From chores and homework to sending their grandparents a thank you card, teenagers can be champion procrastinators. Procrastinating, or putting tasks off until the last minute, is common for people of every age, but teens are particularly notorious for it. While adults have learned over the years that the negative consequences of putting important things off is often not worth it, life hasn’t taught teens this lesson yet.
Dealing with procrastination is a key part of growing up and maturing into adult responsibilities, so it’s very important that teenagers do learn to stop procrastinating and prioritize the important tasks they have. Simply put, teens often haven’t been taught time management skills very often and parents make the mistake of assuming that they do. Parents need to teach their teenagers about how to avoid procrastination because it is a valuable skill that will be a real asset now and in the future. As teens learn to handle their daily and weekly responsibilities, they’ll become more capable, efficient and self-confident.
Causes of Teenage Procrastination
Too many parents jump to the conclusion that teens procrastinate because they are lazy, but that isn’t always the case. Many teenagers simply haven’t developed a true sense of how long a task will take and are therefore not managing their time wisely. Teen brains are still very childlike and will choose pleasurable pursuits over less desirable activities almost every time. Still other teens struggle with perfectionism and anxiety, which can lead them to put off doing something because it is stressful to them. The majority of teens that procrastinate simply don’t care about or don’t realize the negative consequences that will happen if they don’t complete the task.
Once parents identify the cause of procrastination, they can help motivate the teen effectively to get the job done. Often, it only takes a few hard-learned life lessons with problems at work, school or home to get teens to figure out that procrastination isn’t worth it.
5 Ways to Help Teens Avoid Procrastination
So how can parents provide guidance to their teenagers about overcoming their time-wasting habits?
Here are 5 ways to set up good work habits and help teens avoid the negative outcomes that procrastination is sure to bring:
Tip #1. Clarify Expectations
Teens may need some assistance in comprehending exactly what might be needed to finish a task. The teen should explain the steps needed to accomplish the task and parents can help fill in any missing steps and make suggestions for the timeline. With teenagers, it’s much easier for them to avoid procrastination when they have an outline of the steps to take to accomplish what needs done.
Tip #2. Identify Deadlines
Every task has a deadline and believe it or not, some teens simply don’t know what that might be. Sometimes the deadlines are firm, such as a school project, while other times the deadlines are a little more fluid, such as cleaning their room. Parents can help procrastinating teens identify a deadline and guide them to working backwards. For example, If it’s Wednesday and they need to clean their room before hanging out with friends on Friday night, parents should be clear that if the job isn’t done by a certain time on Friday, they don’t go.
Tip #3. Always Start Small
The hardest part about doing something unpleasant is starting it. Often the job seems so large and nearly impossible that it’s just easier for teens to avoid it. The best way to begin is to start small. For example, if the task at hand is studying for a biology test, the teen needs to just study the first five pages of notes and then take a short break. Then, they can do five more pages until their next short break. Because the immediate work is short and doable, it’s easier to get motivated and take action. Soon they are actually doing the task and procrastination is over.
Tip #4. Avoid Technology
One of the biggest distractions for teens today is electronics. When their smart phones, laptops and computers are sitting right there, it’s easy for them to just check social media one more time, or look up that latest funny video before they start doing something productive. Teens can put their electronics in another room while they work or do homework so they aren’t tempted to distraction. There are also several apps that “lock” the devices for a certain amount of time so the teens are forced to ignore social media while they work.
Tip #5. Experience the Negatives
While it’s natural for parents want to protect their teens from harmful and hurtful consequences, sometimes teens simply need experience in getting burned from procrastinating. This could include getting a lower grade on a test or assignment because they put it off for too long, or getting grounded from an activity or their electronics for not completing chores. With enough negative consequences, teens will learn their lesson sooner rather than later.
The key to getting teenagers to stop procrastinating is for parents to first learn why they are lacking motivation to take on certain tasks, and then help teach them the skills to get things done. Part of teaching teens to be more successful at home, work and school is to equip them to deal with the growing responsibilities and demands on their time.
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