At a recent parenting workshops, a mom asked for advice on what to do about her "lazy" teenage son. Not an uncommon issue for parents of teenagers, but I needed more information before I could help. I asked her to describe what his laziness looked like.
"He's 15," she said, "and he spends all his time in his room playing video games." He refuses to do any chores around the house and doesn't listen to anything we say to him."
Lazy is defined by Webster as not liking to work hard or to be active. When you repeatedly tell your son he's lazy, he's going to start believing that he's not a hard worker. Is that what you want for him, to think of himself as a lazy person? More likely, you want to help him develop the self-discipline to do what's expected of him.
No one is born lazy. We come into this world with certain inborn traits that are the basis of "who we are." I call these nine traits the CoreSelf, and I teach parents to look to these nine traits to understand which parts of their child they cannot change. Laziness is not one of these inborn traits. There are however CoreSelf traits that can be mistaken for laziness, or can contribute to laziness if the child doesn't learn how to manage these traits. For example, low activity, low adaptability, low ease with the unfamiliar and low persistence.
But not working hard is learned behavior. Kids do what works for them in their family. If parents are leaders who put in the effort to lead, kids respond. If parents have abdicated that leadership responsibility, kids who rule the roost with their inaction and isolation are filling that vacuum.
Back to our lazy 15-year old: why wouldn't he sit around and play video games instead of doing chores? He's learned that he can do whatever he pleases with no consequences other than his parents nagging him and calling him lazy.
Have you inadvertently taught your child to be lazy? Let's look more closely at the relationship between our lazy 15-year-old and his parents using the Six Leadership Tools for parents:
1. Do you emphasize the family? Children, like adults, thrive when they feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. A sense of belonging fosters cooperation, where everyone contributes to the common good. Emphasizing the family teaches children that their actions affect others.
2. Do you set and communicate clear consistent standards of behavior? Have you let your son know exactly what you expect him to do? Does he know that he is expected to get the trash cans to the curb every Thursday night? Are you consistent or hit-or-miss? Do you sometimes take care of it because you figure he won't?
3. Do you build in accountability? Here's where things often start to break down. If you're wondering why you have to constantly nag your kids to do what they're supposed to do, ask yourself whether you're holding them accountable for following through. If you don't check to make sure they've done what's expected, you may be encouraging noncompliance, because they know you don't follow through on your end!
4. Do you follow through with clearly communicated consequences? How many times have you heard parents warn their kids of some consequence if they don't behave and then not follow through? These parents are actually training their kids to ignore them! If there's no real bottom line, some children will do exactly what they want to do, tuning out the constant nagging and threats.
5. Do you use the language of leadership? Words are profoundly powerful and effective parent leaders use "I" messages rather than "you" messages. "I" messages convey how you feel as a result of your child's behavior, rather than the spoken or unspoken blame that's inherent in "you" messages. When you call your son lazy, you are labeling him with a derogatory term.
6. Do you walk the walk of a leader? Are you modeling the self-discipline in following through on your commitments, even the ones you don't enjoy doing? Do you make excuses or just ignore your spouse's requests for you to get things done?
Has a lack of parental leadership contributed to your child's "laziness"? Has your parenting been lazy? Perhaps.
Nancy Rose, "The Acceptance Advocate," is an author and speaker who just released her first book, Raise the Child You've Got--Not the One You Want. She has two grown sons and lives in the Napa Valley. Learn more at www.nancyjrose.com.
Until her twenties, Nancy based her self-worth on being an academic super-achiever, something that came easily for her. She awakened from what she calls the “trance of accomplishment” when she realized that she had become a tax attorney and CPA hoping to impress her mother.
With a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a degree in finance from the University of Illinois, she now puts her solid credentials to good use in service to her passion–making sure every child is given license to shine.