As parents of children who have ADHD or those who have the proclivity to procrastinate, it can be easy to assume that this avoidance stems from laziness. In fact, there’s a good chance that your children’s teachers have told you that they could do so much better if they would just apply themselves and stop being so lazy.
However, it turns out that procrastination is rarely a symptom of laziness. So the question becomes, if your children’s procrastination habits are not a result of laziness, then what are they a result of?’ According to Dr. Fuschia Sirois, a doctor of psychology, “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.” It is likely that your children avoid doing certain tasks because those tasks elicit certain moods, and procrastination serves as a coping mechanism for the challenging emotions and negative moods (including boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, and self-doubt) induced by said tasks. Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, where focusing on tasks is already difficult, tend to procrastinate more due to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, or insecurity, as opposed to laziness. They worry that they won’t be able to accomplish a task correctly, and so they figure it’s better to not even try.
As parents and educators, we try to help these students by encouraging them to break a task down into smaller pieces, make a plan to tackle each piece, and then execute their plan. While this sounds good on paper, students’ feelings of anxiety, fear, and inadequacy impedes them from making thoughtful decisions on how to attack the task at hand, which makes them more prone to procrastination, thereby creating a vicious cycle. So how do we help our children? The most important thing is to realize that their procrastination is not about productivity but about emotions. If we are able to help them manage their emotions properly by talking about them openly and acknowledging their value, then that will help them procrastinate less.