Inside this post: Many are quick to point out that we are raising an entitled generation, but we need to be careful about the label “lazy teen.” Before we rush to judgment, we need to look deeper.
We all know teens can be the worst when it comes to laziness and rude behavior, but that doesn’t mean we have to cater to their every whim or sink to their level either.
But sometimes it is hard to be an adult to a teenager.
Do you have a lazy teen?
It’s a common complaint of parents today: My teen is lazy and wants to spend all of their time in bed on their phone. They won’t help out around the house and they are not prepared for the “real world.”
But are you really the parent to a lazy teen? What if we are looking at it wrong and it’s unfair treatment of our teens? Sometimes we need to look beyond the behavior to see what it means, such as:
- Overscheduled: many teenagers have commitments from dawn until dusk. They have school, activities, sports clubs, jobs, tutoring, and other commitments that cause them to be spent by the time they arrive home.
- Brain development: We often blame their moodiness on hormones, but a lot of the time it’s also the fact that areas in their brain are not developed enough to deal with the tasks they need to manage.
- Academic stress and burnout: The amount of schoolwork many teens deal with and the pressure to get into college can overwhelm many students causing them to shut down when they are in the safety of their home.
- Lack of executive function skills: Executive function skills are the common skills that most people develop over time, such as prioritization, time management, attention, etc. Some kids develop these skills naturally, and others need more help.
- Sleep issues: Teens have a lot of distractions today, including phones and other pervasive technology that often interrupt quality sleep.
- Puberty: The most rapid changes in our bodies happen during puberty and it can have an impact on teens’ energy levels and mood. Some kids grow at a phenomenal rate during this time, and this rapid growth can impact them both physically and mentally.
- Peer pressure: A lot of research shows that starting at age 10, peers are the number one influence. This means that if an adolescent sees their friends engaging in a certain way, they are more apt to do the same.
How to handle a lazy teen? Start by digging deeper.
It’s important to point out that what can come off as lazy and entitled behavior can at times be a symptom of another issue. It might be a lack of motivation, anxiety, depression, or another teen mental health concern. If there is a sudden onset of behavior that is outside of the norm for your child, like your high-energy kid all of a sudden is withdrawn, or you see a significant change in their lifestyle, you should seek out a professional opinion from your primary care doctor or a trained mental health counselor.
It’s also crucial for parents to understand that this sort of behavior is normal during these teenage years. While it can be frustrating, it’s essential to remember to try to avoid calling your teen “lazy,” and not stereotype them into this sort of behavior.
Carl E. Pickhardt, author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, says this: “Don’t do it. Don’t ever call your adolescent “lazy.” This label is more psychologically and socially loaded than most parents seem to understand. To make matters worse, the term is usually applied when they are feeling frustrated, impatient, or critical with the teenager, which only makes insulting injury from this name-calling harder to bear.”
What Pickhardt is saying is that lazy behavior is often an indicator of something else, and identifying the behavior is often an opportunity to help your child grow through it and learn valuable life skills.
It doesn’t make it any less annoying, however.
8 Ways to Deal with Entitled and Lazy Behavior from Your Teens
Sometimes, the most challenging part of parenting teens is responding to their behavior as a grown-up.
So, when we’ve hit our maximum threshold for snarky behavior, we say the first in our head but try to execute the second method.
Here are eight witty ways to blow off some steam and then disengage some of those annoying teenage behaviors that can push our buttons as parents.
When your teen asks you for food while lying on the couch watching TV
This one really gets me. Do your kids do this? Who am I, some kind of servant?
“Mom, can you heat up that leftover mac n cheese for me please?”
Or my all-time favorite: “Mom, I’m hungry. Can you make me something to eat?”
Or, when they text me with a request when they’re sitting in their room? That seems to be the battle cry of every lazy teen.
I get it. At the end of the day, we are all tired. And we all sometimes deserve some TLC.
But I already cooked dinner and cleaned up the kitchen and picked up the rest of the house, and just because I am moving past the couch does not mean I’m looking for something to do.
All I’m saying is I do not need to cater to my teen’s every request. Nope. Nada. No way.
What I want to do: Bring my kid an empty plate while doing a curtsey like a servant and say, “I’m so sorry to report that the help isn’t available at this time.”
What I actually do: “I’m in the middle of something, so it would be great if you could get it yourself.”
When your teen is not responding to your questions
This classic teen behavior happens All. The. Time. at our house. I’m not a fan, especially when it’s because of the phone.
What I want to do: Write them big lettered notes on a sheet of copy paper from my printer and stick it right in front of their faces. Maybe tape it on the TV if they are playing video games or on their computer screen if they are watching a video.
Sometimes I want to scream: “I… WAS… TALKING… TO… YOU. CAN… YOU…PLEASE… ANSWER…MY…QUESTION?”
What I actually do: This one annoys me, so I try to keep my temper in check, but I normally end up shouting, “Hey! I need your attention!” Or, “Can you put down your phone for a minute so we can address this issue together?”
When your teen won’t clean their room
The bane of nearly every parent-teen relationship is the state of their room, and there are a variety of schools of thought on this one. (You may also want to read:A Teen’s Messy Bedroom Doesn’t Mean You Are Failing as a Parent)
Some people don’t think it’s a battle worth fighting, and others feel like it’s an important part of learning responsibility and contributing to the overall household. Whatever your philosophy, make sure you talk to your kid about it before making assumptions that you are raising a lazy teen.
In my case, we found there were some deep-rooted issues when it came to my teen and cleaning her room. First, she had horrible organization skills and no concept as to how to put things in a certain order. Second, she often felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff she had. Third, she was dealing with some significant social anxiety issues during her day that made managing her room the last thing on her mind.
It breaks my heart to think I was belittling her about the state of her room while she was battling some pretty tough issues on her own.
So, what I wanted to say was, “This room looks like a hurricane hit it. Clean it or I’m throwing everything out the window!”
I say instead: “You seem to function when your room is a little more organized. On Sunday’s I’m going to help you a bit to get started. That’s the day you need to do these three things (for us it was put stuff in the garbage, take out the garbage, and do laundry and put it away.) Whatever else you want to do is great.”
A teen’s room can provide you with a lot of insight into what is going on in their life and their psyche at the time. It’s often an opportunity to improve your unique relationship with them.
When your teen leaves a mess behind and goes to bed
I know they say that you’ll miss the mess one day, but it sure gets old sometimes.
When will they finally learn to put their plates away, their clothes away, their shoes away, their EVERYTHING away? I get so tired of reminding them and the fact that it’s a source of so much frustration for both of us.
How I want to handle this: I would love to tiptoe into their room and gently jostle them awake. Once they are looking straight at me with utter confusion and surprise, I would calmly whisper, “I’m so sorry to wake you, but you still have some things to do downstairs,” and then I would say “Oh, you missed this plate over here.” “Don’t forget your gym shoes over here.” “There’s a water bottle in the other room with your name on it.”
Most of the time, however, I try to take a holistic approach to my teen. I try to put in perspective that they had a long day, too, and at this point in their young lives they do not care about messes as much as I do. I remind myself that they might have struggled and don’t have the capacity to complete these tasks at that moment. And I do a few gratitude checks reminding myself of the good qualities they possess.
How I actually handle it: This is usually cause and effect. If they leave a mess for no reason, then they can’t go anywhere until it’s cleaned up. I try to let the bedroom go, but our family is a community, and we all need to do our share. And sometimes I clean it up, but I do tell them the next day that while I don’t mind helping, it helps me a lot too when they pick up after themselves. If they can’t do it at the time, just let me know and we can work something out. I’ve found that acknowledgment is half the battle.
When your “lazy teen” wants to sit in their room all day
This one is tough for me because my mom used to run the vacuum cleaner inside my bedroom to wake me up on a Saturday morning. While I don’t necessarily like that passive-aggressive approach, her intent wasn’t wrong. It isn’t good for anyone to mope around in their room all day, especially for teens who do not understand self-care looks like. But sometimes we all need a day of rest where we sloth around and do nothing.
That being said, I don’t like when my teens use their phones and scrolling social media to take their minds off of their problems. So I try to find a happy medium.
What I say in my head: “Boy, it must be nice to be able to sit in your room and do nothing all day!”
What I actually say: “I get that you are exhausted and want to veg out all day, but I’m concerned for your well-being. I don’t mind if you take a me-day, but I don’t want you to spend it all on your phone. I’ll leave you alone as long as you consider doing something besides scrolling today, such as watching a movie, taking a walk, take a long bath, cook yourself a meal, do something creative, listen to a podcast, workout, etc. I’m not asking you to tell me what’s wrong, but it’s my job to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”
When your teen doesn’t do their schoolwork
When I took 10th grade Honors Biology, it rocked my world. It was the first time that school didn’t come easy to me. Instead of studying and working harder, I took the opposite track and checked out.
When my progress report came home with a C- on it, my parents flipped out. Both the teacher and my parents called me lazy, and to be honest, I thought I was being lazy, too. But looking back I now know that it was so much more. I had a fear of failure. I procrastinated when I didn’t know what to do. I did not have study skills.
Most kids want to do well in school, but when they don’t they shut down. It could be because of academic stress, an ineffective teacher, tough material, lack of study habits, or any number of mental health concerns.
What I’d like to do: When I find out my kids have not been keeping up with their studies, I’d like to say, “This is your only job! Focus!”
What I actually do: I try to lead with compassion and ask lots of questions. “Do you like this subject? Do you like the teacher? What do you think of the course material? Do you think a tutor would help? How can I help you with your next exam?”
When your teen does the minimum job on a chore
One time, my daughter was supposed to dust the first floor of our house before having some friends over, and she blatantly did a crappy job, missing huge sections. The silly kid missed the obvious spots I noticed immediately. I mean, if you’re going to slack off on something, at least have half a mind to try to hide your lack of effort.
Let’s be honest? Who hasn’t skirted a task before? While we don’t think this made her a lazy teen, there is a lesson to be learned here.
What I’m thinking: “Oh honey, it looks like you need much more practice at doing chores. Here are a few more to help you really work on those skills. It takes hard work and dedication to get really good at something, and I believe in you!”
What I did instead: I called my daughter down and showed her the spots she missed. She was not in the mood for a lecture, so I asked her to finish what she started before her friends came over. As a consequence, I then asked her to do the upstairs hall as well, and underscored why it’s important to do the job right the first time.
She didn’t award me Mom of the Year that day, but my house was dusted, and she understood my expectation on completing a task.
When your teen is barking orders at you to hurry up because they are going to be late
This type of entitled and expectant behavior does me in, especially considering more times than not, they are the ones keeping me waiting.
What every fiber of my being wants to do: Purposefully grab my coffee, settle into my favorite comfy chair, and open a good book. Maybe take a 30-minute shower. Or I would drop everything and run out the door, hop in the car, and leave without her. Maybe I’d go around the block and, when I returned would ask, “Why weren’t you ready to go? Now we’re late!”
What I actually do: I try not to freak out and then mention that yelling at me won’t make me move faster. And then we get there when we get there.
Do you have a lazy teen, or is it something else?
At the end of the day, while this type of behavior is annoying and frustrating, it also is often temporary. Using it as a learning opportunity to understand what your teen is going through at the time, and a teaching opportunity, as to how they can grow through it, can help improve the relationship with your teenager.
And when that doesn’t work, write those snarky responses down to get them out of your system!
Looking for a great resource on how to manage your teens/tweens challenging behavior? We love the book Parenting with Love & Logic! It’s a game-changer for how to appropriately respond and manage the relationship with your son or daughter.
Parenting teens and tweens isn’t easy. Looking for some more support and encouragement?
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