Procrastination is a widespread problem that never seems to go away. For many, this pesky habit began in childhood. Although we may look back on childhood as a carefree time, a child’s life is structured around school. Parents and teachers rule, and children must obey.

Procrastination is all about dodging something unpleasant. Most of us want to escape from following the rules that are imposed by those in authority. Is your child starting to show signs of becoming a procrastinator? Does he postpone putting clothes away, doing homework, studying for tests, finishing projects, or being on time? Do you find yourself nagging, yelling or punishing to no avail? What’s a parent to do?

These behaviors make sense if we look at them from a new point of view. Wouldn’t you prefer to kick back, relax or play rather than go to work, do the laundry or mow the lawn? So would your children. Adults choose to go to work or do tasks while children have no choice. I call this type of delay tactic, “I don’t wanna, and you can’t make me!”

Did your parents call you lazy? Lazy is what they called you when you didn’t do what they wanted. Do you tell your child that she is lazy? Negative labels can wound and continue to plague us years after we have left home.

When you are confronted with the “I don’t wanna” behavior try the STOP, LOOK and LISTEN Plan.

STOP nagging. Take some time to be alone and think about the problem.
• What is your goal for your child? Be specific.
• Are your expectations fair and reasonable for a child this age? If in doubt, check it out with a child development expert.
• Remind yourself that most children do not want to do jobs they don’t enjoy so why wouldn’t they prefer to play instead?
• What is your attitude about doing your chores?

LOOK inside yourself. What are you afraid will happen if your child doesn’t do his homework, chores, etc?
• Are you afraid that he will fail in school or in life?
• Are you afraid of what people will think about your child or about you as a good parent?
• Do you demand that your child do what you want because you want it that way? Why do you want it that way?
• Put yourself in your child’s place. Try to remember times when your parents or teachers put unreasonable demands on you.

LISTEN to what your child’s behavior is telling you.
• Problem solve with your child and let her tell you what she would like to do.
• If you have a toddler, make a game of picking up toys and clothes.
• When children are older you can discuss the problem. Certain responsibilities are non-negotiable. Explain that your son must do his homework, but let him decide whether he will do it before or after dinner.
• Set a timer and let your child do something she enjoys until the timer goes off. Turn your monarchy into a democracy and give your child a vote.
• Trust your children to tell you what they think and how they feel. Respect their ability to help find solutions.

When children are older have a family meeting and list the responsibilities and jobs that the adults think are appropriate. Let your youngster help with the list. Make a chart with three columns. Column one is the list of tasks. Column two denotes when or how often each item is to be completed. Column three lists a logical consequence that will occur if that particular assignment is not done. Allow your son or daughter to help decide what a fair consequence should be. Then, if you have to impose it, they will accept it more easily.

Criticism and punishment lead to fear of a harsh authority, which in turn leads the child to build up resentment and behave rebelliously toward authority figures in general. The outcome is procrastination. Use the Stop, Look and Listen Plan now and prevent your child from developing a lifelong habit that will lead to unhappiness and unpleasant consequences in the future.

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson, MS, MFT, D.CEP specializes in using energy psychology techniques to treat stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, and compulsions. Her extensive knowledge of eating disorders and compulsive behaviors led her to write How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, A Substance Called Food, Born To Spend, the award winning Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, and co-author Freedom At Your Fingertips. Her latest book is Procrastination Nation.