Procrastinator Needs Structure

By Sylvia Rimm

January 11, 2015 4 min read

Q: What recommendations do you have to help children not procrastinate on doing their required schoolwork when they are so absorbed in their hobbies and pastimes and would rather do these things instead?

A: It's excellent that you have children who have so many interests, so it's important to let them know that you are delighted that they are so absorbed. Let's hope some of these interests will point them in career directions as they mature. If not, their enjoyments can surely become hobbies they continue to enjoy.

Exploring many interests makes them fun people, but being interesting and fun is not enough. Explain that though you value what they're doing, the wise adults in their world, both parents and teachers, want to prepare them to be educated adults who will eventually have both interesting careers and the ability to support themselves in responsible ways. There is a great body of important information that is foundational for giving them opportunities to choose a variety of career directions when they are ready. Thus, they must prove themselves responsible to learn what's expected of them on a daily basis before they become immersed in their interests. It's important for children to learn early what responsible adults already know. That is, work comes before play and fun. And we certainly want children to have both.

Help children structure their daily and weekly activities so that they understand they can become involved in their personal interests only after their responsibilities are completed. An erasable whiteboard that maps out the week ahead will let your children understand where homework fits so that they will still be allowed time to follow their personal interests. Also, suggest they include their areas of interest whenever possible as part of their assignments. For example, if your child loves art projects, be sure to encourage him to include artwork in his book report or science or social studies project.

It is true that many adults recall that the seeds for later careers were planted by interests in early childhood or middle or high school. Others discovered their interests first in college or even beyond. If they've developed a strong broader academic background, they are able to specialize later in life and don't have to return to school to make up for what they could have learned earlier.

Remind your children how fortunate they are to have mandatory public education. That is not available to all children in many countries. For example, recent Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai protested and was shot in her efforts to be allowed, as a girl, to get an education. We have much to be thankful for in our country, and children who may take educational opportunities for granted should realize that adults contribute many tax dollars to allow them to learn in school.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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