Capable but lazy: what you should do when your child doesn't want to do anything

Apr 11, 2019

“My son is 11, and he is extremely lazy. He used to be such a normal, curious boy, he always wanted to learn and try something new, and he enjoyed going to school. However, about a year ago everything changed. He suddenly got tired of studying, he stopped doing chores (to be fair, he was always lazy in that aspect), and what’s more important, he dropped all his favorite activities. He does not attend any clubs and he stopped reading. The only things he is still interested in are computers and occasional games with friends. He barely cleans his room. My son managed to graduate from elementary, but now in middle school the level is different, and I’m worried he won’t be able to keep up. All teachers tell me that he is a smart and capable child, just lazy.

Of course, I tried to do something about it, I make him do his homework. I wanted him to join a sports club and offered various interesting activities. However, he doesn’t want to do anything. He declines all offers, throwing tantrums even. He listens to no one, he even talks back to his father! We try to talk to him, to guide him, we even punish him, but all is in vain.

I don’t know anymore where did my active boy go. What does the future bring to such a lazy child? Please, tell me, what should I do with a child who doesn’t want to learn anything?”

– Anna, mother of Artem, 11

Every parent dreams of having a diligent child with perfect grades, sports success, and a creative hobby. However, life is often disappointing. A child often slacks in their duty to clean their room, let alone in achieving results in sports or studying.

That is why any parent asks themselves at least once: what should I do now that my child is so lazy? Some children just have lazy periods, while others seem to have been born indifferent to anything.

Childhood laziness has a lot of negative consequences. There is good news, however. This problem can be solved—and you should do this. Proper work on fostering diligence will definitely bear fruit. Let’s see why children become lazy and how we can get our children used to working in their lives.

Why a child becomes lazy

There are many reasons that can explain why a child doesn’t want to do anything. Sometimes the cause lies with the parents, and sometimes it stems from circumstances that adults have no power over. Here are some of the reasons for childhood laziness:

  • incorrect parental behavior, over-protection or lack of attention;
  • the child’s personality features;
  • loss of interest towards studying or other activities, boredom;
  • chronic exhaustion;
  • age-related crisis;
  • lack of motivation;
  • fear;
  • conflicts with teachers or peers;
  • mental and physical disorders.

Let’s look at them in more detail.

  1. Over-protection

Over-protection comes from the extreme desire to protect a child. Parents do everything to shower their children with attention and protect them from any dangers, real or not. Over-protective parents “attach” children to themselves. They fear letting them into the world and prefer to make decisions for their children. They decide which clubs their child should attend, when to do homework and which books to read. The child then has no need to make decisions, solve problems and overcome struggles. Their parents do all of this for them. It is no surprise that such children develop learned helplessness and then chronic laziness. [1] [5]

  1. Lack of attention

A lack of input over a child’s development is another extreme in upbringing. When a child is left to their own devices, studying is left unattended, and what’s most disastrous, there is no emotional interaction with parents. A child literally learns to survive alone in the whole world. A small person has no idea how to set priorities properly, this is the responsibility of the parents. Consequently  children choose in favor of activities which are neither sports nor studies. Sometimes they even have no resources for meaningful activities in survival conditions. Finally, laziness can be an attempt to attract the parents’ attention, because even negative emotional interaction with family is better than none at all.

  1. Personality features

Sometimes parents lack knowledge about their child’s psychology, and demand for them to do things a child is unable to perform. For example, phlegmatic and melancholic children are not anxious to engage in vigorous activities, they need more time to complete tasks and switch between different activities. This is perfectly normal.

However, more active parents take such conduct as laziness and pressure their child to do more than their nervous system can handle. This is why you need to make sure that such conduct is not a personality feature before labeling your child as “lazy”.

  1. Boredom, loss of interest

Children’s interests change, which is pretty normal. A small person wants to try as many things as they can so that they can figure out what to do in their life. When a child loses interest in a certain sports activity, creative activity or school subject, they can develop laziness instead. Also, the current subject in school might be boring, which can also prompt laziness. In such an instance, the best thing you can do is listen to your child and find out what they want to do next.

  1. Chronic exhaustion

Your child used to be active, they always got good grades, attended several clubs, did sports, helped around the house, played with their friends, read books, but then… they just suddenly lost the desire to do things. Instead lying on a sofa with their phone became their favorite activity. If the child does not want to do anything, they might simply be tired and exhausted, so you should reduce their load and even organize extra leisure.

Do not forget that in some cases laziness can be a natural self-defense mechanism, protecting us from overload and stress. This is true for both children and adults.

  1. Age-related crisis

Psychologist L. S. Vygotskiy described several crises that are an inevitable part of growing up. Schoolchildren encounter the seven-age crisis, the crisis of adolescence at ages 11-15 and the crisis of growing up at ages 15-17. [2]  

The crisis of adolescence is probably the hardest one, both for the child and for everyone else, especially their parents. Constant protests are a manifestation of it. For example, a child may protest against labor, studies and chores. You must survive this period, as it is needed to allow the teenager to become more independent. They must learn to take responsibility for their actions or inaction due to laziness.

  1. Lack of motivation

Sometimes a child does not want to do something simply because they don’t realize its importance. Why should they do homework on a particularly boring subject? Why should they make their bed if they go to sleep in the evening anyway? Why should they tidy their room? In such cases, parents should regularly and systematically explain to their child why certain things are necessary and what the consequences may be.

  1. Fears

Children who were always the top of their group since a very young age may develop an “A+ student complex”. As a result, any new task may induce the following fears: “I will not make it”, “People will laugh at me”, “People will not like me”. Another fear may appear after experiencing failure. For example, if your child answered incorrectly in front of the class and was laughed at, the next time they might be afraid to answer at all. Such fears can quickly transform into laziness. It is the way our psyche protects itself from encountering something we fear.

  1. Conflicts with teachers or peers

Unfortunately, this problem is more common than you might think. Bullying by peers and even teachers can make a child lose their desire to go to school at all. They may just look lazy, but in reality the problem is much more serious. However, not all children trust their parents enough to tell them about things that happen in their life. A child might even feel guilty about being bullied, they might be terrified of something or simply think that others will not believe them. Treating such conflicts starts by establishing contact with the child. They must be reassured that they can tell their parents everything and receive their support, without blame or neglect.

  1. Mental and physical disorders

Unfortunately, depression can hit adults and children alike. It can have various causes, but it is important to understand that laziness and lack of desire to do things are some of the first symptoms of this disorder. The same can be said about physical diseases. If you notice that your child has lost interest in life, he/she complains of apathy and is unwilling to perform even the activities they used to like, you should pay attention to their health.

Accustoming children to labor: advice for parents

So, what should you do if your child is lazy?

First you should, of course, discover the cause. That will help you figure out the course of actions.

Working on motivation

If the cause is not chronic exhaustion, disease or personality features, start by raising their motivation. Our minds work in a way that any activity must fulfill certain needs. In the case of children, those needs might include new knowledge, experiences, pleasure, and parental attention. Another need is the desire to feel their own significance and “validity”. Do not forget to convey to your child the results of their completed actions. Help them with doing difficult tasks, so that they grow more confident in their abilities, and therefore learn to enjoy working. Of course, don’t forget to praise their successes in studying and hobbies, and thank them for helping around the house. [3]

Fostering independence

You should foster independence in your child, as it is one of the most important conditions for diligence. Encourage them to be responsible for their activities. You don’t, for example, have to do their homework with them if they don’t need help. After seeing that parents will not fix the consequences of laziness, a child will understand that it is much better to do the work properly. Let them learn from their mistakes.

An activity must never be a punishment

Sometimes parents punish their child for misdeeds by giving them certain chores. For example, they can task their child with peeling potatoes as a punishment for a bad grade or answering back. This is a big mistake. Never punish your child with chores or other tasks, as children will simply consider such activities to always be related to punishment. There is no person in the world who likes to be punished all the time.

Set an example

And now, another piece of important advice. Do not forget that children, especially younger ones, try to copy their parents. That is why you have to focus upon your own actions, if you want to foster diligence in your children. [4]

Solution: 7Spsy behavior modification technique

What should you do if a child is lazy and nothing seems to work?

A good idea is to change their mode of behavior. This is what our 7Spsy behavior modification technique is about. It is a registered method of behavioral psychology, which helps to reveal those mindsets which lead to chronic laziness and change them to positive ones. A new mindset will help you master and consolidate healthy behavior patterns.

The course is designed to be taken remotely. It lasts 2 to 6 weeks and starts with diagnostic testing. Throughout the whole course your child will be helped by a psychologist. They will answer all the questions and  support will be provided in difficult situations. By using the 7Spsy method you will forget about fighting your child’s laziness, and your child will become more diligent and start to achieve great things in life.


Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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