’ve even done it, then it could mean to them that they’ll instantly be punished or become unpopular. The scenario is not likely to happen, but the thought that it could might well be enough to put them off. Help your child to do some rational thinking about this and sometimes even talking about worse case scenarios will make them see it is not that bad. Also help problem solving skills and confidence by starting with smaller, more manageable tasks. You can also teach relaxation skills too.
If Anxiety Gets Too Much
If your child has anxiety, it is important to be understanding and support them in beating their anxiety, using approaches that help them feel able to do whatever it is they are trying to achieve. Gentle nudges out of their comfort zone without making it too overwhelming tends to be effective. If their anxiety becomes unmanageable, CBT and/ or self- help strategies can sometimes be very effective. If it gets to a point where anxiety is significantly affecting daily functioning though, please ensure you seek professional help asap.
*This is a collaborative post.