Lazy Child: Instructions for Use

Oct 24, 2019


Pavel Khoroschutin


“My son is in the 5th form, he is 11 years old. Each time I wait for the beginning of the school year with trepidation. 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 and sometimes doesn’t even write anything in the notebook. He 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, 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 is also boring for him to go to activities and engage in any other hobby. He just lazes around all the time.

I tried to motivate my son with gifts so he would study hard. I told him he could get the toy he wanted only after a well-written test. For a while it helped and he 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, reluctance to attend sport activities, delaying completing tasks, or a lack of aspiration to achieve goals. But can such a typically “adult” phenomenon as laziness be a natural characteristic of curious and active children? Why don’t they want to do anything sometimes? In the following article, we will consider the causes of this problem and give valuable recommendations about how to parent a lazy child.

The causes of laziness in children

There are no lazy children by nature. Judge for yourself: every 2-4-year-old child relentlessly repeats the phrase “I’ll do it by myself” and becomes angry when he/she is not allowed to do things alone. The child actively learns about the world and wants to help parents and participate in the organization of family life.

Laziness is an acquired behavior pattern. Most often this is the result of flaws in education on the part of parents. Laziness begins to manifest itself when a child turns five or six. The child may throw hysterics when 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 certain things. [1]

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

1.   Hyper-care by parents

Sometimes adults themselves teach their children to be lazy by limiting their independence and stifling any attempts to help. Parents that constantly repeat words such as, “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 the child. It’s much easier than waiting until the child does it haphazardly. This “care” results in the development of a very bad habit in a child – the expectation that others will do everything for him/her.

2.   Lack of motivation

The child’s eyes light up and everything works out well when taking on a favorite activity. However, cleaning the house, doing lessons, walking the dog — all these make up an uninteresting routine. This is especially true if the parents themselves turn household chores into a tedious duty, forcing the child to do something under pressure. Naturally, the youngster 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.

3.   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 my bed in the morning if I have to go to bed again at night? The same is true for teenagers. Why do I need to learn math if I wish to enter law school?

A child avoids performing certain tasks when parents simply demand something from him/her but do not explain its importance.

4.   Self-doubt

In some cases, the child’s reluctance to do something is not true laziness, but a reflection of the fear of defeat and a low self-esteem. When the child is not sure of him/herself, that child will rarely take on something new, pre-setting the result of defeat. He/she thinks in this way: “why would I do this if I won’t succeed anyway.” Hence the passivity and the parents immediately label the child “ lazy ”.

5.   Features of temperament

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

6.   Physical and emotional overwork


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

Lazy child: what happens after?

Laziness will become a learned pattern of behavior if you do not try to correct the habit.  The negative mindset will carry on into adulthood. If children’s laziness is not curbed by the parents, it means that in later life, the child would also be unlikely to exert him/herself. This lazy attitude becomes manifested in everything — in achieving goals, in career growth and in building relationships with others.

Work is necessary for full mental and physical development. The child’s lack of need for activity will often lead 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 a passive lifestyle;
    • reluctance and inability to achieve goals;
    • procrastination (delaying tasks for later);
    • a haunting sense of guilt over actions not completed in time;
    • a lack of vivid emotions in life. [2]

What do you do if the child is lazy? Five recommendations from psychologists

“I always thought my child was very lazy. From an early age, Sasha did not want to do anything — either brush his teeth or go to the pool, or make his bed in the morning. I somehow did not attach any importance to it. When my son turned 9, I began to ask him to help me around the house more. Sasha constantly refused, he was only interested in playing on a tablet and not washing dishes.

My husband took the initiative. He often goes on business trips and after returning from one, he called our son for a serious “male” conversation. He explained to Sasha that now he had to work a lot away from home, he entrusted Sasha with an extremely important mission — to take care of his mother. You have no idea of the effect! My seemingly indifferent child was swollen with pride, and now he will help me around the house like a shot. He vacuums, waters the 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 pressurize the child, requiring him/her to be active and “filling up” time in the daily schedule with household chores. Act softly — without reproaches, blackmail or shouting.

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

  1. Lead by a personal example

Children copy adult behavior. If the child from an early age, sees Mom and Dad being reluctant to perform household chores, then later the child most likely will be reluctant to help with the cleaning.

Give your child exceptionally positive examples. It is not recommended to demonstrate dissatisfaction with your work in front of children. Refrain from talking negatively about the bosses and the team or relating how you were bored with studying in school. Approach the household chores easily and with optimism, which will charge your child. Be active yourself to encourage your child to be 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 be of use. Such methods will only aggravate the situation, since the child will resist any forced instructions from adults because of a natural sense of contradiction. This is especially evident in children during age-related crises.

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

Give your child more freedom. Perhaps he/she wants to make the bed every morning, but you are simply not giving the opportunity. Yes, the six-year-old will spend longer dawdling with the blanket and pillows, but he/she will do it eventually. When the child has the opportunity to prove him/herself and is being supported in any efforts, he/she won’t shy away from the 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 will result. Examples of correct motivation:

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

Many parents practice motivation in the form of giving money and expensive gifts for particular achievements. Yes, this may 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 may be enough, but then the “tariffs” will undoubtedly increase.

  1. Criticize reasonably

Inflated demands from parents and constant criticism will develop self-doubt in the child. Hence the apparent laziness, which is caused by the fear of defeat. The child thus gets used to the fact that it is difficult to please Mom and Dad and stops trying.

Do not shout or blame your child but try to understand the reasons for bad grades and the reluctance to help you around the house. Give your child advice to help cope with particular tasks. If you make remarks, they should be positive and fully justified.

How do you accustom a child to work? Six important steps

One secret of raising a hard-working child is encouraging a gradual introduction to routine work at home. One may think that helping parents in everyday life does not play any role in the development of children. But, according to psychologists, such activities teach self-reliance, endurance, and perseverance. They also help to teach how to monitor time and build a daily schedule. These are qualities that will be useful in adulthood. [3]

As early as 4-5 years old, children are quite able to perform some simple errands for their parents — to make the bed, wash a cup, organize toys, and water the plants. When teaching children to work, it is important to choose the tasks that are suitable for the particular age. Evaluate the capabilities of the child, so that he/she will not fear meeting your expectations! [3]

Psychologists give valuable advice that will alleviate the laziness in the upbringing of a child and encourage the child to work.

Step 1: Trust

Define for the child the circle of responsibilities, even if they are elementary, as early as possible. Trust your child to take care of flowers or pets, for example. To motivate, be sure to emphasize the importance of the affairs which have been entrusted. Surely, the child will be extremely happy to be helping Mom and Dad.

Of course, the curiosity that the young child will have experienced towards a mop and a whisk at the age of 3 will likely disappear at a more conscious age. But if the child starts providing assistance to parents with household activities from a young age, there will be less reluctance 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 with a strict “no” and was naughty when I asked her to do something like washing the dishes or peeling potatoes. But now she’s happy to run to the kitchen to cook something delicious with me.

Together we will watch an interesting cooking show, where chefs prepare a variety of dishes. I was surprised, but my daughter likes these shows very much, and most importantly — they have awakened her interest in helping me. Now she’s bursting with ideas and calls 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 particular tasks if they are just not interested. Try to arouse interest in the child, so that he/she does not consider the routine akin to 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 contrarily laziness is presented negatively. Watch TV shows and workshops together, where participants are happy to do something together – for example, creating crafts or cooking 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/she needs to do to help mother. Don’t expect  activity if you’re used to just hinting and not setting the tasks clearly. Children can’t read between the lines.

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

Step 4: Explain and show

When teaching a child to work, you cannot succeed 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 child can understand what to expect. Tell and more importantly demonstrate to them how to do perform the task.

Step 5: Praise

The child, after fulfilling your task, will have surely tried his/her best. Don’t forget to offer praise. Try to always find pleasant words for your small hard worker, it is especially important. 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 out casually. It’s best to say something like: “You are such a good helper. I could not have managed without you.” You can even ask if it was difficult or about the methods used to perform the duties. This way, the child will understand how highly you value his/her contribution to family life.

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

Step 6: Help defeat the bad habit

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

When many methods have already been tried and have 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.

Having been trained with a psychologist, the child will be able to change the habits, which prevent him/her from being active and hard-working. After getting rid of a negative mindset, your child will show more independence and stop shying away from housework and putting things off for later. This will have a positive impact on 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 independently, and parents need only periodically to remind him/her that it is time to start the session. Participation in the course is strictly confidential. Explain to your child that neither teachers nor friends at school need know about working with a psychologist. For many children, this is extremely important.

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

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