Procrastination is a common problem many people face. Nowadays, it seems that people have become dependent on stress to get themselves motivated, feel challenged and get things done. Procrastination can quickly become a habit if left unchecked, and that habit is a huge source of lifestyle stress.
Parents can have a huge impact on whether or not their teenager develops the habit of procrastination. Here are some tips for how to help your teen begin and finish projects in a responsible manner:
Role model. A parent’s greatest impact on their child is their own behavior. Parents should reflect on their own method for accomplishing tasks and consider whether they are passing on their own procrastination habit. A teen should be seeing their parents make goals and plans for accomplishing projects or tasks.
Explain the benefits of not procrastinating. Parents should take the time to explain to their teen that the greatest reward for not procrastinating is the satisfaction of completing work on time and the relief that accompanies not waiting until the last minute to do something. It is a way to reduce stress in their own life.
Identify possible underlying sources of the procrastination. Sometimes teens procrastinate for reasons that are not obvious. Procrastination does not always equal laziness or irresponsibility. Be sure to consider whether your teen is facing another problem that is creating procrastination. Such problems could include:
- They don’t understand the assignment.
- They need extra help in that subject area and don’t know how to complete the assignment.
- They are a perfectionist and feel they cannot do a good job.
- They feel anxious. Your teen may be afraid of what could happen or feel like the outcomes are not under their control.
Help your teen define the task. Children tend to procrastinate when they are not sure what is expected or if the task is confusing. Ask your teen if they understand what is required for the project. If they express uncertainty, explain the project in a different way. If they say they do understand, then have them explain it to you so you can make sure they know what they are supposed to be doing.
Create manageable tasks. A large, complex paper or project can overwhelm students who cannot figure out where to start or who can only see the huge amount of work it will take to finish. Sit down with your teen and work together to break the larger task into smaller subtasks. Then, schedule due dates for each of the smaller tasks. The tasks should be small enough that they seem easy. Often the biggest obstacle for a student is simply getting started. If they have small enough goals – such as brainstorming for 10 minutes on the topic of that science project – then they are able to overcome that hurdle.
Get organized. All students need an organizational system! Being organized helps students become more efficient and feel more confident. Show your teen how to use a calendar to record daily home work time, extracurricular activities, subtasks for big projects, appointments, study sessions for upcoming tests, and deadlines.
Prioritize. Teach your teen to define their most important tasks for each day. Making a short to-do list for the day helps keep people focused and prevents them from feeling overwhelmed.
If your teen does not seem to want to change their procrastinating ways, and the efforts above do not have any effect, then it may be time to allow your child to fail. Though it is so hard for parents to watch their children suffer or make mistakes, allowing your teen to experience the negative consequences of his or her actions allows them to identify the results of their behavior and learn a valuable lesson. It can ultimately help them to become more responsible.