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Why Does Your Child Procrastinate and How To Help

Did you just find out your child has been sitting on a project for weeks, that is due tomorrow?  Does your child come up with every reason under the sun to avoid a writing assignment?   Most parents need strategies to stop child procrastination at some point, whether it’s occasional or a habit.

Homework procrastination not only wastes time, it creates stress and tension around homework for you and your child, which can morph from a bad study habit into a less than ideal work habit.

This article investigates the “why” of homework procrastination, provides ideas on how to help your child overcome it, and identifies behaviors that might suggest avoiding homework is actually a symptom of a learning delay.

Why Does Your Child Procrastinate Over Homework?

Children want to please. Any time you get into a battle with your child over getting started with homework, you need to stop and think.  What’s driving this?

For elementary age, maturity is a big factor.  Inattentiveness in class can lead to not understanding the assignment. Sitting still after already having had a day at school is a step too far for a lot of young children.  This is why many countries don’t give homework to elementary age children. Tips to help homework go more smoothly here.

Is it a Learning Delay?

Homework is where learning delays tend to be the most evident.  Homework requires paying attention in class, being organized, being able to read with comprehension and writing skills.  Even if a child seems to be on track with reading and shows no evidence of a language issue – listening, working memory or vocabulary gaps – homework procrastination is a signal.

If this is your child, take the time to investigate.  Is your child on grade with reading?  Here is a free reading assessment if you have doubts. Check with the teacher. Are there any signs of inattentiveness in class?  Here is a list of other symptoms to look for that might indicate a cognitive skill delay that might need attention.,  Cognitive skills can be strengthened with adaptive exercises.

Other Reasons for Procrastination

Quite often, homework procrastination can have a range of sources, including the following:

  • Exhaustion. Exhaustion is a symptom of a learning delay – slow processing makes the school day exhausting – but could also come from a child being over-scheduled or tired for other reasons, such as lack of sleep.
  • Anxiety.  Some child develop a fear of failure or not meeting parent or teacher expectations, and that can cause anxiety around homework..This might grow out of negative feedback at some point, or because a child unfairly compares herself to others and doesn’t feel she measures up.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, often while being unsure of how to complete the homework.
  • Lack of motivation, here a child  finds homework boring or unpleasant and/or does not see the value in doing homework.
  • Distractions, where the homework environment has distractions or temptations around.
  • Unclear instructions, where the assignments are not clear, often a symptom of a learning delay.

In addition, some children, especially younger children, have busy personalities, and sitting down to do homework is a skill not yet learned. These cases require patience.

How to help procrastinating on homework

The strategies you apply to help your child are derived from the way you yourself avoid procrastination, and just get started.  It’s about finding the smallest step to complete to make a start, modifying your surroundings to encourage work, etc.

There are many anti-procrastination techniques that can help your child with homework. Here is a quick list of ideas that might work for your child.

Improve planning:

  • Make sure your child understands the defined goal, both the assignment and the timetable.  Sometimes a lack of clarity makes the project seem bigger than it actually is.
  • Break the homework into small and manageable steps. This might include choosing a topic, figuring out what sources to use, etc.  It is not for you to do this work, just to structure the work that is needed, breaking it down into small, manageable wins.
  • Choose the right time of day. Observe and understand your child’s best productivity periods. For some children, it’s right after school while the learning momentum is still there, for others there needs to be a break perhaps involving physical exercise.  For almost all children, the right time is not after 9pm.
  • Environment.  Removing distractions such as phones can only help.

Work on motivation:

  • Remind your child, doing his best is the expectation.  It does not have to be perfect, especially at first.
  • Address any fears your child might have. If you know your child has fears or anxieties, do your best to address them head on.  Validating anxieties as real is a very big step to helping your child manage them.
  • Connect the homework to outcomes.  While incentives might be a last resort, your child might respond to an understanding why homework completion is part of her journey to a successful life.
  • Consider rewards.  Small incentives can motivate children to start and finish their homework on time.

Tailor your approach to your child’s needs. For example, if your child’s homework procrastination is related to being overwhelmed, help her set small concrete goals in steps.  If it’s more about distractions, stop homework procrastination by carefully managing the study environment or find a different study spot.

Focus on the Long Term Goals

Each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It may take time and experimentation to find the most effective strategies for helping your child overcome procrastination and develop good study habits. Be patient and supportive throughout the process.

Remember, getting through each assignment is not the point.  Homework is all about building self-reliance and learning independence.  That means minimizing your actual involvement in homework, and maximizing praise and positive feedback.

In the case that one of the above makes a difference, reconsider the possibility of a learning delay.  If you are in doubt, don’t hesitate to call Gemm Learning for a free consult.