They procrastinate getting ready, then walk out the door without their soccer cleats. They procrastinate studying, and no one knows they need help until the bad grade comes back on a big test. They procrastinate on a project, and the whole family suffers through a stressful late night before the due date.
As a parent, you’d love to help your child conquer their procrastination tendencies, but you can’t do that until you understand the underlying causes that drive the bad habit. In today’s blog, I want to help you understand why kids really procrastinate. This information will equip you to instill a sense of responsibility in your child—and regain some order and peace in your home along the way!
The Real Reason Kids Procrastinate
Before we dive into why kids struggle with procrastination and disorganization, let’s debunk some myths. No, you haven’t failed them as a parent. No, they don’t have insurmountable personality flaws. No, they’re not necessarily lazy or bored or overwhelmed. The problem isn’t a reflection of their character or your parenting. It’s simply a sign that their executive functioning skills need further development.
Harvard University defines executive functioning skills as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”
The good news is that these processes and skills can be taught and learned. Your child, who is continually forgetting everything from homework assignments to marching band instruments, can grow and improve. Don’t lose hope!
The Eight Executive Functioning Skills
Experts have identified eight executive functioning skills students need in order to succeed in school, work, and life. Understanding these key skills is the first step in helping your child improve their ability to manage their time, assignments, and goals independently:
- Inhibition is the ability to inhibit or stop distractions and impulses that can derail focus.
- Initiation is the ability to get started, especially when you don’t want to or when a task feels overwhelming.
- Shifting is the ability to “go with the flow” and recognize when things are out of one’s control.
- Emotional Control is the ability to process big feelings realistically and effectively.
- Working Memory is the ability to use visuals to track what one needs to remember or complete.
- Planning and Organization is the ability to think beyond one day and plan out long-term assignments.
- Materials Organization is the ability to keep digital files and paperwork organized and accessible.
- Self-Monitoring is the ability to accurately assess one’s performance and status.
As you read through that list, you may be able to identify some skills as harder or easier for your child. Recognizing areas of difficulty will help you know which skills your child needs to strengthen to improve their overall executive functioning.
How to Strengthen Executive Functioning Skills
Executive functioning skills are just that: skills. They can be learned, just like dribbling a basketball or solving math problems with long division. Yes, some of these abilities will come more naturally to some children than others, but nearly everyone can learn and strengthen these skills with guidance.
At Educational Connections, our executive functioning coaches help students learn and grow with…
- Tools and Strategies – Students can use many different systems and strategies to stay organized, manage their time, and track their assignments. Our executive functioning coaches help students learn to identify, customize, or develop systems that fit their personality and needs.
- Routines and Practice – Executive functioning skills take practice! Our coaches help students get into a rhythm of practicing critical skills daily and weekly so they can grow in confidence and independence.
- Outside Support – Many students need outside support and accountability while strengthening these skills. Children often balk at their parents’ attempts to help but embrace the guidance of other adults. (Don’t take it personally—their resistance to you is a normal part of growing up!) Our coaches can provide that third-party support as students gain independence.
If your child struggles with executive functioning, we can help!
Our executive functioning coaches are trained experts who can help your child grow in these critical areas. With the help of our coaches and convenient online tutoring options, your child can grow in confidence, independence, and responsibility. (And your entire family can enjoy a more predictable and organized routine!) Click below to get started with a free consultation today.