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How to Fix Laziness in a Teen

by Freddie Silver

Your once-active youngster will seem to slow down overnight when he reaches puberty and becomes a teenager. Dealing with the emotional highs and lows of these turbulent years might even feel like you're re-living his Terrible Twos. Understanding why your little bundle of energy has morphed into an unmovable object on the couch will help you deal with him in a less emotional and more effective way.

Understand why your teen is exhibiting this behavior. According to Frances E. Jensen, a professor of neurology researching the adolescent brain at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, the teen brain is very different from the adult brain. He points out that although the teen brain develops rapidly, it still lacks the necessary connections to the frontal lobe, which controls reasoning, planning and judgment. He also discovered that most teens are sleep-deprived. Understanding what you are up against can help give you the patience needed to deal more effectively with your lazy teen.

Analyze how your lazy teen is spending her time. Many teens spend excessive amounts of time with modern technology -- watching television or playing video games all night long can become addictive. Teens love to text and some can talk on the phone for hours. Remember that limiting the number of hours you allow with these technologies will provide you with some leverage as you attempt to correct your teen's behavior. Tell your teen to get all school work completed before watching TV or playing video games. Implement a time, such as after 9 p.m., when cell phones must be shut off for the night. Consider making trade-off deals such as one hour of physical activity outdoors "buys" an hour of video gaming.

Give your teen household chores in addition to schoolwork. Chores, such as helping with the dishes, taking out the garbage or vacuuming, teach teens how to become positive contributors to society. Make their privileges contingent on them carrying out their responsibilities.

Speak with patience and persistence when you confront your lazy teen. Be prepared for your teen to attempt to ignore your demands for action. Do not give up. Repeat your requests until you get the response you desire. If you have asked your teen several times to get off the couch and take out the garbage and he keeps asking for "five more minutes," do not leave the room until he moves off the couch. Tell him his time is up and that you will turn off the television if he does not get moving. Counting to three or 10 works as effectively with your teen as it did with your 2-year-old. Follow through with your threat, if necessary, but stay in control. Losing your temper is unlikely to get the reaction you desire.

Be prepared for negative comments and don't let them faze you or hurt your feelings. Concentrate on working on your overall relationship. Don't just be a nag and disciplinarian. Look for opportunities to do things together as a family that your teen might enjoy. Focus on special outings he might enjoy such as a day at the beach or bowling -- allowing him to bring a friend along will make the activity more enjoyable for him.

Keep the lines of communication open. Don't just make demands of your teen when she is lazing on the couch. Use every opportunity to share interesting news articles you might come across that discuss teenage obesity and lack of exercise.

Give consequences for negative behavior and make him earn privileges such as his allowance. Consider rewarding an activity you want to see, such as working out at the gym, with permission to watch television or play video games. Remember that you are the parent. As the adult, it's your responsibility to be firm and set limits for your child.

Encourage your teen to sign up for extra curricular events at school, such as sports teams, clubs or the school play. Convince your teen to find the right activity that appeals to her and find a way to motivate her to try it at least once. Hopefully, she will find it enjoyable and want to keep going.

Set a good example. Consider setting your teen up with volunteer work and join him. You might find this provides additional parent-child bonding time as well as increases the activity level of your child.

Warning

  • If none of your efforts is effective, consult your family doctor. There might be a medical explanation for your teen's excessive fatigue. You might benefit from family counseling that can increase positive interactions between parent and child.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

Photo Credits

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