“I don’t get it. I can get more done in half an hour than my daughter can in three hours! Is she lazy or just unfocused?”
“John was doing fine this year…until he started turning in low-level work. He’s bright, capable, and enjoys school. What’s going on?”
“Every time she has a test coming up, Emily doesn’t study until the very last minute. She stays up all night and can barely get out of bed the next day. I’mm worried this is becoming a habit that she won’t be able to break out of…”
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Procrastination is something many of us would rather not talk about, let alone admit to doing (especially to our kids!). However, it’s something we all experience. Learning more about why it happens and how we can encourage our kids to develop strategies to counteract it are lifelong skills that can impact academic work and beyond.
Procrastination can be defined as the avoidance of attempting a task. It can encompass everything from not starting to not finishing – and everything in between! Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University in Canada, frames it as “prioritizing short-term mood regulation over long-term goals.”
In essence, procrastination presents a tug-of-war in our brains between emotion and logic. The limbic system, the “react and feel” part of our brains, fights with the prefrontal cortex, “logic” part that involves focus, organizing, and impulse control. The short-term emotional payoff of putting off a task feels much better than the satisfaction of completed work. Over time as we repeat behaviors that delay work, procrastination becomes an ingrained habit.
Considering this information, it’s clear how challenging overcoming procrastination is for our kids. Their logical brains are trying to develop amidst this swirl of internal battles! Add in the pull to avoid anxiety and other unpleasant emotions, and you can see how procrastination can become an easy trap to fall into.
A pervasive myth is that only “lazy people” procrastinate. Unfortunately, this belief over-simplifies the problem and keeps us from digging deeper to get to the underlying cause. You may be surprised at the number of reasons your child may procrastinate – and that many of them are because they care too much!
In sum, procrastination has a lot to do with feelings – sustaining good or neutral ones and avoiding negative ones. Understanding this helps us more effectively strategize with our children, which in turn gives them control over their emotions and work. More on that in part two!
Would you like to learn more about how 1:1 tutoring can help your child take charge of their learning? Contact us or give us a call at 312.260.7945 or 415.963.9229!