Lazy child: instructions for use

24.10.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“My son is in the 5th form, he is 11 years old. Every time I wait for the beginning of the school year with fear. All I hear from teachers is, “he’s pretty capable, but very lazy.” I agree with the teachers. I can hardly force my son to study. He talks during class, sometimes doesn’t even write anything in the notebook and starts doing homework only after I shout at him.

It would be one thing if I gave him a lot of household chores, but no, he doesn’t have any. I just want him to have good grades. And if I ask him to wash the dishes sometimes, all I hear in return is: “I don’t want to’. A year ago, he tearfully asked us to buy him a puppy. We bought it and what do you think happened then? Me, taking care of it, that’s what, because my son is too lazy to walk the dog. He says it’s boring and uninteresting. It also boring for him to go to sections and engage in any other hobby. He just lazes around all the time.

I tried to motivate my son with gifts so he could study hard. I told him he would get the toy he wanted only after a well-written test. For a while it helped — he has improved his results in studies. But then, as soon as he got what he wanted, his results dropped again. I continue to motivate him with pocket money. But my wallet is not elastic — I can not constantly give him money for good grades. And it’s not a real solution to the problem. I don’t know what to do with my lazy child anymore.” 

– Yulia, mother of 11-year-old Sasha

Many parents say: “my child is really lazy.” This succinct phrase can include anything — poor school performance, a reluctance to help around the house and attend sport sections, delaying completing tasks for later and a lack of aspiration to achieve goals. But can such a typically “adult” phenomenon as laziness be naturally characteristic of curious and active by nature children? Why don’t they want to do anything sometimes? In the article, we will consider the causes of this problem and give valuable recommendations on how to parent a lazy child.


Causes of laziness in children

Reasons for children's laziness

There are no lazy children by nature. Judge for yourself: every 2-4-year-old child relentlessly repeats the phrase “I’ll do it myself” and is angry when he is not allowed to do anything on his own. He actively learns the world, wants to help his mother and participate in the organization of family life.

Laziness is an acquired behavior pattern. Most often these are flaws in education on the part of parents. Laziness begins to manifest itself when a child turns five or six. The child throws hysterics when he is asked to put away toys, make the bed, or carefully fold clothes. At first, parents manage to encourage the child to act through persuasion. But as the child grows up, it becomes more difficult to force him/her to do something. [1]

Why do children become lazy? Both psychological and physiological causes lead to a lack of diligence and a constant desire for idleness. [2]

  1. Hyper-care by parents

Sometimes adults themselves teach kids to be lazy, limiting their independence and any attempts to help. Parents that constantly repeat the words like “why are you dilly-dallying, let me help you,” start doing everything for the child. Of course, an adult could make a bed and tie shoelaces much faster and more accurately than a child. It’s much easier than waiting until the kid does it himself and wrong besides. This “care” results in the development of the bad habit in a child: the expectation that others will do everything for him.

  1. Lack of motivation

The child’s eyes are shining and everything works out great when he takes on a favorite activity. However, cleaning the house, doing lessons and walking the dog — all these make up an uninteresting routine. Especially if the parents themselves turn household chores into a tedious duty, forcing the kid to do something under pressure. Naturally, the child resists in every way and answers all requests with “I don’t want to.” As a result, flowers are not watered, homework is done half-heartedly, and dirty dishes remain in the sink.

  1. Failure to understand why something needs to be done

Sometimes children simply do not understand why it is necessary to perform a particular action. A 5-7-year-old child has “its own” logic. Why would I make a bed in the morning if I had to go to bed again in the evening? The same is true for teenagers. Why do I need to learn math if I have to enter law school?

A child avoids performing certain tasks when parents simply demand something from him/her but do not explain why this is important.

  1. Self-doubt

In some cases, the child’s reluctance to do something is not true laziness but reflection of the fear of defeat and low self-esteem. When the kid is not sure of himself, he rarely takes on something new, pre-setting himself to defeat. He thinks this way: “why would I do anything at all if I won’t succeed anyway.” Hence the complete passivity. Parents immediately award the child the title of the “lazy person”.

  1. Features of temperament

Sometimes pronounced features of the child’s temperament are mistakenly called laziness. The kid can be slow and inactive by nature, and parents believe that he is shying away from the housework. But the child just needs time to “ramp up” to take on a particular task..

  1. Physical and emotional overwork

In a busy daytime routine, laziness may appear due to elementary fatigue. School, clubs, sports sections — with such a busy schedule “imposed” by parents, the child does not have time to play and relax. Physical and psychological fatigue turns into reluctance to act.

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Lazy child: what happens after?

Lazy child

Laziness will become a learned pattern of behavior if you do not try to correct the habits of the child. The negative mindset will carry into adulthood. If children’s laziness is not curbed by the parents, it means that even after the child would also be unlikely to strain himself. This lazy attitude would be manifested in everything — in achieving the goals, in career growth and building relationships with people.

Work is necessary for full mental and physical development. The child’s lack of need for activity often leads to personality degradation. Psychologists denote the following negative consequences of laziness in children:

  • poor performance at school and university;
  • passivity in all areas of life;
  • poor physical form due to passive lifestyle;
  • reluctance and inability to achieve goals;
  • procrastination (delaying tasks for later);
  • a haunting sense of guilt over the actions not completed in time; and
  • a lack of vivid emotions in life. [2]

What to do if the child is lazy? 5 recommendations from psychologists

recommendations on what to do with a lazy child

“I always thought my child was very lazy. From an early age, Sasha did not want to do anything — neither brush his teeth or go to the pool, nor make the bed in the morning. I somehow did not attach any importance to it. But when my son turned 9 years old, I began to ask him to help me around the house. Sasha constantly refused, he was more interested in playing on a tablet than washing dishes.

My husband took the initiative. He often goes on business trips and after another return, he called son for a serious “male” conversation. He explained to Sasha that now he had to work a lot away from home, so he entrusted him with an extremely important mission — to take care of his mother. You have no idea — my seemingly indifferent child was swollen with pride, and now he helps me around the house like a shot. He vacuums, waters flowers and walks in the street with his little sister. Now Sasha feels as if he’s not just a little boy, but an adult assistant.”

– Elena, mother of 9-year-old Sasha

Fighting children’s laziness is a long process. Try not to press the child, requiring him to be active and “filling up” his daily schedule with household chores. Act softly — without reproaches, blackmail or shouting.

To help fight child laziness, psychologists give the following recommendations:

  1. Lead by a personal example

Children copy adult behavior. If the child from an early childhood sees mom and dad being reluctant to do household chores, then later he most likely will begin to slack off from cleaning.

Give your child an exceptionally positive example. It is not recommended to demonstrate dissatisfaction with your work in front of children, to talk negatively about the bosses and the team, to tell about how you were bored to study in school. Approach the household chores easily and with optimism, which will charge your child. Be active yourself to make your child more active.

  1. Forget the stick approach

In the fight against child laziness, the stick approach does not work at all. No amount of threats, shouting or punishment will help. This way you’ll only aggravate the situation, since the child will resist any instructions of adults because of a natural sense of contradiction. This is especially evident in children during age-related crises.

  1. Don’t do the work your child he can finish himself

Give your child more freedom. Perhaps the kid wants to make the bed every morning, but you are simply not letting him do it. Yes, the six-year-old will spend longer dawdling with the blanket and pillows, but he will do it himself. When the child has the opportunity to prove himself and is being supported in his efforts, he won’t shy away from work.

  1. Motivate correctly

Motivation plays a huge role in the fight against child laziness. The child should understand why it is necessary to perform certain actions and what benefits it will bring. Examples of correct motivation:

  • “Put away scattered toys, then you will have more space to play on.”
  • “Do your homework now so you have a whole evening to play.”
  • “Let’s clean up, then it won’t be a shame to invite your friends to visit.”

Many parents practice motivation in the form of money and expensive gifts for some achievements. Yes, it will certainly make the child more diligent to learn and more willing to do housework. But there is a risk that this will transform into mercantilism and become another negative mindset — I will not do anything without reward. At first, 10 rubles for a good grade at school will be enough, but then the “tariffs” will undoubtedly increase.

  1. Criticize reasonably

Inflated demands of parents and constant criticism develop self-doubt in the child. Hence the imaginary laziness, which is caused by the fear of defeat. The child gets used to the fact that it is difficult to please mom and dad and stops doing anything.

Do not shout or blame the child, but try to understand why he has bad grades and rarely helps you around the house. Give your child advice to help him cope with the task. If you make remarks, they should be fully justified.

How to accustom a child to work? 6 important steps

6 steps How to train a child to work

The main secret of raising a hard-working child is his gradual introduction to routine homework. One may think that helping parents in everyday life does not play any role in the development of children. But, according to psychologists, it teaches self-reliance, endurance and perseverance, helps to teach how to monitor time and build a daily schedule. These are qualities that will be useful in adulthood. [3]

Already 4-5 years old children are quite able to perform some simple errands for their mother — to make the bed, wash a cup, organize toys and water flowers. When teaching children to work, it is important to choose the tasks they can cope with at a particular age. Evaluate the capabilities of the child, so that he won’t fear not meeting your expectations! [3]

Psychologists give valuable advice that will help in the upbringing of a lazy child and in teaching him to work:

Step 1: Trust

Define for the child the circle his responsibilities, even if they are of elementary, as early as possible. Trust him to take care of flowers or pets, for example. To motivate the child, be sure to emphasize the importance of the affairs entrusted to him. Surely, he’ll be extremely happy to be helping his mom.

Of course, the curiosity that the baby experienced towards a mop and a whisk at the age of 3 will surely disappear at a more conscious age. But if he starts providing possible assistance to parents in household affairs from a young age, he won’t be reluctant to clean in the future.

Step 2: Spark interest

“I thought my Annie had some kind of lazy kid syndrome. It is very difficult to make her do something around the house. But I still found a great way to get my daughter to help in the kitchen. She used to answer strict “no” and was naughty when I asked her to do something like washing dishes or peeling potatoes. But now she’s happy to run to the kitchen to cook something delicious with me.

Together we watch an interesting cooking show, where chefs prepare a variety of dishes. I am surprised, but my daughter liked this show very much, and most importantly — it awakened the interest in helping me. Now she’s burning with ideas and calling me to the kitchen to test a new recipe from the show.” 

– Natalia, mother of 9-year-old Annie

It is extremely difficult for lazy children to do something if they are not interested in a particular action. Try to arouse interest in the child, so that he/she does not consider the routine as the death penalty. Read an interesting book with your child or watch a cartoon, where the emphasis is on the hard work of the character, and laziness, on the contrary, is presented negatively. Watch TV shows and workshops together, where participants are happy to do something – for example, make crafts or cook in the kitchen.

When it comes to preschoolers, you can turn a routine activity into an interesting game. 

Step 3: Clearly mark the task

A 5-7-old child will not guess that he needs to help his mother. Don’t expect him to be active if you’re used to just hinting, not setting tasks clearly. Children can’t read between the lines.

Be specific and make your request as clear as possible to your child.

Step 4: Explain and show

When teaching a child to work, you cannot do without a clear example. This is especially true of naturally shy and insecure children. They are afraid to get down to business because they expect to fail. Therefore, it is important for parents to “sort out the details” so that the kid can understand what awaits them. Tell and show them how to do what you’ve instructed them to do.

Step 5: Praise

The child, fulfilling your task, surely tried his best. Don’t forget to praise him. try to always find pleasant words for a small hard worker, it is important for him. The child, seeing the approval of parents, will be much more willing to take up the cause next time. 

The right praise is not just a “well done!” thrown on the move. It’s best to say something like: “You are such a good helper. I could not have done it without you.” You can even ask if it was difficult or how he managed not to forget about his duties. This way, the child will understand how highly you value his contribution to family life.

If the child already has several permanent household responsibilities, you will have to adjust his daily routine. It is important that the child has time for everything — to study, play and perform extracurricular activities. Let him have a daily routine before his eyes that will not let him forget to water the flowers or walk the dog. It organizes and teaches him how to manage his time. [2]

Step 6: Help defeat the bad habit

It is common for parents to catch up too late when the negative behavior pattern has already been formed in a child. He’s lazy because he’s used to acting like that. “Let him do nothing, he will have time to work hard later” is a dangerous misconception, which many parents continue to believe in for some reason. No, in adulthood a child can also behave as passively as he does now. Think about his future.

When many methods have already been tried and failed in the fight against child laziness, consult a psychologist. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique has proved to be highly effective in correcting bad habits. This is a patented behavior psychology technique based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky, and others.

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Having been trained with a psychologist, the child would change his habits, which prevent him from being active and hard-working. After getting rid of a negative mindset, he will show more independence, stop shying away from housework and putting things off for later. This will have a positive impact on his school performance since hard work is important for excellent learning outcomes.

The 7Spsy Behavior Modification Technique training is designed for up to 6 weeks. Classes are held in a convenient remote mode when the psychologist gives all necessary advice by phone, e-mail, and in online chatrooms. At the same time, the child is trained completely on his own, and parents can only periodically remind him that it is time to start training. Participation in the training is strictly confidential. Explain to your child that neither teachers nor friends at school will know about the training with a psychologist. For children, this is extremely important.

  1. «Psihologiya razvitiya i vozrastnaya psihologiya», 2012 g., A. K. Bolotova.
  2. «Psihologiya razvitiya i vozrastnaya psihologiya. Uchebnik dlya SPO», 2018 g., O. Huhlaeva.
  3. «Rabota i lichnost. Trudogolizm, perfekcionizm, len», 2011 g., E. P. Ilyin.