Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Lazy Teenager

At a recent parenting workshop, a mom asked for advice on what to do about her “lazy” teenage son. Not an uncommon issue for parents of teenagers, but before I could help her, I needed more information. I asked her to describe what her son’s laziness looked like.

“He’s 15 and he spends all his time in his room playing video games,” she said. “He refuses to do any chores around the house and doesn’t listen to anything we say to him.”

This scenario is a hotspot in many families. What about yours? Do you also think your child is lazy? Webster defines lazy as not liking to work hard or to be active. If your child works hard at some things, but not around the house, he may just be choosing not to do the things he doesn’t want to do. Maybe your son IS lazy, maybe he’s not. Why doesn’t he work hard at his chores? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

No one is born lazy. We come into this world with certain inborn traits, but laziness trait is not one of them. These are the Nine Traits the CoreSelf:

Ease with the Unfamiliar
Sensory Reactivity.

Some CoreSelf traits, such as low activity, low adaptability, low ease with the unfamiliar and low persistence can be perceived as laziness, and can develop into laziness if not managed effectively.

Kids work as hard as what is expected and tolerated within their family unit. Back to our lazy 15-year old: he’s learned that he can do whatever he pleases with no consequences other than his parents nagging him and calling him lazy. He’s used to the nagging and just tunes it out. Why wouldn’t he sit around and play video games instead of doing chores? If your child ignores your requests to help around the house, ask yourself if you, the parent, have inadvertently taught your child to be lazy by tolerating it. Have you been a lazy leader?

So, how do you make the shift to not tolerating your child’s couch potato inactivity? By stepping up and being a leader who teaches that we all have to do things we don’t enjoy doing. It’s part of life. Avoid being a lazy leader by using these six tools from the leadership toolbox:

1. Emphasize the family. Children, like adults, thrive when they feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. A sense of belonging fosters cooperation, where everyone contributes to the common good. Emphasizing the family also teaches children that their actions affect others.

2. Set and communicate clear consistent standards of behavior. Let your children know exactly what you expect them to do. Be consistent, not hit-or-miss. Don’t do it for them because it’s easier than getting into a confrontation. “The trash cans need to be at the curb by 10:00 pm every Thursday night.”

3. Build in accountability. Here’s where things often start to break down. If you’re wondering why you have to constantly nag your kids to do what they’re supposed to do, ask yourself whether you’re holding them accountable for following through. If you don’t check to make sure they’ve done what’s expected, you may be encouraging noncompliance, because they know you don’t follow through on your end.

4. Follow through with clearly communicated consequences. How many times have you heard parents warn their kids of some consequence if they don’t behave and then not follow through? These parents are actually training their kids to ignore them! If there’s no real bottom line, some children will do exactly what they want to do, learning to tune out the constant nagging and threats.

5. Use the language of leadership. Words are profoundly powerful, and effective parent leaders use “I” messages rather than “you” messages. “I” messages convey how you feel as a result of your child’s behavior, rather than the spoken or unspoken blame that’s inherent in “you” messages. When you repeatedly tell your son he’s lazy, he’s going to start believing that he’s not a hard worker. Is that what you want? More likely, you want to help him develop the self-discipline to do what’s expected of him.

6. Walk the walk. Model self-discipline by following through on your commitments, even the ones you’d rather not do. Children will follow what you do over what you say. If you procrastinate or make excuses and tune out your spouse, don’t be surprised if your kids emulate you.

Has a lack of parental leadership contributed to your child’s laziness? If you’ve abdicated your responsibility to lead, don’t be surprised if your child fills that vacuum and rules the roost with his inaction. Then ask yourself: who’s the lazy one?

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