Helping Kids Overcome Procrastination: Why Wait?

Helping Kids Overcome Procrastination: Why Wait?

Education October 01, 2015 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Helping Kids Overcome Procrastination: Why Wait?

The best way to help kids manage procrastination tendencies is to support them in becoming invested in their own learning and personal growth. Here are twelve strategies for parents.

There are countless reasons why children and teens procrastinate. They may be overwhelmed, disinterested, confused, distracted, lethargic, preoccupied, and the list goes on. Yet parents who want to empower their child toward happy productivity often wonder what to do. Whether children’s tasks involve creating a painting, melody, or essay—or devising a schedule, group discussion, or framework for action—or tackling something else altogether—first steps are crucial. They may also be the most difficult for kids because they lead in new and potentially uncharted directions. Unfortunately, once children start to procrastinate, it can be hard for them to get back on track and to apply themselves. Meanwhile, one missed deadline or opportunity often leads to another…

Here are twelve tips for parents who want to encourage a sense of industry in children, and help them overcome procrastination tendencies.

1.     Readiness – Recognize your child’s developmental and age-related readiness. Give her instructions she will understand. Ensure that expectations are fitting and realistic. Honor her capabilities, areas of weakness, interests, and temperaments.

2.     Prioritizing – Help kids learn to prioritize what is most important (that is, meaningful, relevant, or necessary)—and why. Encourage them to tackle one challenge or goal at a time, breaking it into manageable chunks.

3.      Pacing – Work together to figure out how much time your child will really need to complete something, with or without assistance. Then tack on a little more time, just in case.

4.     Distractions – What’s most distracting? Toys? Snacks? Video games? Social media? Whatever it may be, help your child get into the habit of putting these diversions out of sight and out of reach so it will be easier for him to focus.

5.     Assistance – Provide ample opportunity for your child to express concerns or apprehensions, or to request additional help. Be sure to listen carefully to what she has to say. Remember, some children find it difficult to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. If your child doesn’t want to talk, be patient and ask her if there might be a better time or place for a chat.

6.     Hugs – When demands seem daunting, sometimes the best reassurance comes in the form of a hug or a few quiet moments together. You can generate momentum just by being available—without pressuring, hovering, or passing judgment.

7.     Setting an example – Be both a leader and a role model. Strive toward two-way communication. Display a love of learning. Try and curb your own procrastination. Through words and deeds, emphasize that effort matters, and that a sense of purpose goes a long way.

8.     Showing confidence – Convey that you have faith in your child’s ability. Consider how you can offer praise in ways that are genuine, and encourage productive action by recognizing previous initiatives and accomplishments.

9.     Letting natural consequences occur – Don’t nag, yell, or impose your will on children. If something doesn't get done, or they fall behind, so be it. Children and teens learn from these kinds of experiences. Perhaps they will pick themselves up, complete a task next time, and do better as a result. And, avoid getting into a power struggle, or saying “I told you so” if things do go off the rails.

10. Upside/downside – Help your child learn to do a cost analysis of sorts; that is, to consider the benefits and drawbacks of doing something, or not doing it. Seeing this in writing can help her decide what requires her attention sooner rather than later.

11. Relationships – Tap the immediate circle. Connectivity with family members, friends, and others can play a pivotal role in motivating children and affirming their capabilities.

12. Awareness – Red flags include poor health, exhaustion, unkempt appearance, stomach aches-or head aches, and other indicators that a child is experiencing stress or is struggling to cope with the demands of daily life. If concerned, consult with professionals.

Parents can help their children overcome procrastination by reinforcing their efforts and respecting their autonomy. Encouraging kids to invest in their own learning—connecting it to their ambitions and to what is going on in their lives—will pave the way for successful outcomes now, and over the long haul.

For more information and tips on managing, preventing, and eliminating procrastination, read Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2015). For information on productivity, see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014). For articles, blogs, and resources on these topics and more visit

Further Reading:

Breaking Free from Procrastination by Lisa Rivero 

How Allowing Children to Fail Helps Them Succeed by Susan Newman 

How to Be the Positive Leader Your Child Needs by Rebecca Eanes 

Procrastination: Wait, There’s a Squirrel! by Marianne Kuzujanakis at 

Productivity and Kids: What Do Parents Need to Know? by Joanne Foster 

Ten Sure Fire Ways to Combat Lazy Kids and Create Cycles of Drive by Andy Smithson 

The ABCs of Being Smart, The Letter P  (P is for Productivity) by Joanne Foster 

What Your Kids Want You to Know by Jane Hesslein 

Book Give-away!

Enter a challenge and win four copies of Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids for your child’s school. Go to for information. Enter now – don’t procrastinate because the opportunity ends on Oct. 1st! (TODAY).

comments powered by Disqus