“Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before the deadline.” Wikipedia
“Suggest children tackle distasteful tasks first so they feel a sense of relief. Starting is the biggest hurdle; help children take small steps to get the ball rolling”- Tip#5 out of 15 provided by Karen Stephens – the author of early care and education books and a frequent contributor to Parenting Exchange
“Set the right atmosphere. When physical labor is needed, lively music can rev up everyone’s tempo. However, music or television during homework is a distraction to be avoided” – Tip#13
I am sure Karen’s children are very hard-working; they do all their chores, immediately after creating a “to do list” and breaking the task into “manageable parts”, but before jumping on the couch with the remote in their hands. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about mine. My reward system failed miserably, because unless I offer something within a six figures range, the reward is not worth the effort. “To do” lists or any instructions I am offering only take up the time that could be used for relaxation. The sense of relief from doing a chore is insignificant in comparison to playing Minecraft with a bunch of friends on an X Box.
I call my older son a master procrastinator. My younger one is not far behind. Once, I pointed out that if procrastination were an Olympic sport, my children would compete for Gold and Silver. They said that it would not work, because then the Olympics would never end.
They have a right (even though it is not covered by a Constitutional Amendment) to relax before starting their homework. The amount of relaxation needed depends on when I come home and make them do “work”. I am using the term “work” loosely here, because things like cleaning out the plate, putting the dirty T-shirt in the laundry, practicing an instrument, taking the dog out, doing math, or anything other than using electronics fall under the definition. Every “work” comes with a strict timeframe: practicing guitar – 15 minutes, violin – 6 minutes, reading for homework-30 minutes, putting the clothes in the laundry or cleaning the room– the speed of light. When I ask: “Why 6 minutes?” My son responds: “This is what the teacher said. You are not the teacher.” I can’t argue with that. The clock is being watched closely; because this is the time they would never get back. “Work” should be avoided; if impossible – done as fast as possible. “Work” should only be performed if the procrastinator is well rested and has exhausted all efforts to continue the relaxation. As Ronald Reagan once said: “I’ve heard that hard work never killed anyone, but I say why take the chance?”
After coming home from school, the calculation is made as to how much time is needed to complete the homework for each subject. Then the times are added and subtracted from the bed time, taking into consideration the meals and other activities. The result is the homework starting point. If at any point, the procrastinator decides that he has overestimated the time needed, the appropriate adjustments must be made. The research paper should be split into the last few days before deadline evenly depending on the number of pages. This does not include bibliography, which should be done on the last day.
Studying for the test is always a huge variable. But not for people who know everything. My kids, surprise, fall into this category; at least, until I start checking. Halfway through his freshman year in High School my older son said: “I never studied for more than 15 minutes for the test. Now, I’ve just studied for 30. Wow, I did not expect that level of commitment from myself!” His voice did not project much happiness.
When the procrastinator wants to keep up good grades, while doing sports and other extracurricular activities, it becomes a source of an inner conflict. On one side, the procrastinator wants to do interesting projects, take on challenges, prove to himself that he is smart and capable, that he can pick the college (not the other way around) and be nicely compensated for the job he likes. On the other side, he does not want to study for the tests, write pointless essays, read the books he would not otherwise pick, and, oh horror, learn the Italian vocabulary. He wants to drive a nice car and travel around the world, but he can’t earn money for that without removing himself from the computer. How to reconcile the burning desire to procrastinate with the daily requirements of various types of “work”?
The practice widely used in my house is to go to bed later. For example, procrastinate until dinner time, eat, do homework, continue to procrastinate, then around 12am print out the homework. If there are any after school activities or a sport- eat dinner, procrastinate, do homework. If you are pressed on time- finish the homework on the bus or during lunch; but make sure the time allocated for relaxation is used for its original purpose. Remember what your priorities are. Even if 2 minutes of homework is left and the estimated time has expired -stop, procrastinate, than finish up.
Procrastination is an addiction. The good part is that it is free, and does not have negative health effects, which also makes it a bad part, because it is very hard to fight.
There could be no rehabs or procrastinator’s anonymous meetings. Since these methods can easily turn into another form of procrastination, it defeats the purpose. One of the possible solutions my son met on the Health Fair in his school. The name of it was a Life Coach. My son asked the person: “What are you for?” The Life Coach responded:”To help people achieve their goals.” “Why do people need YOU for that? Can’t they do it themselves?” asked my curious 9th grader. “They can, but sometimes they need help,” responded the fairy godfather charging $200 per hour.
Since my kids can’t afford the life coach, I volunteer to do it for free. My approach is not that scientific; I did not go to the Life Coach School, but it is based on an extensive experience. I prefer a diplomatic solution (since all others are against the law).
Step #1: Discuss the advantages of doing chores right NOW in a nice, calm voice – in particular: the sooner they do it, the sooner they can go on electronics
Step#4: Discuss the advantages of doing chores right NOW in a very loud, angry voice – in particular: they are not getting their electronics until they do everything
Step#6: Take away electronics
Step#7: Check if all the chores are done. Give back electronics. Tell the kids how proud of them you are.
There has been some positive dynamic in this area. My older son complains that he feels bad when he leaves stuff to the last minute. Not enough yet, to do it earlier. Well, baby steps….. I know it’s not easy.