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Behaviors At Home

The Lazy

Action: Why is my child behaving this way, what unmet needs does he or she have, and what specific things can I do to help him or her behave better?

Primary Causes of Misbehavior

This child may feel that he or she is a failure in everything and that being lazy eliminates the risk of further failure.

Primary Needs Being Revealed


The physical needs of this child may be contributing to the problem. Hunger and thirst will probably worsen this child's behavior.

Escape from Pain
Being lazy is a way to escape pain of family or school problems.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

This child's exclusion from social groups could be a reason for laziness.

Little successes may become very meaningful to this person.

This child may feel that being lazy is a form of power over adults. The power need should be met through achievement.

Every effort should be made to help this child feel that he or she is a worthwhile person in the eyes of peers and adults.

Actions to Take
  • Take care to evaluate what "lazy" means relative to each individual child.

  • Get a full physical examination for your child.

  • Don't overlook any factor in attempting to motivate this child. Remember, all behavior, including laziness, has a purpose. Consider the various responsibilities that your child may have, including school, jobs, sports, and so forth. The keys to changing this behavior lie in many places.

  • In the process of trying to determine why the child is lazy, rather than simply how laziness is demonstrated, don't misjudge the child's abilities or label him or her. If you do, you keep the child boxed in a corner.

  • Recognize that a health problem may cause lazy behavior. Therefore, be careful, or you may fail to identify the source of the problem.

  • Above all, recognize that a poor self-concept indicates fear of failure, and this usually lies at the root of laziness. By not participating, the lazy child avoids the possibility of failure—and keeps his or her pride. Therefore, to reach this child, try different approaches which promote a positive self-image.

  • Remember, people do what works for them. The lazy child may have learned that it's easier to get people to do things for him or her. Therefore, being lazy works for this child—and becomes a strength. That's why you must take some definite steps to change the behavior.

  • Above all else, make this child work.

  • Stay with the child regardless of the difficulty of your effort. Don't give up on this child, regardless of his or her behavior.

  • Never forget, the lazy child isn't a procrastinator. A procrastinator will do the job eventually. The lazy child may not—unless he or she is motivated.

  • Try to find out what's really important to this child. It may be comfort, prestige, or autonomy.

  • Directly ask the child about likes, interests, and preferences, but never talk about dislikes. Remember, he or she knows the negative side of everything. Dwelling on it is part of the problem. Unless you ask about the child's likes, you may spend a lot of time trying to find out—unsuccessfully. If you don't ask about his or her interests, you reinforce the negative behavior in both subtle and overt ways. To find areas of interest or ways to motivate this child, you may have to seek help from teachers or other parents.

  • Confront laziness from this child—consistently. Don't ignore it. Discuss this issue with your child's teachers as well.

  • Capitalize on any interest, regardless of how remote it may seem. In the meantime, continue to insist that the child work—and never let him or her slide.

  • Assign smaller, more short-term responsibilities in which immediate success can be readily achieved.

  • Always impose time limits. You might even set up contracts with the child.

  • Give this child alternate work time.

  • Give rewards for accomplishments. Otherwise, motivation may not continue.

  • Talk with the child privately; inquire about the successes he or she is experiencing in school, at home, and with friends.

  • When talking with your child, always point out his or her strengths—because the lazy child honestly doesn't think he or she has any. Finally, try to give the child choices—and explain the consequences of laziness in the process: The lazy child will be the only loser. And your "I care" attitude should openly state that you don't want your child to fail.

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Please Note
We are labeling behaviors, not children! For the sake of convenience, we will describe behaviors with terms such as The Whiner or The Interrupter.

Never use such labels when talking to—or about—children! Doing so could cause many new problems and seriously damage the teacher-student or parent-child relationship.