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Dear Dr. Yael,

My son is a procrastinator and my daughter-in-law, whom I love, who is a hard-working mother and wife, confided in me that she really needs my help to deal with this issue. My son is a good father, husband, and a good provider. However, he takes after his father, my husband, and always waits till the last minute to do things. I have learned to deal with this issue. My daughter-in-law loves my son, and I know he loves her. He jokes about putting things off. We all love your column. Perhaps you can answer this question by writing about why people procrastinate.




Dear Anonymous,

The antidote to procrastination is planning and making small goals to achieve. Creating habits can help as well. Some examples of this are, pick out clothes the night before to avoid delays in the morning, decide in advance what you are making for dinner so it gets made in a timely manner, choose the most important thing that must get done the next day and schedule a time to do it with reminders built into your phone calendar. Planning your days in advance can also be extremely helpful. For instance, every night before bed you can write down your schedule for the next day. This can help you keep track of what needs to get done and mapping it out in advance helps your day run more smoothly. Unfortunately, no one can really make their adult child do anything, so I’m not sure exactly how you can help. Perhaps your daughter-in-law can share some of these ideas with your son.

Most people who procrastinate usually don’t want to, though sometimes we procrastinate doing a non-preferred task or a task that we feel is boring, frustrating or unpleasant. Other people procrastinate because they are afraid of being criticized or have anxiety over that task for whatever reason. Sometimes people procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed with everything they need to do and don’t know where to start. There are also some people who have trouble getting motivated or who prioritize short term needs over long term needs (i.e. someone may want to just relax and be left alone, but they don’t think about their long term needs of having clean clothes or dinner or an irate wife, etc.).

It’s hard to know from your letter what is going on with your son. Does he struggle with getting things done in general? Is he a hard worker and just puts off non-preferred tasks? These are different issues and need to be dealt with in a different way. Is your son a perfectionist, so he puts off tasks because he can only feel accomplished with doing things perfectly? Does he have time management issues? All of these questions need to be explored and then you can figure out how to help your son. However, your son will need to want to figure this out in order to be able to get help. No one can help someone unless they want the help and see a need to change. Perhaps you can also help your daughter-in-law see how you have dealt with this situation. I hope these ideas help, and hatzlacha with this tricky situation!


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at