Preventing the Habit of Procrastination

I am a terrible procrastinator. Actually, I’m a very GOOD procrastinator, in that I’m a total pro at it. I’ll do darned near anything to put off doing cleaning, and I’ll do cleaning to put off doing paperwork! Sort of like you never want your kids to get good at dealing with trauma, I never want my kids to hone their procrastination skills to be as sharp as my own.

How did I get this way? Well, when I was in elementary school, I didn’t want to stop playing or reading or watching, just like every other kid in America in the 1970’s and 80’s. I got into battles with my parents about when I’d do things, and always managed to squeak things in under the wire. I didn’t know about self-handicapping back then, but I sure knew how it worked: I’d put lots of effort in at the very last minute, get a B, and Dad would castigate me that I could have gotten an A if I had started earlier. It was way easier to handle that than to do the work in a more timely fashion fearing that I would *still* only get a B, and then feeling stupid. This way the emphasis was on my time-management skills, not on my actual academic abilities.

Roll forward to my freshman year of high school, when my honors biology class had to do leaf collections. The rubric had a minimum of 80 identified leaves to be able to qualify for an A grade if everything else was good, and there it was, approaching the wee hours of the day it was due, and I couldn’t ID the stupid 80th leaf I had in my possession. I was exhausted, and wanted to go to bed, but Mom laughed and whisked me off in the family station wagon to a front yard across town where she knew there was a mulberry tree. So there we were, at literally 1 AM, in our jammies, sneaking across a suburban front lawn stealing leaves, with my mother laughing and joking about how she’d explain this to the police if they showed up. It is still one of her favorite stories, but to me it is a story of my mother enabling my procrastination in a very sweet and funny way. I got an A, and eventually a BS in Forest Biology, but I still kept procrastinating.

Procrastination has cost me opportunities. It has cost me money. It has cost me friendships. It has cost me positive self-concept. I sometimes feel so deep in undone to-do lists that I feel like I’m drowning in them; so overwhelmed that I can’t do *anything*. 

Suffice it to say that this is not something I want for my children.

So, first and foremost, I’m trying to model NOT procrastinating for them, as well as talking with them about how I try to stop doing it, and the repercussions when I fail to do so. And, sometimes, my kids are starting to get object lessons of a more personal variety…

Yesterday, in my post about being a work at home parent and homeschooling, I talked about how our new rule is that my kids need to do their homeschooling (usually workbooks, but substitutes are fine) the *day before* the computer privileges it earned them. They all agreed to that rule, and went off to play, and Big D and Buddy came back to their homeschool early enough in the evening to get it done before bedtime.

Not so much for Beara. She was working on counting money, which is challenging, but she wasn’t giving it her attention, and kept wandering off, so that when I called then minutes until bedtime, she lost it, demanding that I or Daddyman help her finish in time. Daddyman went to sit with her in the hallway, but I told him the time, and how she had procrastinated all day, he sighed heavily, and Beara went to bed grumpy, but cheered somewhat by the idea that she and I would sit down and have some special one-on-0ne time while her sibs played Minecraft today.

Beara did the last two pages of that assignment today, so she’ll get to use her computer tomorrow. She has begged for her computer about 30 times, and has been caught looking over her siblings shoulders at YouTube videos WAY more than once.

Do I feel like a jerk? Yup. Did I get into a power struggle with my seven year old over some completely arbitrary thing, and a new one at that? Yup. Am I completely good with these things if it stops her procrastination from becoming the habit of a lifetime? I’m going to say yes to that, also.


This entry was posted in ain't a bowl full of cherries, childhood of origin, daily round, psychology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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