“Mom, that’s not due until next week!”
“I’ll have plenty of time to work on that later.”
“Our teacher said the essay is due at the end of the quarter.”
“Do I have to work on that now? No one else is!”
“I’m so tired! Can I please wait until tomorrow?”
Have you heard anything like this from your children before? If so, then congratulations because your family is completely normal! Procrastination is the default setting for most people’s way of thinking and way of life, however, it’s not typically the best way to accomplish goals or achieve great things. Like most life skills children will mimic what they observe, and so the task of teaching our children about procrastination and its downfalls rests upon our shoulders as parents. Here are a few ways to help teach children to steer clear of procrastination and instead teach the art of accomplishment.
“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”
– Charles Dickens
THE GREAT TIME THIEF
It may seem as though you are saving time immediately by putting off chores, tasks, or assignments, but in reality, those to-dos are not going to do themselves and chances are you will be stuck doing them at an even more inconvenient time. By teaching children to take on tasks sooner rather than later you are handing them a valuable tool that they will find useful as they enter high school, college, and the workforce. Employers and teachers love employees and students who don’t waste time, are proactive in accomplishing their tasks and are self-motivated to reach their goals. Procrastination, on the other hand, has rarely produced a glowing review, an A+ on an essay, or boosted someone’s reputation for the better.
BUILDING A BUFFER
If you know you have to be at a meeting at 8 am, you most likely check traffic and leave early to build in some extra time into your commute. You do this so that just in case there is an unforeseeable event, (an accident, road repairs, etc.) it won’t prevent you from getting to your meeting on time. You wisely choose to build a buffer of time into your day so that should something not go as you planned it won’t disrupt your day.
By planning ahead and accomplishing our tasks when we do have the time we are actually creating a space to do something we enjoy later. Let’s look at commuting to work as an example again. Should you arrive early for your meeting you can enjoy a cup of coffee, spend extra time preparing for your meeting, or finish that awesome podcast you were listening to. Never will you regret ‘having extra time’ because you planned ahead.
On the flipside, when we don’t create a buffer and we do encounter a freeway accident or construction job, we feel stressed and irritated because we are running late and are mentally unprepared. We may end up flustered and in a bad mood for our meeting, which wouldn’t go over well for anyone.
This is a very important skill we need to teach our children, as they too have important ‘meetings’ and tasks to accomplish throughout their week. Encourage children to finish all their homework and studying before the weekend so that they can have a lot of free time when the weekend comes. Accomplishing tasks before they are due gives the added benefit of turning in something to be proud of, as the extra time allows for mistakes and errors to be spotted and corrected.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE
There are definitely times in life when putting something off for a later time is the wise choice. If your kids are exhausted after a long and full day, are sick or fighting an illness, or a special situation pops up that isn’t normal, it takes good judgment to determine that some tasks can be put off for a later time. Flexibility on a case-by-case basis is healthy and is not the same thing as living in the habit of procrastination. Even God took the seventh day to rest, as He saw (and still sees) the value in slowing down and relaxing every week.
Life is often unpredictable and it’s our job as parents to be the filter that our young children haven’t developed yet. For older children, there is value in teaching them to weigh their options and make a choice that we might not agree with. They may experience negative consequences, but they may surprise you and figure it out themselves! This is what real life is going to force them to do when they grow up, so it’s a great idea to start training them while in the safety and security of your home.
“The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.”
– Alexander Graham Bell
There seems to be a trend running through our culture that says success should be handed out as a free gift, and that you should get what you want simply because you desire it. It is essential to our children’s future that we teach that success is most often preceded by hard work, determination, and overcoming past failures. Creativity, passion, thoughtfulness, and a desire to do what is right all go hand-in-hand with the hard work it takes to become a thriving member of society.
It’s never too late to start making changes in your own life habits and to start teaching your children to do the same. God’s Word is full of encouragement and examples of men and women who faithfully worked hard for the Lord. Put procrastination in its place by making the most of the time you are given today.
“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” - Proverbs 14:23 NLT
“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” - Proverbs 13:3 NLT