How should I motivate my child who procrastinates to do her homework?

Michele Borba
Kids often become procrastinators and put off doing homework because they are overwhelmed with a project or "so many" assignments they don't know how to get started. Teaching them how to prioritize tasks can get them started and stop postponing. Solutions:
  • Prioritize tasks: Help your child to break down a big project, report or nightly assignment into smaller tasks. Ask "What are things you need to do?" Then the child write or draw each task on Post-it notes, and then stacks them in order from the first to last thing to do As each task is completed, child rips up each Post-it until all completed. She can later learn to make checklists and cross off, but the long list can seem daunting to a procrastinator.
  • Set work rules! Kids who always put things off need clear work standards because they lack internal self-motivation. So establish "first things first" house rules and then reinforce consistently. "Work first, then play." "Homework then TV."
  • "Chunk" the task into more manageable pieces. Divide your child's homework into smaller pieces and tell him to do "one chunk at a time." Increase the size of each chunk after your child has completed a few assignments successfully. Gradually the child will learn to chunk any task into smaller more manageable parts.
  • "Do the hardest thing first." The child will have more energy because it's the first task, and once it's done he can start on easier tasks.
  • Beware of rewards. Procrastinators start relying on those rewards so wean your kid from them. Instead, start reinforcing your kid's productivity, initiative, and effort. Using the right praise that stretches effort and hard work actually stretches persistence.
  • Don't rescue! Some kids expect rescue, and so they don't give their all knowing that someone (aka "you") will bail them out. If you really want your child to learn how to be a self-starter and not slack off, then stop being her personal assistant. Change your role from "doer" to "guider" and start weaning "I'll watch you do the first row, you do the second solo."

How you get your kid to buckle down to homework will depend on what's causing her to put it off. Learn ways to motivate a child to do homework by watching this video featuring psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein. 

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