4 Steps to Help Your Child Defeat
“I’ll clean my room tomorrow!”
“It’s not due until next week!”
“I’ll do my chores later!”
They insist. They persuade. They don’t act.
Watching your kids go through the self-destructive process of procrastination can be extremely
painful. Your options are to either do nothing, watching the whole, all-to-familiar scenario
unfold, help out, by doing some or all of the work for them, or play the “parent card” and make
them do it, causing stress and bad feelings.
But none of these is a good option. Not one will improve your child’s life, increase their
resilience, or empower them to take control.
The research in brief
We live in a society where, according to research, 20% of adults self-identify as chronic
procrastinators. Casual procrastination affects an even larger group.
If you evaluate the studies, or frankly just spend time with someone who chronically
procrastinates, you will see the issue is not one defeated by simple logic. In other words,
procrastination goes far beyond helping your child fix their schedule and prioritize better.
Chronically delaying tasks goes hand-in-hand with feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety. So
while your child may actually really want to accomplish their goals, mood and emotion play a
role interfering with the execution. In short, negative emotions can derail self-control. As such, a
key to reducing the procrastinating behavior has in large part to do with improving emotions.
Try Mood Repair
Among others, Dr. Pychyl (sounds like Mitchell), author of the 2013 book, Solving the
Procrastination Puzzle has been exploring and promoting the use of mood repair, using
psychological strategies to defeat procrastination where it starts. Simply put, you can learn to
recognize that you are procrastinating, acknowledge its negative consequences, and employ one
or more of a variety of simple techniques to pass it by and get back to being productive.
This thought-pattern overhaul works for adults, correcting an established problem. If we can
teach these skills to our children when they are young, imagine the potential we can open up in
them. Imagine how much unnecessary stress we can remove from their lives.
Here are four simple research-based ideas that you can teach your child, which will help them
steer clear of procrastination from the outset, measurably improving their chances of avoiding it
later in life.
1 – Teach Your Child Self-Compassion
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can
change the course of your life.” ~Christopher K. Germer
Let’s say your child delays a task. While they may feel temporary pleasure from the
procrastination, in the end, there are often lingering feelings of anxiety and then self-criticism
from the job left undone. Here’s the thing, beating oneself up for procrastinating only makes the
situation worse as negative emotions inhibit self-control.
As an alternative, teach your child to forgive themselves, to be kind to themselves, and to treat
themselves as they would treat their own best friend. Let them know this is a process of self-
awareness. They realize they are procrastinating and it’s time to make a change. Children will
understand that the point of not procrastinating is simply to make their lives better.
2 – Encourage Your Child to ‘Time Travel’