Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teens that Procrastinate - Is it a big deal?

Who isn't guilty of procrastinating at one time or another?  As school is wrapping up, many High School Seniors are prepping for their upcoming college days.  There is a lot of preparation for both the parent and the teen.  How fast will it all get done? Is there anything wrong with a little bit of procrastination?

I'll Do It Tomorrow

Source: Connect with Kids

“I want the kids to experience the consequences, the painful consequences of being late in their projects, of getting poor grades. That stimulates the internal motivation that's required to defeat the procrastination.”

– John Lochridge, MD, child psychiatrist

Senioritis. It's that time of year. With high school graduation around the corner, for many high school seniors procrastination is at an all-time-high. But they are not alone. Studies show that up to 95 percent of students procrastinate on their school work. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

13-year-old Leslie watches TV, talks on the phone, goes online... anything to avoid doing her schoolwork. "With, like, all the technology out there, it's so easy just to like completely not do your homework," she says.

Her dad says it's a constant source of frustration. "Just, what was it, last week, she was up till 12:30 finishing homework," he says.

Why do people procrastinate?

A study from the University of Calgary found one reason that may help parents better understand their kids: some procrastinators simply lack the confidence to complete the task.

Leslie, for example: "Like in math and science I'm awful," she says, "and whenever I have a project due I always wait till the last minute."

Experts say that, whatever the reason, there is one important way parents can help: let your child handle it.

"In my opinion, the chief problem I see is parents taking too much responsibility," explains Dr. John Lochridge, a child psychiatrist. "So I tend to go backwards from helping the kids. In other words, I want the kids to experience the consequences, the painful consequences of being late in their projects, of getting poor grades. That stimulates the internal motivation that's required to defeat the procrastination."

And if your child lacks the confidence to get the work done tell them, "It doesn't have to be an A-plus paper," says Lochridge. "Let's get working on it, let's break it up into smaller pieces and get satisfaction from developing the smaller pieces into a larger piece that is a good product. And then that confidence builds from having the success."

What Parents Need To Know

"Everybody procrastinates, but not everybody is a procrastinator," says Dr. Joseph Ferrari, Professor of Psychology at DePaul University. The good news is that when it comes to children, procrastination is only worthy of attention from a therapist or psychologist when it permeates every aspect of their lives—"when they're doing this at home, at school, with their friends," Ferrari says.

Parents can help their children by presenting tasks in concrete terms (for instance, picking up the balls versus cleaning the playroom). More importantly, though, parents can help by recognizing that parenting style is significant. Ferrari, who has been researching procrastination for more than 20 years, says there is no gene for procrastination; it is learned. He suggests that parents reward their children for being early rather than punish them for being late.

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade, describes two types of procrastinators: perfectionists and dreamers. Perfectionists are very detail-oriented, and seldom satisfied with their work. As a result they have great difficulty completing assignments. They need help to understand the difference between "perfect" and "excellent" or "very good." They also need help setting time limits. Dreamers tend to be laid back, mellow kids who'd rather "hang out" than "get going." They tend not to think about the details and deadlines associated with schoolwork. Dreamers aren't great at timing. Parents can help them estimate how long it will take to complete a project, then have them check their own estimates against what actually happens.

In the middle school years, start letting go of control and allow your children to handle their own time management. They will probably take a little nose-dive as far as grades go, but they should be able recover fairly quickly. Remember, nagging will not help. Many teens are stubborn and instead of doing what they're told, will rebel and procrastinate even more.

For younger children, set a firm bedtime, regardless of what work they have to complete. This will not only help them schedule their time better in the future, but also allow them a good night's rest. If they are up all night studying for a test, their brains may not be functioning at 100 percent the next day and, in turn, they'll perform poorly on the exam.


■Why Kids Procrastinate on
Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade