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 freakout. How can I help my son break this habit? — Procrastinator's Dad
Dear Dad: Procrastination in and of itself isn't a problem. While it may be unpleasant for you and your son, if he is completing his work, then the delaying isn't having a disastrous effect. The issue is the arguing, the stress and the nagging that tend to accompany the delays.
Generally, kids who procrastinate are doing so for several reasons. Your son may lack confidence in his abilities to do his work. His worries about his aptitude to do the work without mistakes could be crippling him. Motivation for the task might also be an issue. He may not see the purpose of the assignment and thus not be motivated to get started. Lastly, your son may be impulsive and have difficulty focusing on a difficult task. It's much easier to do something enjoyable than it is to do work.
Try to find out what your son's stumbling blocks are, and address those specific issues. In addition, focus your energy on rewarding your son for what he does accomplish instead of nagging and punishing for what he doesn't. Help your son break up big tasks and set reasonable goals. But then step aside, and give him choices and responsibility for when and how he gets his work done. Stop the nagging altogether. If your 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 potential downsides of not eating together. Should we focus on fixing this? — Eats 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 portion size and food options. Eating on the go, or eating 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 distractions and interruptions often found at restaurants. Shared mealtimes can also boost children's vocabulary, improve 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. Focus on finding a few nights per week and several meals on the weekends to be together. Eat earlier or later than is optimal if that is the only way to assure 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 non-negotiable priority, every member of the family 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.