It's never too early to learn to meet deadlines

February 24, 2011|Lisa Prejean

"Do you have any homework?"

After hearing my daughter answer that question in the negative night after night, I should have reconsidered my words.

Perhaps I should have asked if any projects were due in the near future, but this didn't occur to me until she admitted that very fact.

"Mom, my history notebook is due. I don't know how I'm going to get it done."

My questions suddenly became much more specific. Her answers were quite telling.

I asked what was due. She said about 25 pages of illustrations.

I asked when these were due. She said in a few days.

Then I asked when this project was assigned. She admitted: A few weeks ago.

Since the due date was "so far" in the future, she figured she had plenty of time to complete the work. However, because she waited so long to start the project, she ran into a few problems. She was down to the wire working on the project, and the days leading up to the deadline were hectic. She had a test in almost every subject. It was the end of basketball season, and we had two tournaments. Then, she got sick and didn't feel like doing the work.

She wasn't able to fully enjoy the project, but she did learn from the process. Her father and I both talked to her about the importance of finishing assignments as they are given so that the work can be spread out over a longer course of time.

Do we think it won't happen again? Mmmm ... there's no guarantee. Some adults struggle in this area, so why would be expect a 12-year-old to be able to manage long-term projects?

Part of the problem people have with meeting deadlines is that deadlines are set by outside forces. Deadlines can take the leisure out of an activity and make it seem more like work.

My son was lamenting this very fact during a snow day last Tuesday when he was working on a watercolor painting for a fine arts competition.

"I really like painting, but not when I'm feeling pressured to get a project done," he said.

I tried to explain that deadlines are important because they help us stay focused and get things done. I thought I had done an adequate job on the explanation.

He looked at me and said, "Mom, I want to go shovel some driveways."

His friends love the snow. They get off school, and they make extra money by shoveling their neighbors' driveways.

"No shoveling driveways today, son," I said. "You need to paint."

 A slow smile spread across his face as he glanced in my direction.

"Mom, most parents would say, ‘You need to get a job!' You say, ‘Finish that project.'"

He laughed because he knows I'm trying to prepare him for the future when finishing a long-term project will prove beneficial.

Meeting deadlines is just part of that process.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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