“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.” American saying
There are numerous success skills children need to learn. In order to succeed, you have to do the work. In order to do the work, you need to organize your time to efficiently reach a successful outcome. That’s where allocation, distribution and procrastination come in to play. These are three of the pitfalls I find children falling into regarding homework, projects and studying for tests.
Allocating enough time to do the required task takes thought. Children usually don’t do this. Their thought process tends to be backwards. They look at all the activities they have to do, the friends they want to play with and the TV shows they want to watch; then they try to cram homework into their busy schedule. And oftentimes, this is a reality of the household.
Children are involved in extra-curricular activities. I think it is extremely beneficial to pursue social, athletic and creative activities. However, while activities are important, they should not take priority over school work. Many children are inadvertently being given that message. I speak to too many children who report going to bed without their homework completed, because it got too late. Or, scrambling at the last minute because they forgot an assignment was due. Children need to be taught to review what assignments they have, estimate the time needed to complete them and then determine how they can fit other activities around their required assignments.
Where projects, reading assignments and even studying for chapter tests or exams are concerned, children need to learn to break the assignment into segments, distributing the work over a given period of time. If they do not develop this skill, they may very well end up coming up short on the day it is due, or running out of time because they did not anticipate how long it would take to complete the requirements.
Projects are a good example. Your child may have two weeks to turn in a project. What does he do? In his mind, two weeks is a long time away. No need thinking about that now, with more immediate things to do. So, when does he get started? When does he decide what supplies he’ll need? When does he gather the information at the library or on-line? When does he write or type it up? When does he do the artwork? It probably occurs to him when the project is due the next day; then mom makes one of her famous ‘mad dashes’ to the store to buy supplies.
Here’s where distribution comes in. When the assignment is given, I suggest reviewing with your child just what it will take to have a completed project. There may be supplies to buy, research to explore, artwork to create, typing to do, and so on. This cannot all efficiently be done at the last minute. Thinking through from start to finish, and breaking down the task can keep your child from becoming overwhelmed, anxious or panicky. Once a list is made of the steps needed to be taken, you can work out a schedule with your child as to which step he will do when.
Same distribution principle works for reading assignments. If your child has to read a chapter book and turn in a book report by a certain date, work with him to break the assignment into a certain amount of pages or chapters per night. Then, when it is time to do the book report, he is sure to have actually finished the book!
Procrastination works for some, but not most. Leaving things to the last minute generally just creates panic, probable yelling and shoddy work. It also means that allocation and distribution were totally ignored or forgotten. Plans are only as effective as their execution. That is why, until they demonstrate effective management of time, children need our help. Being aware of their assignments and monitoring how well they are following the plan can really pay off.
On the other hand, children must also be held accountable for their actions. For example, in the above scenario of mom’s ‘mad dash’ to get supplies, I have an alternative solution. I recommend that parents give their children a deadline by which to come up with a supply list for projects. This will help eliminate the night-before ‘mad dash.’ When parents scramble, they are inadvertently condoning their child’s procrastination, rather than holding him accountable. Children who choose to unsuccessfully procrastinate probably need to experience the resultant consequences, in order to learn to spend their time more wisely.
I suggest you consider rewarding effective time management. One parent I know used an ingenious technique to motivate her tends-to-procrastinate daughter to complete her college applications. She simply told her daughter that she would not be allowed to drive the car until all her applications were in the mail! Lo and behold, guess who was the first one in the entire senior class of 500+ students to complete her applications! She enjoyed not only the return of her driving privileges, but also the absence of last minute pressure and ‘scrambling’ that her classmates experienced.
Learning to use their time wisely will help your children experience less stress and greater success. Avoiding procrastination and utilizing the success skills of allocation and distribution, will make their lives easier, as well as your own!
Dr. Vicki Panaccione is a passionate and dedicated child psychologist whose 25 year career has focused on listening to 100’s of kids and helping 1000’s of parents raise happy, successful kids–and enjoy the ride. She is an internationally recognized psychologist, parenting authority, speaker, parent coach, media consultant, radio personality, prize-winning and best-selling author.
To get a free copy of Dr. Vicki’s Top 10 Tips for Top 10 Parenting Issues, visit