Learn how to help your student overcome procastination, especially perfectionism, by reassuring, redirecting, and reviving! procastination, student motivation

Procrastination: When Perfection Isn’t Good Enough

By: Carrie Jean Ross

“The maxim ‘nothing avails but perfection’ may be spelled P-A-R-A-L-Y-S-I-S.”

– Winston Churchill

Have you ever wondered why it was so difficult for your student to finish a particular assignment? Some Learning Coaches find their children avoiding an assignment or school lesson because they are worried about not having the highest grade, a perfect essay, or a flawless presentation to submit to the teacher. You can tell if perfectionism is hindering your progress during the school day by listening to your children. Does your procrastinating student say things like the following:

“This is impossible.”
“The paper won’t be good enough, so why bother?”
“Can you check this one more time before I send it to the teacher?”
“It took me longer because I wanted it to be perfect.”
“It will never be good enough!” 

Perfectionism can strangle the creative efforts of any child. A small project may grow into a major ordeal. Sometimes students create expectations that add unnecessary requirements to the project. So how can you help your student knock down this roadblock and start moving forward again? Here’s an emergency plan:

Reassure

  • Unrealistic expectations can cause feelings of anxiety and failure. Let your child know that everything will be okay, and that you love him or her and will help him or her get back on track.
  • Don’t be critical.

Redirect

  • Help your student understand the requirements of the assignment.
  • Develop a strategy with your student to finish the task at hand.
  • Break the assignment into smaller pieces. Each small piece is a reachable goal.
  • Talk about each step and what’s expected.
  • Prioritize what needs to be finished first. Procrastinators often tackle the easiest step first, as a way of avoiding a more difficult one.
  • Set a time limit for your student to finish each piece.
  • Tell your child that if he or she needs help reaching a goal, it’s okay to ask for help.
  • For those students who have trouble writing because they expect to put down perfect prose on the first attempt, introduce the concept of a "first draft" to at least get initial thoughts down on paper (or screen). Then there is something to edit and revise into a final product.

Revive!

  • Give a pep talk:
    • “I know you can do this!”
    • “You can get it done in time.”
    • “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be done.”
    • “You can do this because...”

Now that your student is moving forward again, help him or her stay on the right track by talking about how he or she is doing. In a virtual school, parents have the advantage of continuously seeing how their child is progressing. If you see your student’s lessons stacking up, ask him or her what the plan is to get going again. Does your student need help learning effective study skills? Reach out to the teachers at the school for help. Remind your child not to give in to “all-or-nothing” thinking—every move forward is progress!  

With your help, your student will learn that there is a solution to every procrastination problem! Recognize the progress your student is making, and celebrate the victory of completion.

Please share what you’ve learned about overcoming procrastination with us. Your comments can be as short or as long as you like—don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect!