The “Lazy Teen” Myth + 5 Ways To Motivate Them

The “Lazy Teen” Myth + 5 Ways To Motivate Them

The myth of the “lazy teenager”.

It’s a tempting one to buy into.

Especially if it seems your teen is only interested in sleeping, gaming and sitting on their phones all day.

“My kid won’t lift a finger to help out around the house. It’s like they think they live in a 5-star hotel.”

And when you finally do ask for a little help…

“Please make your bed, do your homework, pick up your clothes or wash the dishes?”

Nothing unreasonable, right?


You’re met with an undignified look and a reaction that is so outrageous, you may start to question whether you are in fact being unreasonable.

And no matter how much you nag, scream, punish, bribe or over-function, nothing changes.

At this point, it’s easy to conclude that they’re lazy. All the signs are there. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

When it comes to your teen pulling their weight around the house, doing their homework, getting into uni and successfully launching into adulthood (freeeedom!), this behaviour doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

More like a good dose of worry, frustration and despair instead. Good times. The problem is that it can also extend into their twenties where they’re still living at home, not helping out, not working, missing lectures or feeling stuck and directionless.

So if you haven’t completely lost the plot yet, you may be steadily approaching your wit’s end – totally understandable.

The thing is…

We humans are not inherently lazy. We’re actually a pretty creative and industrious bunch when we’re left to our own devices.

From a young age, we seek out challenges and derive a real sense of joy from overcoming them. We love learning, creating and growing – we even have pathways in our brain that reward us for this. And it doesn’t change as we grow older.

So, if your teen is among the less motivated, what’s going on here? Could it be that they’re inherently lazy or could it be that there’s something else happening beneath the lack of drive and disturbing degree of inertia?

When we dig a little deeper, this disheartening behaviour begins to tell a different story.

They’re struggling with confidence, self-belief, fear of failure and/or fear of success. And their level of motivation is directly linked with this.


What Causes A Lazy Teenager

With low levels of confidence and belief in their capabilities they’re more prone to overwhelm and fear. This may be as a result of a demanding school workload, trouble with friends, feeling like they don’t fit in or belong, or the realisation of the need to take on more responsibility. And without the necessary skills to problem-solve and find a way forward, most teens just shutdown.

It’s a legitimate survival response to stress – even though it may look like they’re not stressed about anything, I’ve found that there’s often a great deal of conflict underlying the disinterested façade.

We also haven’t created a culture that promotes failure as the learning and growth opportunity it is. Instead of effort and courage being rewarded, we only praise achievement. So most of us grow up terrified of getting things wrong, looking and feeling stupid in front of others and feeling like a failure. A fantastic way to protect ourselves from this is to do nothing – you can’t fail if you don’t try.

Lastly, the fear of success. When we succeed, people expect more from us. As a teen once put it to me, “If I get good marks, my mom expects me to always get good marks and questions me every time I don’t afterwards. Also, if I clean my room she expects me to have it clean all the time. If I set a low standard, people don’t expect much from me and I can’t let them down.”

When I work with “lazy” teens I remind myself of these points. It makes it easier for me to see through the surface behaviour and notice the immense fear, pain and sadness that their lack of drive, accomplishments and growth is causing them.

That way I can truly support them in ways that add fuel to their inner fire instead of making them feel like “useless”, “incapable”, “lazy” and “selfish” good-for-nothings.

If the goal is to create a self-motivated teen, being armed with this knowledge will help you become less reactive to their careless behaviour and better equipped to help them in ways that serve your real wish.


5 Ways To Help Your Lazy Teenager Become More Motivated

You may be ready to pull out your hair but please know that this is not a quick fix. Igniting your teen’s inner fire is a journey that’ll take time, patience and understanding. But it can be done. Here are 5 things that’ll help you begin to get your “lazy” teen going.

1. Ditch the label

Tell a teen something enough times, they’ll begin to believe it. If a teen believes they’re fundamentally lazy, they will behave in that way. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, laziness isn’t permanent nor is it a personality trait. This is where the label causes more harm than good. Once adopted as a belief, it also makes it harder to help them address the root causes leading to their lack of drive. By focusing on their behaviour instead of labelling their character as something that is shameful, flawed and disapproved of, you’ve won the first battle in igniting your teen’s inner fire.

2. Believe in your teen

This can be hard at first. Especially if your teen has given you a million and one valid reasons to be doubtful. But by ditching the laziness label, you have the opportunity to use the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy in your favour.

If your teen lacks confidence, feels bad about themselves, views others as more capable or doesn’t think they have it in them to get good grades, they will lack motivation. And on top of the constant criticism they’re probably getting from teachers and at home, you can bet their negative self-talk is doing an even better job at eroding their self-esteem and draining their energy.

Criticism doesn’t create a self-motivated person. That’s why your teen needs you to be their biggest believer and cheerleader. Help your teen recognize their strengths and abilities. Gently encourage them to step out of their comfort zones and try new activities. Praise their effort and courage for trying something – even if they fail at it. All of this will help them develop their sense of self and help them realise that they are capable of so much more. Achieve this and you’ll see a fire begin to light up inside your teen that you never thought possible.

3. Share the responsibility

When we live with others, we can be too close, too enmeshed and too invested to see the person clearly – as separate from ourselves. It’s like looking in the mirror. If we’re too close, it’s just a blur but when we step back, we get a clearer image and can see ourselves more fully.

If you feel you’ve lost sight of your teen, it can be helpful to share the responsibility with an outside source who believes unconditionally in your kid’s capability and knows how to help them develop it further. In this case, it can be worth partnering with a reputable coach and mentor who can take some of the weight off your shoulders so you can breathe, step back a bit and recharge.

4. Discover what lights them up

Once you step back far enough to see your teen as a separate person with their own thoughts, dreams, fears and desires, get to know them a bit better. I know this may sound ridiculous but when we become more curious about those we love and feel we know, it’s amazing how much more we can learn about their inner world.

● What motivates your child and gets them even the slightest bit excited?

● What’s important to them? How can you help them honour that?

● What are their goals and dreams? Can you support them?

● What kind of person do they want to become? What characteristics do they want to embody?

● What are their interests and likes? Can you help them to explore them more often? ● Find out what energises your teen by getting them to complete this free Character Strengths Survey. *Be sure to choose the “Youth Survey” if they’re under 18.

Just chat with your teen and keep it casual, open and sincere. Then listen to what they’re saying and not what you want them to say. It isn’t easy – you will disagree with some of it and struggle to understand some of it. Respect their answers anyway. This is the key to truly understanding what makes them tick and helping them become more self-motivated.

5. Don’t try motivate them from a place of anxiety

Chances are your anxiety and need for them to care has created a power struggle between you and your teen. The more you nag at them the more they dig their heels in or they simply comply because they want you to calm down and leave them alone. You may succeed in getting them to do what you want but they’re no closer to becoming the self-motivated young adult you really want.


Wrapping Up

Ultimately, your teen isn’t lazy. They’re struggling. And by understanding this, you are better positioned to help them flourish into the incredible being you know they can be. Instead of burning up your precious energy by over-functioning and worrying, help them build up their sense of self and discover how capable they are.

Think of it like getting a rocket into space – it requires a decent amount of energy in the beginning but once you get it into orbit, it can rely on its own momentum instead of additional fuel to propel it forward. Supporting teens to become less “lazy” and more self-motivated is the same. And you don’t have to go at it alone! Having a great coach or mentor in your teen’s corner can free you from the weight of worry and the wasted time and energy fighting. If you feel like you can benefit from this, have a look at Flourish & Thrive’s coaching program for teens and young adults.

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