Have a Slacker Kid? Try These Procrastination Cures

Parenting tips I shared on TODAY for kids who procrastinate, dawdle, cut corners or just take the easy way. It’s the makeover no parent should put off!

Sound like your kid?

cure-kid-procrastinating“I don’t care! I quit – this is too hard.” “Why don’t YOU do it?”

Is his backpack a disaster, homework always a battle and everything seems to be put off until the last nano-second (“I’ll do it… just give me a minute!”)?

Do you feel like your kid’s personal organizer (“TODAY is the spelling test!”) and Big Ben (“the bus is coming in minute!”)

Does her teacher tell you: “I just know she could do better if she’d just apply herself”?

If so chances are you have a little slacker in your home, and can they be frustrating. They dawdle, put things off until the last minute, are unorganized, have poor time management skills and cut corners.


Though slackers usually have fewer ulcers and are a bit more laid back, there are clear disadvantages for kids who adopt “taking the easy way is the best way” as a life attitude.

~ Relationship and reputation downer: Siblings, friends, teammates and parents get tired of always having to be this kid’s reminder.

~ Achievement derailer: Test scores and grades are usually lower because he waits to study or turn tasks in without the effort needed.

~ Success curtailer: Because he doesn’t practice or work as long as needed to experience success he’s shortchanged.

The good news is that there are ways to help kids get more organized and motivated so they are more likely to succeed in school and in life. Here are steps for a successful “Slacker Makeover.” Your first step is to make sure your expectations are in line.


Sure, some kids just want to cut corners, but there may be other reasons for the behavior. Here are common causes of kid slacking that shouldn’t be overlooked.

1. Are expectations for your child appropriate? Could he be slacking because that violin class is over his head? Or that math class is way too easy? Meet with adult in charge to ensure expectations are realistic; alter classes and your expectations to align with your child’s actual capabilities. Expectations that boost motivation should stretch but not snap a child’s abilities. Too high of expectations cause anxiety; too low cause boredom.

2. Does your child have trouble focusing or have a problem learning that is causing him undue frustration? Discuss achievement scores and class performance with his teacher; ask for evaluation or arrange extra tutoring if needed.

3. Could your child be mimicking another family member or your slacking ways? Tune up your behavior so you model the joy of work and ensure your child has examples of those who give “their all” instead of cutting corners.

4. Is there too much going on so your child doesn’t have time or stamina to work hard? Reduce stress that you can; make time in your child’s schedule so he can focus and work harder.


Dawdling and cutting corners is usually not a phase that goes away, but becomes an even more entrenched, harder to fix habit. Here are the top slacker excuses. Identify those that apply to your child and the slacker-curbing strategy. Every strategy takes consistency and commitment, so don’t procrastinate or give up!

Slacker Excuse 1: “I can’t find my homework!”

Slacker kids are often disorganized, so they take up more time trying to locate everything that could be used studying. Homework assignments are commonly misplaced or not turned in. Solutions:

Use concrete organizers to remedy! Put a hook or box by the front door with two heavy-duty folders on the wall. Label one “To do” and the other “Done.” Teach the child to open the backpack the second she comes home, take out her homework assignments and put into “To do” folder, then hang backpack on the hook or in box.

Put away ASAP! When homework is done it goes into the backpack “Done” folder (for you to check-slackers often don’t do their “best” work – so check effort). The child then grabs “done work” and puts it into his backpack.

The practice must become a routine (practice, practice, practice) until you no longer need to be your child’s reminder.

Slacker Excuse 2: “I forgot!” “You didn’t tell me.”

Poor organizational skills are common with procrastinators who haven’t formed a habit of writing things down. so they take extra time to find out what they were supposed to do, forget sports gear, or rely on others to remind them. Solutions:

Homework Desk2Hang a white board with days of week in a central location. Teach your child to write or draw reoccurring assignments on appropriate day (Mon: soccer; Tues: spelling test; adding new tasks (field trip on Thurs) as needed. Refer child to organizer daily “What do you need to do?” until your child gets in the habit.

Use a date book or organizer. Older kids can transfer tasks into small date book with a page for each school day and store in the backpack and use alarm feature on cell phone or computer as chime reminder

Slacker Excuse 3: “I don’t know what to do first!”

Procrastinators often put off because they are overwhelmed with a project or “so many” assignments they don’t know how to get started. Teaching them how to prioritize tasks can get them started and stop postponing. Try these solutions:

Prioritize tasks: Help your child to break down a big project, report or nightly assignment into smaller tasks. Ask “What are things you need to do?” Then the child write or draw each task on Post-it notes, and then stacks them in order from the first to last thing to do As each task is completed, child rips up each Post-it until all completed. She can later learn to make checklists and cross off, but the long list can seem daunting to a procrastinator.

Set work rules! Kids who always put things off need clear work standards because they lack internal self-motivation. So establish “first things first” house rules and then reinforce consistently.“Work first, then play.” “Homework then TV.”

Slacker Excuse 4: “It’s too hard!”

Some kids are overwhelmed with tasks because it seems if never will never be able to complete them. Slackers often have difficulty sticking to a task and so they just give up or put it off. Solutions:

“Chunk” the task into more manageable pieces. Divide your child’s homework into smaller pieces and tell him to do “one chunk at a time.” Increase the size of each chunk after your child has completed a few assignments successfully. Gradually the child will learn to chunk any task into smaller more manageable parts.

“Do the hardest thing first.” The child will have more energy because it’s the first task, and once it’s done he can start on easier tasks.

Beware of rewards. Procrastinators start relying on those rewards so wean your kid from them. Instead, start reinforcing your kid’s productivity, initiative, and effort. Using the right praise that stretches effort and hard work actually stretches persistence.

Don’t rescue! Slackers often expect rescue, and so they don’t give their all knowing that someone (aka “you”) will bail them out. If you really want your child to learn how to be a self-starter and not slack off, then stop being her personal assistant. Change your role from “doer” to “guider” and start weaning “ I’ll to watch you do the first row, you do the second solo.”

Slacker Excuse 5: “I worked long enough!”

Slackers often cut corners or don’t hang into a task long enough often due to poor internal sense of time. So they think they worked longer than they did. Solutions:

kitchen-timer-330Use timing devices. Agree on set work time and post to minimize excuses: “Read 30 minutes each night.” Then provide a timing device to help child become own timekeeper: sand-timer, oven timer; Older child: a stopwatch, cell phone alarm. You’ll nag less and the timer will remind the child how much he needs to work.

Play “beat the clock.” If you need your dawdler to do something in a hurry, turn your directions into a time game. Challenge your child: “Let’s see how quickly you can finish that paper. Set the clock and Go!” Slowly reverse the role: “Did you challenge yourself to see how many problems you can finish in 30 minutes?”

Changing a slacker’s ways will take commitment so stick with it. Your goal is to gradually wean him from his old ways of putting things off and cutting corners.


Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

About the Author

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is the author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, and is an internationally renowned educational psychologist and a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 23 books including her new release, THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. She is a regular NBC contributor who appears regularly on TODAY and has been featured as an expert on Dateline, The View, Dr Phil, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, Dr. Oz, and The Early Show. She lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and is the mother of three grown sons. Dr. Borba is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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