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Child procrastinating? Why kids struggle with time management

By Understood Team

At a Glance

  • Kids don’t always procrastinate on purpose.

  • Some struggle with specific skills related to time management.

  • Looking for patterns can help you better understand why your child puts things off.

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Does your child constantly put off doing homework until the last minute? Or wait so long to take out the dog that the dog has an accident on the floor? If your child always procrastinates, you may wonder why.

It’s not like anything good comes from procrastinating. It often leads to homework battles, late nights and tough mornings, and getting in trouble. So, what’s the point in putting things off?

There are lots of reasons kids procrastinate. Some kids would just rather be doing something else. But for other kids, there’s more to it. And it’s related to bigger challenges with time management.

Learn more about why kids procrastinate.

What procrastination looks like in kids

You probably know what happens when your child procrastinates. Maybe chores don’t get done or homework happens at bedtime. But that doesn’t explain why your child procrastinates.

If you observe your child, you may pick up on other behaviors that give you clues. For example, does your child start work, walk away, and then leave it to the last minute to finish? What does your child do instead of doing the work or the chore?

Does your child say the work is already done when it isn’t? Or that it won’t take very long, so it’s OK to do it later?

Think about your child’s sense of time, too. Is your child often late for things? When a task does get done, does it take a long time?

Gathering information like this can help you pick up on patterns. And that can give you a better sense of what’s going on.

Why kids procrastinate

Some people — kids and adults — avoid doing things they don’t enjoy until they absolutely have to. It’s not necessarily a problem. It may just be how they prefer to operate. But it only works if they can pull it off without any consequences.

That’s different from kids who procrastinate even when it causes problems. Some kids can’t help leaving things until the last minute. They struggle with specific skills, and that makes it hard to do things on time.

A common one is trouble with time management. This skill is tied to other skills like organization and planning. They’re part of a group of skills known as executive function .

Trouble with time management can happen for different reasons. For some kids, trouble with math is the issue. Kids who struggle with math can have a hard time estimating how long it takes to do things.

Trouble with focus and working memory can also make time management hard. (Working memory is the ability to hold on to information long enough to use it.) Kids who struggle with these skills may have a hard time starting and completing tasks. They may not know how to plan out work or leave enough time.

Sometimes kids have trouble managing time because they have trouble perceiving time. They don’t know what five minutes feels like versus what 30 minutes feels like. This is especially common in kids with ADHD .

How you can help

What’s your next step? Get more information on when and how your child struggles with managing time. Keep observing your child, and take notes on what you’re seeing.

As patterns start to emerge, talk with someone about what you see. That might be your child’s teacher, another caregiver, or even your child. Find out if they’re noticing something similar.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help at home.

Have your child tell time using an analog clock with hands, instead of looking at a digital clock. This can help your child better understand time. You can also help your child break tasks into chunks that can each be completed in a short time. Explore homework strategies to help kids manage time and stay organized.

Some people see kids procrastinate and assume it’s laziness. That can make kids feel bad about themselves. Get tips for showing empathy  to your child, even if you’re sometimes annoyed by the behavior.

Find out more about why some kids have trouble with focus  and how you can help.

Key Takeaways

  • For lots of kids, procrastinating has nothing to do with laziness.

  • Some kids have trouble knowing what an amount of time feels like.

  • Take notes on what you’re seeing, and find out what the teacher is seeing at school.

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  • Facebook
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  • Email
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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom