If your teenager struggles in school, it can be easy to think they are failing school because of laziness. You may even wonder if your teenager cares about their long-term success and have serious concerns about how their lack of success impacts your family.
These are all reasonable perspectives and concerns, and you are doing your due diligence as a parent to try and find solutions. I’ve provided solutions to the three root causes of your teen’s laziness.
But first, I want to tell you a story about my experience with laziness and how I escaped it.
I was the Valedictorian of my graduating high school class, and I had never known anything but success until I got to college. During my first semester at Duke University, I hit a wall.
I didn’t know why I was there. I was completely unmotivated and lacked the foundational academic skills to succeed in college. By the end of my first year, I was in the bottom 5% of my class.
Needless to say, my parents were not pleased. They accused me of being lazy, they yelled, and we argued. The truth was that I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do.
I was able to right the ship and get back on track, and I was on the Dean’s list each semester during my last two years at Duke.
To be honest, my parents were little to no help. The way they approached my academic struggles was counterproductive.
I can understand and empathize with your concern as a parent. You want the best for your teenager, and you see their potential.
Hope is not lost, and you can help your teen turn things around.
However, it may require a different approach that addresses the sources of your teenager’s laziness.
Failing School Because of Laziness or Something Else?
Laziness is easy to blame for a teenager’s lack of academic success. You probably don’t see your teen working hard or doing their homework. They may even lie about doing their work or procrastinate until the last minute.
It can be frustrating as a parent to see this behavior and not know how to help. You may have even tried different tactics to get your teen to succeed, but nothing seems to work.
Have you considered why your teenager is being lazy?
To get your teenager back on track, addressing the source of their laziness is an essential first step.
Teenagers want to be successful. The feeling of success is one of the best feelings in the world. In my experience as a classroom teacher and academic coach, I’ve identified three primary sources of laziness in teenagers:
- Poor Foundational Academic Skills
- Fear of Academic Failure
- Poor Motivation
The good news is that these obstacles are correctable. The bad news is that schools do little to address them. Schools fall into what I call the “lesson plan problem.” Teachers are so focused on teaching specific lessons and the content for the end-of-year exam that little to no time is spent teaching students the soft skills they need to succeed in the classroom.
As a result, many students are lazy and don’t care much for school.
If appropriately addressed, you can help your teen turn things around and help them “academic agency.” You can help them develop the skills they need to take control of their academics and be self-sufficient.
The Actual Reason Your Teenager is Failing School
There are three primary reasons a teenager may struggle in school: lack of academic skills, fear of academic failure, and low motivation.
Lack of Academic Skills: A Common Cause of Laziness
Teenagers who lack foundational academic skills will struggle in one or many subjects. The lack of study, note-taking, organization, test-taking and other skills makes classroom engagement difficult.
The lack of these skills can cause things to spiral out of control, particularly in high school. Without these skills, it doesn’t matter how motivated a teenager is; they lack the skills needed to engage with the content.
Teenagers who lack these skills may appear lazy and uninterested in their work. In reality, they don’t know how to and cannot do so.
Fear of Failure Can Look like Failing School Because of Laziness
Fear of academic failure is another source of laziness in teenagers. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is a real problem for many teens. The fear of failing is so great that it leads to a feeling of powerlessness and apathy.
Failure may seem inevitable, so some teenagers don’t try in the first place. Other teens fear failure so much that laziness gives them an escape. If they are lazy, there is a reason why they fail, and this is easier to handle than trying hard and coming up short.
A Lack of Motivation Can Look Like Laziness
Teenagers who struggle with motivation have trouble sustaining focus and energy over long periods. The work may be interesting, but they can’t get themselves to do it.
A lack of motivation often results from not having a “why.” Many teenagers don’t know why they are going to school. They are expected to but don’t have a meaningful connection to it; without a “why,” teenagers will struggle to stay motivated in the classroom.
In my experience, most teenagers who appear lazy struggle with one or more of these sources.
Does your teen’s behavior match up with one of these three sources? It may be one or a combination of the three.
Solutions to Failing School Because of Laziness
To help your teenager get back on track, addressing why they are lazy is the first step.
The goal is for your teenager to be self-sufficient and independently take care of their academics.
These solutions are not short-term fixes. It will take time for your teenager to build up the skills, attitude, and perspective they need to succeed academically. However, these are long-term and lasting solutions that can help teenagers succeed academically and in life.
Stop Failing School by Building Academic Skills
I recommend starting by asking your teenager questions. Ask them what areas they struggle in and what types of assignments/projects they struggle with the most.
I highly recommend getting additional help from an academic coach. Academic coaches approach the needs of students holistically and can help your teenager develop a well-rounded plan to improve their academic skills.
You can also work with your teenager to build these skills. You can show them how you organize your day, take notes, stay organized, and study. You can check out my guide for more information on working with your teenager.
Defeat Laziness by Overcoming The Fear of Academic Failure
In my experience, teenagers often develop this fear because of their parents’ anxieties and how they talk to them. It may also arise from their experiences in the classroom.
If this is your teenager’s obstacle, the objective is to get your teenager comfortable with the concept of failure and learn that mistakes are part of the learning process.
To accomplish this, I encourage you to reflect on how you feel about your teenager’s success or lack thereof. Do you feel anxious and nervous? Are you stressed?
If the answer is yes, you will likely pass on these negative emotions to your teenager.
It would help if you also had an open and honest conversation with your teenager. Ask them how they feel about academics and how they think. You can also ask them if you are contributing to it.
To overcome a fear of failure, your teenager needs a lot of positive feedback and optimism. It would be best if you aimed for a ratio of 5:1 for positive to negative praise. Additionally, sharing your failures and how you have overcome them can help your teenager see failure as a part of life.
If your teenager’s fear of failure is deep-seated, you might consider working with a therapist.
Stop Failing School and Start Succeeding By Building Motivation
If your teenager is not motivated and lacks the drive to succeed in school, they must develop a “why.” A “why” will give them a reason to be at school and work on their homework.
The best way to do this is by talking to them about their future. Ask them what they want after high school and what job they want. Most importantly, ask them what they need to do to get there.
The act of asking questions can completely change your teenager’s perspective. Many teenagers will acknowledge that they want to work hard in school to achieve their goals.
The difference lies in being asked vs. being told.
Help your teenager figure out what they are passionate about in school and how it can help them move towards the future they desire. Help them find out their “why” for being at school, and the motivation will take care of itself.
Get the Right Support to Help your Teenager Overcome Their Laziness and Stop Failing School
You can help your teenager overcome the root cause of their laziness and the challenges caused by the “lesson-plan problem.” Over time, this can help your teenager develop educational agency and take responsibility for their academic duties.
Unfortunately, this can be particularly challenging because teenagers are at a stage where they thirst for independence and autonomy. Working with them to overcome these hurdles can cause conflict and increase tensions in the home.
A great alternative is working with an academic coach.
An academic coach can help you customize a plan for your teenager to help them overcome their laziness and the lesson-plan problem and develop agency.
A coach will also support you as a parent, guide you on how to have conversations with your teenager, and provide resources to support your teenager’s development.
An academic coach will also work with your teenager to build their academic skills, overcome their fear of failure, and find their intrinsic motivation while providing accountability.
As a third party, an academic coach can be a go-between and keep everyone in the loop while minimizing the amount of conflict between teenagers and parents.
Let’s talk if you want assistance helping your teen overcome their laziness. I have worked with hundreds of students and helped them build the skills and habits they need to succeed in school and life.
Every student has specific needs and challenges; let’s talk about how we can help your teen overcome the source of their laziness and develop their academic agency – book your free discovery call here.
About the Author: John Hyde
I am an educational coach specializing in teaching students academic fundamentals and a growth mindset.
After graduating from Duke University in 2015, I taught at a public middle school from 2016 to 2019. Although I loved working with students in the classroom, the public education system was not teaching students the skills essential to academic success.
I left the classroom in 2019 to start Academic Empowerment Academy. Since then, my coaching program has helped hundreds of students realize their academic potential by assisting them in building confidence and empowering them with the skills and mindset to meet their goals in school and life.
If you’d like to discuss how I can help your teen be more motivated, foster good habits, and improve academic organization/performance, Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Here.
Hi I’m John, author of this blog, academic coach, and founder of AE Academy.
I help teens reach their academic potential by empowering them with academic fundamentals, a growth mindset, and critical thinking.
If your teen is struggling to reach their academic potential, or isn’t learning the skills they need to succeed in school, we should connect.
It’s on me – Book Your Free Call Here