Is your lazy teen driving you up the wall? You will be no stranger to the frustration that comes with a teenager whose hand has become welded to the remote or whose only attempt to lift a finger is to click on the mouse!
In addition to frustration, you may well find yourself losing your patience and your temper. And that’s understandable. We are single parents and most of us are single-handedly supporting a home, financially and practically, possibly working full-time, and very likely have other children as well.
And here are these almost-adults we share our homes with expecting us to run around and do everything! Not only that, but the effort that it takes to persuade, cajole and nag them into doing the simplest chore is often the hardest work of all!
Not all parents of teens have to deal with drug-taking or aggressive behaviour, teenage pregnancy or any of the other ‘teen problems’, but the experience of laziness to some degree is probably almost universal!
Research suggests that the teenage lack of energy is caused by the hormonal upheaval of puberty. They say that it might be due to a delay in melatonin (the hormone that helps us to sleep) production at night which means they don’t want to go to sleep until late and consequently they get very tired. Teenagers need more sleep than either children or adults because of the speed at which they are growing. (See this BBC news article)
So perhaps they can’t help it and they are just tired all the time and we as parents need to be more understanding.
However, the BBC article does say that the research is not conclusive, and suggests that the delay in melatonin production could be caused by the bright lights of computer and television screens which stimulate the brain.
All of which doesn’t really help us very much in our day to day lives with our teenage son or daughter.
So what could help?
As I was researching for this article I came across an American forum where parents were sharing experiences of laziness in their teenagers. In these pages of discussion parents shared all the different ways they were dealing with it. Some favoured strict discipline, others used various systems of reward, and others did nothing. Some of them seemed to be successful and others didn’t, but not because of any particular method.
What was striking about those people who seemed to have some success was that they were consistent in what they did. The parents who’d “tried everything” seemed to be the ones having most trouble.
As single parents we have both an advantage and a disadvantage: In a couple you can often be at odds with the other person – couples argue about parenting more than almost anything else (except money!) This makes it difficult to be consistent. On the other hand, for some single parents, the other ‘inconsistent’ parent is still in the picture but not in the same house. So your child goes to spend time with them and all your good work is undone and/or your child plays you off against your ex partner and there is nothing you can do about it.
It’s important to deal with the teenage years in a way that works for you, your life style, your beliefs and values and your unique and individual relationship with your child. However, here are some ideas for you to think about:
- Keep them busy – imagine the start of the six week summer holiday with no plans, its not an incentive to be motivated is it?
- Give them household tasks – with a clear system of positive consequences for getting them done.
- Get them doing something they are good at, whether it be digging holes, archery or cooking!
- Set a limit on video games and television – and then suggest other hobbies or activities they could be doing, or you could do together.
- Spend time with your teen – let them know you value their company.
- Hire your teenager for special jobs – offer opportunities to do special projects in the house to earn money.
- Support them to get a job, or volunteer in a local project.
One mother says that when her son was 16 she had an enlightening moment. After many battles with him about laziness, she realised he was who he was and the only thing she could do was to accept him:
He was not getting into trouble at school, he didn’t get involved in drugs or drinking. He always was home close to on time, and never with a police escort. Sometimes he was rude to her but she thought not as bad as a lot of children. He never used bad language within her hearing and other adults thought he was great, so she decided to ignore the laziness!
And what she found is that after a while he began to do things himself, help out with chores, tidy his room etc without having to be asked. This may not work for everyone but it does highlight something important to remember: Tell them about their positive attributes.
In your frustration don’t forget about all the positive and good things about your son or daughter and whatever you do, try not to get stuck into a battle of wills with your teen that results in nothing but stalemate.
Remember, in the words of Zen, ‘this too will pass’.
BBC website - Report of research into teenagers and their sleep patterns and energy levels.
BBC website - Report of a survey of teenagers - that suggests that most teenagers would like to be more active but that they don’t think there is enough for them to do locally
Vinspired website - Find volunteering opportunities in your area for 16-25 year olds, from movie making to driving, helping out at Glastonbury to making changes in your community.
Guardian website - Report of the same research as the BBC link above, but focusing on how evidence suggests teenagers perform better at school in the afternoon.