Procrastination and its discontents

Every week, Mallory has to do four spelling activities in her homework journal (Write a poem with ten of your spelling words! Write a letter with six of your spelling words! Write your spelling words in different colored pencils!). I always recommend that she do one activity every day, Monday through Thursday; she always puts them off until Wednesday or Thursday night. This week, she has to do spelling PLUS a writing activity every night. "I'll just wait until tomorrow to get started with that," she said. I asked her what about spelling. "That can wait too," she said, unconcerned. I reminded her that she has a Brownie meeting Thursday night and won't have much time for homework. "So I'll do it Wednesday," she said. "Can I play on the computer?"

It's hard to see your own worst qualities in your child. I am a terrible procrastinator. Every paper I wrote in college was written the night before it was due. (The fact that I mostly got A's anyway did nothing to deter me from this practice.) I plan my girl scout meetings a few hours before they start. I pay bills the day they're due. This 5K I'm supposed to be running in two weeks? I've only tonight gotten to the point where I can run almost three-quarters of that distance -- I keep thinking that oh, I have plenty of time to prepare for this. No problem! One more night of sitting idly by won't make much difference. I work best under pressure anyway! (I think I may find that that works for matters cerebral, but not so much for matters, uh, muscular.)

So I'm not quite sure how to handle my daughter's impulse to procrastinate. Do I try to force good study habits upon her (making her resentful and crabby)? Or do I let her suffer the natural consequences of putting things off to the last minute (making her resentful and crabby)? Does it even matter, since she's going to be resentful and crabby anyway?

This week, I'm going for natural consequences. If things get ugly Thursday night -- if she's up late after Brownies turning her spelling words into a haiku, or whatever -- then I guess I'll have ammunition for next Monday, when this all starts over again. And if she gets it done without much fuss, then she'll know what she can get away with...and it'll all start over again.


aimee said...

That's a hard thing, sitting idly by as a mom.

As far as your 5k is concerned, are you supposed to run the whole way before a race? I heard that you aren't but that might be for a marathon. You'll do great, I am sure--just attempting it in my book is wonderful!

Karen said...

It is hard to sit and watch your child continue with bad habits. Forcing her to do her homework might eventually lead her to do it on her own, but who knows when it would kick in!

I don't think that you are supposed to run the whole distance before your race. I'm not sure what the rationale is behind that though.