This post: 6 Types of Procrastinators: Which One is Your Teen (and How to Help Them Get Moving!)
Co-Written by: Marybeth Bock & Nancy Reynolds
It’s one of the biggest pet peeves of parents of teens – the amount of time their kid spends dragging their feet and procrastinating.
“My son has a huge science project due in a few days. The teacher assigned it a month ago and he hasn’t even started yet. I’ve tried everything to get him moving and all I get is… ‘Geeeez, mom. You worry too much! I SAID I’d get it done.’”
If this sounds familiar and you’re at your wits end with your teen constantly putting off assignments, tasks, and chores until the last possible minute, you’re definitely not alone.
According to National University, 86% of high school students procrastinate on assignments on a regular basis and procrastination impacts nearly all students K-12 through college to some degree. And, all that procrastination in school often carries over to other areas of their lives.
As parents, we can’t help but “get it.” Far too many teens are overscheduled, overtired, and overwhelmed so when it comes time to buckle down and check something off their to-do list, the stress gets to them and they end up putting it off.
But sometimes, it’s not the stress of life that triggers our kids to drag their feet when they should be putting the pedal to the medal. It turns out, according to Life Hack, there are actually different types of procrastinators. Once you identify which type of procrastinator your teen is, you can dive in and help them put an end to shuffling their feet.
6 Types of Procrastinators: Which One is Your Teen (and How to Help Them Get Moving!
1. The Distracted
Distracted Procrastinators habitually let what’s happening around them derail their effort to focus and get things done.
Of all the types of procrastinators, this might be the one that plagues teens the most. Notifications on their phone, texts from friends, the urge to check out the latest TikTok videos, or see what their friends are up to on Instagram can be all too tempting for teens which can make staying on track with any task challenging.
How to Help a Distracted:
It all boils down to removing the distractions that are holding them back. More often than not, it’s their phone, but other things can be a distraction as well, including a noisy or messy environment, a barking dog, an uncomfortable homework environment, etc.
To avoid distractions, your teen needs a game plan. Maybe that means heading to the library, silencing their phone (or putting it in another room), or putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their bedroom door. Also, a great way to tune everything out is to tune into music. Experts say, music not only helps with concentration, it can also be a big stress reliever.
2. The Perfectionist
Perfectionists set unrealistically high standards for themselves often spending too much time agonizing over minor details to get everything just right.
Your teen might spend days gathering just the right posterboard, pens and markers, and plan their project to a “T” before actually getting started. And, once they get started, they might get stuck in the process because they’re nervous or unsure about moving to the next step. They may also become paralyzed trying to compete with classmates and/or trying not to disappoint a parent or teacher.
How to Help a Perfectionist:
For starters, help your teen back away from the tiny details and focus on the ‘big picture.” Not that you’re encouraging them to cut corners, but help them realize that all that massive overthinking simply isn’t necessary. It’s also easier to get past a perfectionistic attitude when you have an end in sight so encourage them to set a specific deadline with the steps it will take to complete a task. Lastly, make sure you’re not setting unrealistic standards for your teen. Don’t push for those perfect “As.” Praise effort over grades.
3. The Avoider
Avoiders have a tendency to quit before they even get started. They’re scared, nervous, or worried they can’t or won’t measure up or that they’ll disappoint someone so they just avoid the task altogether.
“There’s no use in even trying. I’m going to fail anyway.” The avoidance can carry over to their social and personal lives, too. They’ll avoid socializing because they’re convinced they’ll be awkward or won’t fit in. Or, they’ll avoid making a doctor’s appointment on their own because they’re worried they won’t know the answers asked by the doctor and they’ll sound stupid – so they avoid it.
How to Help an Avoider:
Help your teen by walking them through the steps of tasks (even if it’s something small). Talk through the “worst-case scenario” so they see that their biggest fears aren’t really that big a deal after all.
If they’re worried about social interaction, role-play with them so they can practice conversing with friends, the opposite sex, a teacher, coach, or boss. It’s also good for avoiders to get in the habit of “Tackle the worst, first” – to move past one hurdle and to see it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
4. The Dreamer
Dreamers are typically highly creative and have great ideas but never follow through to make their plans come to life.
Does your teen come up with great ideas for an essay but has a hard time actually getting started or do they have all these grand ideas about how they’re going make the basketball team but never follow through with the work it takes to get there? Because they waste so much time dreaming about getting something done, when they finally do get started it’s rushed and not their best work.
How to Help a Dreamer:
Dreamers need to get in the habit of becoming list-makers so they can check things off their list and see progress. By writing down specific goals that are measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based every day (or even for specific projects or goals), they can break those big tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks that are easier to tackle. If your teen isn’t familiar with setting “SMART” goals, have them check out this excellent resource for students from the Helpful Professor.
5. The Crisis-Maker
Crisis-Makers thrive on the excitement of waiting until the last possible minute to meet a deadline. They’re the “Don’t worry, I’ll get it done,” teen who pulls an all-nighter when the chips are down.
The problem with this type of procrastinator is they think they work best when under pressure. They don’t manage their time well and end up annoying those around them, including their parents and fellow students who may be working on a group project with them.
How to Help a Crisis-Maker:
Remind your teen that when they’re rushed to finish something, they’re likely stressed out which opens the door to more mistakes and poor-quality work.
Instead, suggest they try out the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a proven effective time-management system that focuses on working in short, focused bursts, and then giving yourself a brief break to recover before working again. Forced work times and breaks can help push your teen to get things done, but also give them breaks in between to keep stress at bay.
6. The Busy Bee
The Busy Bee has a lot on their plate. They’re overwhelmed so it becomes a challenge for them to choose which task needs to be done first, so they end up postponing them all.
Some Busy Bees just don’t see the value in what in they’re working on (i.e. they see it as “boring busy work”) so they blow it off.
How to Help a Busy Bee:
It all boils down to priorities. It’s a skill we think our teens should know, but a lot of teens need help determining which school assignment they should do first or how to prioritize their workload when they’re overwhelmed with projects, homework, or other life responsibilities.
Help your teen create a “Do This First” list or “Top 5 Things to Get Done Today” list so they essentially put “blinders” on, block out everything else, and stay focused on just those few tasks.
We all know teens can get defensive easily, so we need to approach the topic of procrastination gently and come at it in such a way that lets them know we’re here to help, not judge or punish them.
Try to get your teen to talk honestly about the underlying cause of their procrastination Dr. Deborah Trengove, a school psychologist, reminds parents, “Procrastination can be a tough habit to beat, so be prepared for your teenager to relapse, but don’t get discouraged. Procrastination can worsen over time if not addressed, so it is vital to help young people lay the foundation for achieving their potential, reducing stress, and building confidence for study now and into the future.”
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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Share with us in the comments section! Of all the types of procrastinators, which type is your teen and how are you helping them?