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How to Stop Procrastinating

Help kids finish their homework

(page 1 of 2)

Your child bounds home from school, drops his books and heads for the door to play outside. You stop him to ask how much homework he has. “Just one quick worksheet,” he insists. After dinner, you have him pull out his agenda book — only to discover he has homework in four subjects, plus a quiz the next day. 

Most parents have been there, and it’s not a surprise that kids aren’t focused and organized, says Beverly Stewart, president and director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics in Wilmington, DE. There are too many distractions with 
TV, video games, computers, Facebook, cell phones, afterschool activities and on and on and on. “It’s hard to prioritize, 
and unless an adult is helping, guess what they’re going to pick?” she asks. “Probably not homework.” 

Oftentimes, anxiety is at the root of procrastination — specifically “the fear of not being able to do the work,” explains Howard Stevenson, psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Ironically, putting off the thing that bothers you becomes a way to cope with that anxiety. Stevenson urges parents to discuss the situation with their children in an understanding way. “Don’t diminish it or punish kids for talking about their inner feelings,” he says. 

How does your child work best?

Procrastinators, adults and kids alike, always think there’s going to be more time later, says Rosie Blumenstein, 7th-grade guidance counselor at Carusi Middle School in Cherry Hill, NJ. Therefore, it’s never too early to start teaching your child how to be successful in school. 

“Children aren’t born naturally knowing study skills,” Stewart says. As soon as they start getting homework, in Kindergarten or 1st grade, teach them organization and prioritizing. Do it at an age-appropriate level and in a way that works for the individual child. Is he a visual learner? An agenda book or notes may be best. For an auditory learner, you may need to talk through the process step by step. Stewart advises starting with something as simple as, “When you get home, your book bag goes in a certain spot.” 

Some kids need downtime after school — a snack, playing outside, an activity. For them, pushing homework the minute they walk through the door won’t be productive. For other kids, it’s best to get their work done as soon as they get home, or you’ll never get them focused again. “That has to be an individual decision based on the parent’s knowledge of that child,” Stewart points out.

By middle school, when homework and projects mount, students must learn to avoid procrastinating. “That’s where they have to become more independent and can’t rely entirely on their parents,” says Blumenstein. Teaching them to make a plan is essential.

Next page: How parents can set a procrastination plan and solve homework dilemmas

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