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Dealing with Procrastinators to Get Chores Done

“In a Minute, Mom“: Dealing with Procrastination

It's a Good Idea!

Responsibility breeds responsibility.

Chores are harder for some kids than they are for others, and temperament plays a big role in why.

Here's a true story: Robbie was 10, Matty was 9, and they both had Saturday responsibilities—straightening their rooms, picking up their toys from the rest of the house, and helping to clean the kitchen. The deal was that they needed to finish their responsibilities before they could go out to play. Matty, even though he was younger than Robbie, was very businesslike. Saturday mornings, he leapt right in, did his jobs, and was finished in 45 minutes. Robbie, on the other hand, tended to daydream, procrastinate, cry and whine about it, get distracted by toys, play, get reminded and yelled at, procrastinate again. It often took him most of the day to get his chores done.

If you have a child, like Robbie, who procrastinates, it's important not to feel sorry for him (all that sighing and moping). Once you take over and “rescue” him, he'll get the message that his responsibilities are optional. His modus operandi will become to stall until you take pity on him. He'll think, “If I wait long enough, Mom will get impatient enough to do it for me.”

Kids procrastinate for many reasons. If your child is having trouble with procrastination, consider why:

  • Is he a perfectionist, afraid to start or finish for fear the work might not be good enough?
  • Does he know how to do the job at hand?
  • Is the task too much, too long, or too hard?
  • Is he getting enough positive reinforcement when he finishes the job?
  • Is it the solitude of working alone that is bothering him? (Can you make his work time more social, encourage him to break it up with “people breaks,” or work together as a team?)
“But I Tried”

So, Eliza finishes scrubbing the bathtub, and the ring is still there. Pop quiz! Do you:

  1. Yell, “Eliza, this is terrible! Do it again!”
  2. Say, “Nice try, Honey, I'll get this looking better in a jiffy,” as you roll up your sleeves and improve her work.
  3. Say, “Wow, you sure have been working hard. Tell me what kind of cleaning stuff you were using. Just a wet towel? That's a good idea. Next time, you might try adding a little of this bleach, you may hate the smell, but it will save you a lot of elbow grease.”

Answer: C. When it comes to chores, look at the effort, not the results. If you need to give feedback for improvement, keep it positive, and never take over or redo your child's job. Keep in mind that you have two objects: getting the work done and teaching your child about responsibility, work ethic, and family participation. So the bathtub has a ring this week. Will the sky crash down? Eliza's ego certainly won't! Eliza tried, and effort counts. Criticizing the quality of her work would be counterproductive. She has years to learn how to clean a tub, but she'll only learn if she's motivated.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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