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Child procrastinating? Why kids struggle with time management

By Julie Rawe

This article is part of

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Why do some kids put off doing homework until the last minute? Or wait so long to take out the dog that the dog has an accident? 

There are lots of reasons kids procrastinate. Some would just rather be doing something else. But for other kids, there’s more to it. They may have trouble with specific skills related to time management. 

Doing things on time involves organization and planning. These are part of an important set of skills known as executive function

Executive function can affect time management in different ways. Here are three common trouble spots:

  • Trouble with makes it hard to keep information in mind long enough to plan and complete tasks. 

  • Trouble with focus can sidetrack kids from even starting a task. 

  • Trouble estimating time means some kids aren’t sure what five minutes feels like compared to what 30 minutes feels like. This is especially common in kids with .

Challenges in these areas can make it hard to start and complete tasks. Kids may not know how to plan out work or leave enough time. Keep reading to learn how you can help kids with time management.

Dive deeper

Look for patterns in how kids procrastinate

If you observe and take notes, you may pick up on patterns in how kids procrastinate. These patterns can help you understand why they’re procrastinating.

Here are common patterns you might see:

  • Starting a task and then waiting until the last minute to finish

  • Taking a break and losing track of time while doing something fun

  • Avoiding a task because it’s hard to get started or because one of the steps is hard 

  • Saying a task is already done when it isn’t

  • Saying a task won’t take very long, so it’s OK to do it later

  • Often running late and taking a long time to get tasks done

As patterns start to emerge, talk with kids, teachers, and caregivers. See if they’re noticing something similar. Together, you can start to look for ways to help.

Find out if homework anxiety is behind kids’ procrastination .

Don’t assume kids are lazy

Some people see kids procrastinate and assume it’s laziness. That can make kids feel bad about themselves. This is especially true for kids who learn and think differently. 

Kids who struggle in school may put off a task because it involves something that’s hard for them. For example, a struggling reader may keep pushing off a reading assignment. 

Get tips for showing empathy when kids are struggling, and learn about the brain science behind why some kids have trouble starting tasks .

More ways to help

Kids who learn and think differently may struggle with time management for different reasons. But there are lots of ways you can help at home and in school: 

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom