Parenting Isn’t for Sissies | Do you have a procrastinator in the house?

Q: How do I teach my daughter about responsibility when I am the type who gets a project done as soon as it is assigned and she is the type who waits until the last minute? It’s so hard to live by the old adage that she ‘just needs to learn the hard way.’ I want my daughter to be the best she can be. I have a bit of a control issue and find it so difficult to not break down and just say “Give me the stinking materials and I’ll just do it!”



  • Avoid the retort “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t
    constitute an emergency on my part.” Sarcasm can be momentarily
    satisfying, but it can inspire others to shut down and feel angry
    instead of opening up and problem solving.
  • Arm your child with the tools for success: an assignment
    notebook (which, as a temporary measure can be signed daily by your
    child’s teacher and you-in a spirit of support-after your child
    jots down due dates and dates of quizzes and tests) can prompt you
    to initiate discussions about how she might plan and prepare
    for them.

I know from experience how difficult the issue of procrastination can be. I was that child and am still that adult. However, I have found that I do some of my best work when adrenaline, inspired by an impending deadline, is coursing through my veins.

Perhaps this is how your daughter achieves her best results? If not, maybe you two can compromise. Consider encouraging her to at least prepare for projects earlier by helping her to collect materials and brainstorming (which, hint, hint, may be all it takes to get the ball rolling) and then allow her to pull it together in her own way by deadline time.

You’re smart to resist doing all of the work for your daughter. Surely it would be satisfying to get projects out of the way by any means necessary, but then she would miss out on their lessons.

I can tell from your question that you already have a hunch that “consequences are great teachers,” but let’s take this idea a step further. The next time your daughter receives an assignment, ask her about her strategy. If she balks, consider telling her that you are available to help, but otherwise, you won’t interfere. When she gets it done-and this is critical-gently ask her how she thinks things turned out. Is she pleased with the results? If not, how might she handle deadlines in the future in order to achieve the outcome she desires? Is something else going on for her that makes meeting deadlines difficult? This conversation may help you to root this out.

I realize that allowing your daughter to potentially “fail” this time can be uncomfortable, but remember: if she doesn’t have an experience of failing while she’s living at home with your support, figuring out how to cope with the consequences of poor planning when she’s on her own can be a lot harder.

As for your daughter being the “best she can be,” sometimes we learn that our “projects” for our kids’ lives don’t correspondwith their projects fortheir own lives-and that,dear reader, may bethe hardest lessonof them all.

Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia. She has been a clinical member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy since 1995 and is a featured blogger at

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