Dear Family Coach: My son is the king of procrastination. He often manages to complete his work at the very last minute. Other times he doesn't. But every time there is arguing, stress, nagging and at least one total freak out. How can I help my son break this habit? — Procrastinator's Dad
Dear Dad: Procrastination in and of itself isn't a problem. If he is completing his work, then the delay isn't having a disastrous effect. The issue is the arguing, stress and nagging that accompany the delays.
Generally, kids who procrastinate are doing so for several reasons. Your son may lack confidence in his ability to do his work. Worries about doing the work without mistakes could be crippling him. Motivation to complete the task might also be an issue. He may not see the purpose of the assignment, and thus he isn't motivated to start. Lastly, he may be impulsive and have trouble focusing on a difficult task. It's much easier to do something enjoyable than something that isn't.
Try to find out what your son's stumbling blocks are, and address those specific issues. In addition, focus your energy on rewarding him for what he does accomplish, instead of nagging and punishing him for what he doesn't. Help your son break up big tasks and set reasonable goals. Then, step aside, and give him the choice and responsibility to decide when and how he will get his work done. Stop the nagging altogether. If you son doesn't manage to finish work on time, don't swoop in to rescue him. Let him feel the consequences set by the school.
Dear Family Coach: Due to work schedules and busy lives, we don't eat as a family at the dinner table more than once a week. I'm worried about the downsides of not eating together. Should we focus on fixing this? — Eating Alone
Dear Alone: Sure, life gets in the way. I understand. But fitting in a few family dinners per week is fairly important for a variety of reasons.
When parents eat with their children at home they can better control the food options and portion sizes. Eating on the go or out at restaurants often can lead to poor nutritional habits and weight gain. Furthermore, kids report that the time of day they are most likely to talk to their parents about their lives is during dinner. The impact is even greater when the meal is eaten at home without the distractions and interruptions that are often found at restaurants. Shared meals can also boost children's vocabulary, improve their academic performance and reduce high-risk teen behaviors, such as smoking and sexual activity.
It isn't necessary to eat every meal with the kids. But your entire family would benefit from having a few more opportunities to dine together and connect. Figure out a few nights per week and several meals on the weekend when you can eat together. Eat earlier or later than is ideal if that is the only way to ensure that everyone is present. Cut back on one activity, or shift others around to align schedules. Say no to play dates, sleepovers and nights out on occasion in order to make it work. If you deem family dinner a nonnegotiable priority every family member will learn to reserve that special time and treat it as sacred.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.