What to Do About Lazy Teen

Updated on May 27, 2008
S.M. asks from Marthasville, MO
17 answers

My 15 year old daughter is very smart, but very lazy. She does poorly in any class that requires homework. (I have even sat with her and gotten her started on projects, but in spite of her discovery of how easy they are, she never completes or turns them in, even if only left w/ one or two paragraphs to write on her own.) She failed one semester of history and is failing this semester of comm arts. She will have to make these up next year, as I refuse to spend my hard earned money on gas to make two round trips of 30 miles daily to summer school.
School is not just her only lazy area (and this one gets me really torked!) She has expressed an interest in culinary arts as a career. So we have given her responsibility for the kitchen and cooking at least four family meals a week. The kitchen is now like her grades (digusting!) and she cops an attitude half the time you ask her to make dinner.
She is in drama, which is a great group of kids who are usually a really good influence on her. I hate to pull her from this (not because I have issues disciplining her, but because this is one of the few places where she is a team player).
When we take away computer privilages she storms off to her room. And still gets nothing done.
At my wits end with this kid!

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So What Happened?

Wow! Quite a variety of ideas.
Have an ADHD kid and she's not one. No drugs or depression either. Mostly computer-addiction and time-management issues.
She and I discussed several options. I asked her about letting a sibling pick up cleaning the kitchen and she got a look of sheer horror on her face. She prefers doing both cooking and general cleaning (so she knows her gadgets & pans are clean, well cared for and knows where they are). She did a beautiful cleaning job last night to get things back the way they're supposed to look. Everyone is expected to wipe down any areas they work or eat in and put dishes in dishwasher. We also unload dishes when we cook. She wants to do the cooking, but time management and planning are big issues. She will spend a little time each weekend planning for her cooking days and making a list of things I need to pick up at the store. We also wentover the prep for two meals at once concept (chop 2-3 nights worth of veggies at same time, thaw or marinade meat for next days meal while meal 1 in oven, prep stuff at night to slow cook in crock pot next a.m., etc.). She is happy with these time-saving ideas and I'll be helping her with them for a couple weeks until she gets the hang of it. Siblings may be drafted to help with cleaning & chopping veggies and other "Assistant Chef" assignments.
As for grades, she realizes that making a subject up during the regular school year takes away from electives she could choose for herself. Tommorow she plans to print all of her past due work she completed, and will turn it in Tues. Between that and finals she may barely pass the second class she was failing. Computer time and extracurricular activites will suffer during the year if grades start to drop. She is going to try to use snack time when she first gets home to also spend 1/2-1 hour of homework and will do some on her 45 minute bus ride home. We'll go over assignments together once a week to see if she's keeping up.

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answers from Kansas City on

I'd make her do the summer school stent....we did with my son even though he passed...he passed a class with a D his freshman year and we made him re take it.
As far as ADHD...NOT by the time they are 15...it would have been seen earlier. Kids this age go though changes and start wanting more independence and just act out / up / change.
High School also is differnet and they are no longer babied at school.
I'd keep her in the drama but pull other privliges with reinstatents writtne out. My youngest who is now 15 got in a lot of trouble at school her 7th grade year....I made a chart that stipulated what she would earn back and how it would happen.....she didn't argue it a bit....'



answers from Kansas City on

My 13yo son also has an interest in the culinary arts, and cooks often. But, he hates the common stuff, and cannot be expected to cook AND clean. If he makes an unnecassary mess, he cleans that, but the next sibling cleans the kitchen. Of what I know, when one cooks, another cleans, especially in a two working household. Same with the children.

My lazy child is also the VERY intelligent one in the house. I have never had much success in getting her to help around. And, she is easily distracted, and actually IS the distractor, so others have a hard time keeping on task. She is only 9yo though, and already slamming doors which we put a quick halt to, so I know what you are going through. Her sister has my husband's dyslexia, but not as extreme, and so there is a huge contrast in their personalities. Perhaps she has ADD, but since we homeschool, it doesn't cause so many problems.

Perhaps she can school at home, and go at her own pace, and be able to just take the tests to pass the classes. I can understand the busywork being a nuisance for her. Perhaps her classes are too easy. I think school needs to be altered, and the cooking needs to be child led. Just my .o2

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answers from Columbia on

Hi S.,
I know exactly how you feel; my 4 children have all done similar things. It can be very frustrating! One of my children was suspended from the track team for a semester because of poor grades---turns out they just didn't turned in any homework, even finished work!

What I’ve learned since then is that my children and I are visual learners' more than auditory ones. Sounds like your daughter could also be one. What that means is that things that are hands-on & interactive—real world stuff---are easier for us to understand. I always thought I hated history in school until my mom told me to get a minor in it---later I realized, I LOVE history. But, the way the teachers presented it made the subject so boring in my classes that I had a hard time staying awake!

Those of us who think in pictures—well, it means that in 1 second over 32 pictures go though the subconscious part of our brain. Others who are more auditory, linear-sequential learners, they have about 4-5 words going through their brains in that same second. Thinking in pictures is anywhere from 400 to 2,000 times faster than verbal thought. This might make us appear lazy at times because we’ve processed what everyone else is still working on. Then we’re thinking about something else, day dreaming, talking about another subject...

When you think about your daughter’s involvement in drama-- that also makes sense. Drama allows her to apply her skills to her style of learning.

If she’s having problems in communication arts this is also an area people who think with pictures can really be confused in. We tend to be highly imaginative and the symbols of language can be confusing at times. It’s like we have it one time but not the next. When we think with pictures the letter b can then become d or g or q; then the words become something else.

So being a teen in a world where you’re expected to perform in school like others can lead to frustration and can interfere with self-esteem. Her interest in culinary arts is great. Are there ways you can help her decide what she wants to be in charge of? How many nights does she think she can provide a meal? Or, would she rather you did the main course and she make desserts or snacks for the other kids?

I help people who are picture thinkers-we use the term dyslexia as a broad term to describe this type of thinking. If you want to check out my website it’s www.onpointlearning.org I’m in the Columbia area and you can call me at ###-###-#### if you’d like to just talk.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Your daughter sounds very much like mine - and I have four kids too. It could be depression or adhd as other people have said, and that should be looked into. But I think it's more likely her age plus something bothering her, or just an attitude she copped from someplace. my daughter is very smart too and just didn't finish stuff. Much too late in the game, after a terrible report card came out, I made a rule that everyday after school, after a few minutes of down time and a snack, she has to sit at the kitchen table (in plain view) and do her homework for one hour. Knowing she has to sit there for the full hour regardless if she says she has homework or not, seems to be helping her get it done. I sometimes hear "I don't have any homework" to which my resonse is, then go through each of your classes in your mind and think about what you did today. Did you understand everything? Review the work you did. Her sisters also have to do the same thing (those with bad grades) and it's working out very well. They all sit there and do their homework together. As long as her grades are below her potential, this is what she has to do. Period. She had 3 Fs at progress report time, and nothing below a C right now.

As far as the dinner thing goes - you probably threw too much on her at once. Loving to cook is one thing, having the responsibility of providing meals for your whole family 4 nights a week is quite another. Way to suck the joy out of it! Especially if your other kids don't have such large responsibilities. By dumping that much work on her because she expressed an interest in something could cause her to not express any interest in anything else - no telling what will be required of her if she said she enjoyed gardening - great - you're in charge of all the lawn care! I'm not judging you at all - I've done the same kind of thing to my kids. My daughter has a beautful singing voice and I forced her into a singing group and now she won't sing at all.

I would suggest you let her rediscover the joy of cooking by allowing her to experiment in the kitchen and making the family meal perhaps once a week. Let her know if she wants to cook more often, that would be great. Ask her if she can help her siblings learn to cook too. Let her know how much you appreciate her help and what a wonderful daughter she is for helping out so much. Once can either feel like a slave or a princess when doing for others depending on the attitude surrounding it.

As for the stomping off, that's teenage for you. Don't let it get to you. And don't let her fits stop her from doing what she is supposed to do. She's not going to be happy about privileges being taken away - she's not supposed to be! But I wouldn't allow disrespect - there's a difference in expressing frustration and being nasty to mom!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

is this a sudden change, or has she always been a bit "lazy" and unfocused?
in both cases, she should see a doctor. If she's always been this way, it's possible she may have ADHD. If so, treatment will both improve her self-esteem and her grades, not to say how it will enhance your relationship. If this is sudden, it could be due to drugs, in which case, the sooner she gets professional help, the better.
another possibility is that she could be suffering from depression. Depression in teenagers should not be ignored, as it can be serious. It's worth looking into.



answers from St. Louis on

I would suggest having her evaluated for depression or to see a counselor. It sounds like something has happened to cause such a change in her behavior. It sounds like you have established rules and expectations well with her. There is something that is keeping her from it. Teens can be rebelous but this sounds more extreme. Perhaps it is time to bring in a professional for her.



answers from St. Louis on

I understand your fustration. My once wonderful, children turned into teen do nothings also. Yes you will all live thru this.
Start with drama. If this is what motivates her use it to your advantage. Set up some clear writen down and posted rules. These rules may only be hers if the other children in the house do not need them.
We linked school performance with a reward at the end of the week, a movie or other activity the teen likes. I had to email or talk to the teachers every Thursday, this was not always easy. My teen messed up a couble of times and did not like being stuck at home while friend were out. The teen made the choice to change. The rules and benifits really helped us.
Good luck!



answers from Springfield on

You say she is smart.She probably is very intelligent! This is why she doesn't "see the point" in doing all of the work.
It is in the doing of work, and seeing a job well done to the best of our ability. Not perfect, just progress.
Driving her to and from Summer School is worth it, if only to show her that YOU FOLLOW THROUGH! She needs the credit. Do not let her think she can give up on school, no matter what kind of fit she may throw. It is her job and yours too to ensure she at least graduate High School...and hopefully find a passion or interest to follow in college...even if it is only Community College and she has to work her way through it.
Good Luck! Google or get a book at the Library and find the list of qualities of Gifted Children and see if you see your daughter somewhere in there.



answers from St. Louis on

I think it must be the age. BUT!! you have to make her do what she is told. does she have her driving permit?? if so take it away till she can rasies it up or show she is responable. I know school is almost up for the year. this is what also I would do! does the school have a bus for summer school?? make her ride it if so. I know this might sound mean but she chose not to try and do what she should.

This might sound rude, but I really think tht asking her to cook 4 meals a night is not her job. maybe one one or 2. or maybe help plan them with you and do some part of it. but not all 4. she needs to do homework. I know you are doing that to try to get her to do something besides sit at the tv or computer. because I have the very same issue with my daugther same age. and if she is like mine too her mouth is getting very sassy. I been told take things away like radio and tv and computer. you know it is so easy to say but so very hard to do. I am here for you because I am going through it too.
we have to remember that weare the parents and that is out job. this too ahall pass(but when?)



answers from Kansas City on

Your daughter may not be lazy. She may be suffering from A.D.H.D. The psychiatrists have just one diagnosis for A.D.D and A.D.H.D. since there are overlapping tendencies associated with A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. My son had the same types of behavior as your daughter, until we had him diagnosed and put on medication. He has finally started finishing all of his work, his grades are so much higher, and he feels more confident about himself. I think that it is something that you might want to look up. You might see that your daughter has more symptoms that relate to this. Good luck, I know how difficult it is to deal with this behavior. I am finally over this bump with my son. Take care.



answers from Kansas City on

I certainly wouldn't pull her from drama if that group is a good influence. How is her room? Her personal hygiene? Does she care what her hair and clothes look like? If these areas are suffering, as well, I would wonder if either there's something going on she can't/won't share with you, or (and I hate to say this) some form of drug experimentation. Please don't be offended; it DOES happen, and sometimes to the very best of family environments. If the problem is limited to homework and kitchen, however, I'd go retro on her. Let her know it temporary, until she gets things back under control. Make a chart and include the things at issue. Any day with something not checked off is a day the following week without computer privilege. Stick to your guns and leave any nagging or lectures out of the picture while you try the matter-of-fact chart method. I hope this is helpful, and good luck to you.



answers from Joplin on

I also wondered if you had always had some trouble with motivation in her earlier years. My son has adhd and thats his thing to. He is highly intellegiant and can pass any test without cracking a book or doing homework outside of class but the missing homework is what brings his grades down. All of the teachers say it in the classes that he has the low grades in....not all them just the ones that are of no great intrest to him.

So boredom can play the role as well. Does she feel that she already knows what they are teaching that they are being redundent? Take a good look at some of the State or National test scores and see how she did. If she scored hi she is probably board with school.

The entire cooking thing.....plain ol everyday teenager. 4 Meals a week in my opinion is hi expactations on your part. Is she doing this on her own or with you? If your letting her fly solo the problem may be that she wanted to BE with you during that time.

Please please please PLEASE do not jerk the positive Drama club. That would be a huge mistake. More time for her to slack and aspire to nothing. Plus the resentment anger and sadness that she would aquire.

Remove cell phones, tv, computers, MP3, raidio, stero but please not the drama. Its amazing how when you take a cell phone or a computer they will be so mad but within a few hours they are working on getting it back by either doing the chores they hadnt been doing, changing their attitude and being nicer, or working on their grades.

Another thing that we as parents forget sometimes is some encouraging words before the storms hit. You may say it to others that she is so smart but when she does something that is smart do you smile and tell her so? We tend to get in such a rush that we forget that just some simple words of praise will brighten their day, and their self esteem and lighten their hearts were they themselves are more giveing and considerate.

Good Luck



answers from Lawrence on

check out loveandlogic.com. I absolutely love their program. The basic idea is that your daughter (and every other kid) has to learn the consequences of her own action through responsibility for herself. That is a pretty tall order for us parents. The principles in love and logic have not changed in 20 years, they have ideas you can use IMMEDIATELY, and the explanations of their program make so much sense it's hard to deny.

give it a shot :) it changed our family dynamic for the better and fast.



answers from Kansas City on

Hi, S.. Has your daughter always been this way through school- doing poorly in subjects requiring lots of outside work? Does she have a difficult time concentrating on her work and she gets frustrated? If so, she may have some difficulty that she can not help. If she has a hard time attending on a task and seeing it through, putting together meals and being responsible for them during the week may be too much for her. I have a son who is 8 and I used to sit with him while he did his homework too. We also took things away when tasks weren't completed. We have found out this year that he has ADHD Innattentive Disorder. I am not implying that your daughter has ADHD, but I do think analyzing how her day goes, and what things she excels in versus what she struggles in might lead you to some answers about why she is having such a hard time. I do think that if she has struggled a long time with school, she is probably feeling pretty frustrated with herself. If she is excelling in drama, I would say let her keep going. She needs to feel good about herself in an area of school. I would have a heart to heart with your daughter and really delve into whether this is an issue of teenage rebellion and laziness or an issue she cannot help herself. My son was so frustrated in not being able to keep up with the others in the class- it really can hurt their self-esteem. She is worth the effort to try and find the cause of this problem. Good Luck and God Bless.



answers from Kansas City on

If she can't do the simple things that you ask...you need to pull the things that she likes to do....it's that simple. I wouldn't keep letting her do something for nothing & also tell her IF she doesn't turn this thing around she will get the required things to live NOTHING more. Start taking it all away if you have too. Good luck & God Bless!



answers from Kansas City on

It might help to try different learning techniques or check into any disorders she may have (depression, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, etc.), but I did the same thing when I was around the same age. I didn't feel like I 'fit in' with any certain crowd. If grades were too high, you're a geek or nerd. If too low, you're a loser or troublemaker. (According to how my mind worked at the time, anyway.) So I just 'got by' as long as possible. I would whip through as much homework as I could at the beginning or end of class and that's all I would turn in. I resented homework. I knew it was busywork. The REAL problem? I was bored. Especially in math - where I got the worse grades - my teacher told my mom I could be teaching the class but I was barely passing.

I know that's not any real advice, but another perspective on the issue. Maybe she needs to be challenged more.



answers from St. Louis on

She is acting out as she grows. Remember you are the parents and still have "some" control however you don't want her to go over the deep end and do things that would harm her. It would help for you and the rest of the family to get some counseling for yourself and how to learn to deal with her. It really is important to realize she is growing up and testing her own ways for the world she will soon face without you. Taking away her enjoyment can lead to many problems you really don't want to happen. This may be her only outlet for herself. The rest (kitchen) means she looks to you for support and backup. Be there for her-if it means clean up then make a fun thing out of it for everyone in the family-that is after all the screaming quits-don't give up either. Try more family group things-like everyone helps with dinner and clean ups. Then do something really fun with it like eat your dinner someplace you have never done before maybe even silly-like take your dinner-dishes and all outside to oh say a tree then throw a blanket on the ground and make it a picnic. Now do the same thing with her homework-yes it means you go back to school too and help her with her studies and look into the hard stuff! And if no one can do that assignment then call out for reinforcements-do not under any circumstances abandon her on this one-it is the most important thing you both will ever do. And it really can be fun doing homework with her. Yes again this may take more time than you planned and will probably have lots of screaming and hollering but stay with it and her, try anything to make it go-go back out to that treee climb it and study there. Sometimes just a change of location makes a big difference. I know this first hand-STAY WITH HER AND ALL WILL WORK OUT. It takes time and not force. But what else do we have when it comes to our kids-they are the most important thing we have in our lives-let's work to keep them there and have a happy adult later. Remember to get that counselor for you too this is a hard time for the rest of the family.

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