We all have had this issue at one point or another in our lives. Those who are not serial procrastinators can still recall a time where they delayed tasks due to various reasons. Chances are you are aware why; that task is difficult, i do not have enough time, that task is not rewarding enough etc. But how do we understand how a child is engaging in this behaviour?
The first thing to mention is that the below can also be signs of neurodivergence (e.g., ADD, ADHD, Autism) but not necessarily. These alone do not serve as diagnosis but could help nonetheless in managing the child’s behaviour whether they are neurotypical or neurodivergent.
Not understanding the task/finds task too difficult
It is important for adults to be clear in their communication with children. While the message can also be relayed through play and interactive examples, not being clear in your instructions might lead a child to feel unable to overcome a difficulty. It is often easier for a child to avoid a task altogether instead of asking for help.
This is especially true for children who have issues with anxiety. Anxiety in children is not always visible as one would expect. It may come off as distraction, not paying attention and being irritable or even bodily symptoms such as increased or decreased bowel movements. It can be easily misattributed to other issues. It is important for adults to provide a safe space whereby the child can express their emotional and physical sensations so the adult can help them make sense of what is happening.
Issues with confidence and self esteem
Anxiety could be a by-product of this issue although it is not always the case. A child who has issues with shame and being seen will often put off tasks in order not to deal with feelings of inadequacy. It is important to note that shame and being shy are not the same. Shame refers to a deeper sense of ‘needing to hide’ or ‘turning away’. Support is key here, if the child does not feel safe, the child will not move on to more complex tasks.
Not having a structure or routine
Are you being consistent in your parenting? It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘I will do it later’, even as adults. With the difference that the brains of adults are more suited to reason and work on complex tasks. So, with some discipline this will become easier; children need more support and therefore patience from the caregiver in order to get there. Hence, routine and consistent discipline is crucial, they further provide safety for the child to venture into new tasks.
Looking at your own habits and ways of doing things can also be crucial in this respect. Children, more often than not, learn by observing and mimicking adults. A child might be simply adopting the same strategies that they see within their household. It is important to be aware of what message is being delivered to children through our actions.
Coming to this point, awareness is key – if the adults are aware of themselves, their children’s likes, dislikes, needs and ways of learning, they equip children to better understand themselves and their ways of being in the world. These attributes are crucial later on in life especially when it comes to setting boundaries and self-care.
Supporting and providing a safe and open environment is the best starting point. Make sure that there is clear communication and adequate rewards for what the child is doing right. If you are doing all these things and yet you cannot understand why there are certain issues in your child’s attitude toward completing tasks, keep being consistent, chances are these are natural issues that come and go. If you do notice this along with other issues or the issue is persistent over some months, it could be a good idea to contact the clinic for further guidance.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Jessica Saliba Thorne is a Gestalt psychotherapist. She has experience within the mental health field and sees adults with mental health difficulties, relationship issues and trauma at Willingness.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality ([1st ed.].). New York: Harper.