How to Motivate a (Seemingly) Lazy Child: 5 Quick Tips for Parents

I recently wrote about Unschooling and how to make it work for your family and after that post went live, I was asked in my Learning in the Lowcountry Community Group about how to turn around an unmotivated learner.

Sometimes it feels as though our kids are content to just lie around the house ‘doing nothing’ When this happens, parents often complain their children are lazy or unmotivated. But, are they though?

I want to share 6 quick tips to help parents change their mindset about what they perceive as lazy or unmotivated.

Are the Kids Really Ok?

Before you pass off laziness or aloofness as just a phase, it’s important to ensure nothing more serious is going on.

If your child seems depressed or detached, it’s important to seek counseling or outside help. Kids are under a lot of pressure and life can be overwhelming.

They’re not equipped to fully navigate the world of instant gratification (or lack thereof) online that comes with popularity; likes, re-blogs, shares and DMs so it is imperative that we stay engaged and involved.



In the event though, that this is nothing more than cocooning; when tweens and teens tend to spend most of their time in their rooms away from family, realize that it’s very normal; they need this space. 

Due to hormonal changes, teenagers go through a natural time of self-discovery that involves separating their identity from that of their parents.

Biologically, during this stage of their lives, they tend to produce more oxytocin receptors.

Oxytocin, while often called the ‘bonding hormone’ for teens effects the emotional side of their brain. This will cause them to be incredibley self-focused and self-absorbed. 

It’s good to know that they all will likely go through this and barring any serious issues as noted above, they all come through the other side healthy and adjusted young adults. 

What you can do in the meantiime is talk and listen, really listen.

This means to listen without judgement, stay level-headed and try not to lecture.

Be a sounding board first and foremost. Share your opinions in a non-threatening way so they’re not perceived as a personal attack, try to generalize your opinion so your chilld doesn’t feel the need to defend themselves.

Create a Judgement-free Zone

Withhold Judgement – what looks like a waste of time to you could actually be the very thing that propels your child to their future path.

Whether what they’re working on seems productive to you or not isn’t the issue. Supporting your child in whatever sparks their interest, imagination or creativity will do wonders for their self-esteem and your relationship with one another. 

Reserve judgement. Respect them for the people they already are.



What is most important is that they’re excited and passionate about something.

Put yourself in their shoes. If someone were constantly judging your hobby or interest or telling you that it was a waste of time, this would likely frustrate and annoy you, possibly even give you anxiety or make you depressed. 

Your kids are no different. Accept them, their interests, their style – the whole package.

Dig a Little Deeper 

If your kid seems be be doing nothing all day, find out what it is that they are interested in.

Sometimes they just need a nudge. Are they watching cooking shows all the time, YouTube makeup tutorials all day, millennial travel vlogs?

If they’re watching it online, there’s a good chance it’s a significant enough of an interest you can build upon and help them explore further either by creating their own content around the topic or experimenting with what they’re learning about directly.



Buy the makeup or the paint set, help them start a YouTube channel or a blog – do the things!

One thing my oldest son enjoyed doing for a time when he was getting back into drawing was taking part in Inktober or other drawing challenges.

My daughter loves writing and challenged herself to NaNoWriMo – writing every day in November to a certain word count.

Sometimes the challenge and deadline can be a motivating factor. (especially for a procrastinator like myself)

Help your kids find people in the community that are doing things they’re interested in.

Beekeeping, urban farming and reading to elementary students were all activities my older kids did within our community.

Mind Your Business

No, really..hear me out.

Mind your business and model the behaviors you’d like to see them replicate.



When you’re excited about your own projects, goals and activities, your child will pick up on that vibe! When they see you working toward your own goals and setting that example, they follow suit.

Maybe not right away in the thick of things, but later on, you’ll see it. I promise.

Quitting is Totally Ok Sometimes 

Let them quit things. The last thing I want to do is continue on with something that is boring me out of my skull.

I realize that many parents have a hard time with this, especially when they’ve paid for equipment or classes but… in letting your child take that control when something isn’t working, you may find that they pick it up later on their own.

My youngest took exactly 4 months of piano lesson from one of our homeschool co-op groups.

He woke up one day and told me that he just didn’t want to continue on with the class. He still wanted to go to his Reading class at co-op but was done with piano.

I knew there were no issues with liking his instructor because he chose to have me sign him up for the following year Ukulele lessons with the same teacher. He was just done with piano. 



Or so I thought. After a few days he went back online to YouTube and watched every single Hoffman Academy beginning piano lesson video and learned a considerable amount in a short time.

By trusting him to know what wasn’t working, I helped him free up time and gave him the space to pick something up on his own terms, in his own time and he goes back to the piano regularly throughout the day to practice without any nagging from mom.

This is what we’re aiming for; self-directed autodidacts that know what they need, when they need it. An unschooling mindset creates happy, engaged children learning at their pace, on their own terms when we give them the space they need to thrive. 

Sounds pretty motivational to me. 



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