How to Deal With Laziness in Teenagers

There are plenty of issues that parents and teens can disagree over, but one of the most common ones is teen laziness. When parents see their teens not trying hard enough, especially at school, it bothers them because they often translate it as possible failure in life.

These fears are not totally unfounded. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, around seven thousand students drop out of school every day. Unfortunately, with the trend of economic growth being what it is, it is getting increasingly difficult for high school dropouts to secure a stable, well-paying job. If teens continue to show no interest or motivation to do anything productive, parents have a difficulty seeing how they can turn out to be responsible, successful adults in the future.

Why is your teen unmotivated?

When teens go out of their way to show their parents how unmotivated they are, they actually need a lot of motivation to do it. When teens say “Who cares about school?” or “I don’t care about my chores”, it takes effort to disengage and stay disengaged.

Being lazy or unmotivated is some teens’ version of acting out. Essentially, they are making excuses for themselves. Believe it or not, many teens are afraid of failing and disappointing themselves and their parents, so they end up not trying at all. By trying not to care about what happens to their life now, they appear to not be emotionally invested in the outcome. It’s frustrating for parents because it seems like so much wasted potential.

What can you do to motivate your lazy teen?

Here are a few practical tips to help parents motivate their lazy teens to positive action:

  • “What’s in it for me?” – Teens can be shortsighted sometimes. They don’t see the benefit of cleaning their room, completing their chores, or doing well in school. Try to let the see why this benefits them in the end. Try saying things like “Someday you’d like your own apartment, don’t you? You’ll want to know how to take good care of it.” Appeal to your teen’s need for independence and let the know that you are engaging them now so that they can prepare for this independence in the future.
  • Encourage your teen to earn privileges – Your teen, like any other teen, likes certain activities. It may be surfing the internet, playing video games, talking on the phone, etcetera. If your teen insists on underperforming, take out the “good stuff” from his/her room and encourage him/her to earn the privilege to use these things.
  • Don’t beg – Remember that withdrawing is a way of asserting control. Pleading, arguing, and begging your teen to talk to you, do their schoolwork and finish their chores is not a healthy relationship strategy. Communicate with your teen that it matters to you that he/she does well in life, but don’t force them out of their shell if they are determined to stay in.
  • Stick to a structure – Lazy teens often have poor time management skills. When assigning a chore to your teen, put a deadline or a schedule on it, and stick to the plan. For example, you can tell your teen that 3pm to 5pm everyday is the window provided to finish chores. By the end of that timeframe, you expect the chores to be done, or there will be consequences.
  • Encourage your teen – Catch your teen doing good and commend him/her for it. Don’t fall to the trap of only noticing your teen when he/she is being lazy or making a mistake.

On the other hand, some teens are lazy because they are enabled to be lazy. It may be difficult for parents to face this possibility, but honestly evaluating their relationship with their teens is an important step in making changes. Teens who are enabled to be lazy typically started off this pattern when they were still young. Parents who are overly concerned about how their children do in school allow themselves to be manipulated by their children’s inaction or laziness.

For example, when a child shows no motivation to complete a science project due the next day, some parents may pressure themselves into doing their children’s project for them. Children who insist on doing their homework and project sloppily provoke their parents to interfere, and these parents (despite their good intentions) step in to “save” their children from failure by doing the job themselves, all the while nagging their children to do better.

Even in things as simple as house chores, teens can become extremely lazy if they are enabled to do so. Some parents get so exhausted of telling their children to pick up after themselves that they just do it in order to avoid the stress.

Let your teen fail

Letting your teen experience failure as a consequence of their laziness is not such a bad idea. Failure can actually be a good opportunity to teach valuable lessons to your child. It produces a sense of discomfort that goads a child to do better, provided that parents give their teens the guidance they need to glean the lessons from their failures.

Allowing your child to feel discomfort and anxiety from the consequences of their behavior is not bad parenting. It prevents them from building a tolerance for mediocrity and teaches them to expect more from themselves. With lots of love, help and support from parents, teens can slowly pick themselves up again and start making positive changes in their life because of the sting of failure.