Does your child only do their homework at the last minute, or puts off doing their chores all the time?

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Whether it’s poor time management, pure laziness, or being unmotivated ― but whatever the cause, your child’s procrastination can cause both you, and him, lots of stress, anxiety and frustration.

So, why does your child put off doing something important till the eleventh hour? Why are school projects only tackled the day before the due date, when they were assigned weeks ago?

Insights Mind Centre psychologist Daniel Koh says that reasons could range from the child being stressed and anxious about not doing well or failing, to wanting to delay his boredom or disinterest.

“He may be unmotivated to do these things when other things seem much more attractive, he may be feeling tired, he may not understand how to do the work, or misjudge the time and effort needed to complete it,” Koh adds.

One mum, who wants to be known as Mrs Yap, says that her Primary 5 son often waits till she’s home from work at 8pm, before starting to do his homework. “It’s frustrating because I feel like he’s only starting to do his work because I’m home. Otherwise, he won’t even bother,” she gripes.

He may be feeling tired, he may not understand how to do the work, or misjudge the time and effort needed to complete it.”

“Even worse, he’ll tell me that by leaving things to the last minute, he will be more motivated to finish it, so he’s more productive,” she says.

As tempting as it is to call out your child for being lazy, you have more constructive ways to help your child. Here are some tips:

1. Break down tasks
Large tasks can be intimidating and overwhelming. Your child may feel anxious and stressed even before he begins. So, for those who are emotionally distressed, it’s best to break it down into smaller, manageable tasks, with breaks in between, advises Koh.

“Review the tasks and let the child have a go at it. Prompt him if needed. This shows your support and reassurance, which is good for his confidence and keeps him motivated,” Koh adds. When your child starts to see results, he will do more on his own. “Monitor the areas where he may need more support. By giving him your understanding, he will do more.”

2. Do not offer a bribe
Offering a reward should not be the same as bribing ― “Otherwise, once the value is reached, the child will not want to do the task anymore,” Koh explains. “Also, you don’t want to be engaging in a power struggle.”


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3. Remove distractions
A conducive environment is key to getting your child to focus on his work. Create a work space that’s set aside for doing homework, for example. Remove gadgets and toys from the area, and set up good lighting and ventilation. Recognise what triggers procrastination ― this could include a favourite TV show, his iPad, or even a younger sibling at home.

Having healthy sleeping and eating habits will also help him to focus on the day ― and tasks ― at hand. A regular sleep routine is important and make sure your child gets adequate nutrition from a healthy diet.

4. Set a time frame
Time management is important as your child gets older, so he’ll get more and more on their plate in terms of school work, exams, projects and CCAs. Once you’ve rounded up the things he needs to complete, and have broken them down into smaller tasks, break up his day into specific blocks of time where he can work, as well as time to rest or play. Setting mini-due dates can help motivate your child to finish the work in a given time frame.

It’s easy to dismiss a task or put it to the last minute, if you’re not invested in it.

5. Make the project meaningful
It’s easy to dismiss a task or leave it till the last minute if you’re not invested in it. Find ways to make the project meaningful and relevant to your child. “My son adores anything to do with the planets and solar system. In order to get him to do his maths homework, I remind him that maths is important in astronomy, since that’s his ambition,” says mum of two Leong Feng Shin.

6. Let him face consequences
If your child constantly refuses to complete his work earlier, it’s not cruel to show him what happens when he can’t complete it on time. Don’t help him with his school assignment when he can’t finish it in time for submission the next day ― he’ll soon learn that he needs face the consequences from his teacher.

You can also point out other consequences ― “like having to miss out on fun activities to do when he doesn’t meet goals,” says Koh.

7. Reward wisely
Some children may be motivated by small rewards when they complete a task. So, help him to set clear and realistic goals. This will help manage his expectations and track his progress. When a goal is met, offer a meaningful reward.

“Rewards should not be too big ― or the child will work only for it. Family activities, favourite treats are examples of rewards that can build bonds between the parent and child,” notes Koh.

8. Be realistic
Change doesn’t happen overnight ― so, give junior time to adapt to new routines and schedules. Celebrate little wins, be positive and keep encouraging him.

Photos: iStock

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