It seems like each generation insists that the rising generation is the laziest to have ever lived. Whether this is true or not, lazy kids are not born, they’re made and there is something we can do about it.
1. Limit things that take no effort: There are so many things that completely entertain and amuse us these days with little or no effort on our part. TV, Video games, surfing the internet, amusement parks, and so many others excite our senses and reinforce the experience without requiring anything from us. The original intent of the word amusement actually means, a diversion of the mind meant to deceive. These amusements deceive us about what is real. They trick our brains into accepting inaction as rewarding.
2. Let them know that even things they love will be hard at times, but they are worth it: Most valuable and purposeful things in life require effort. Even sports, music, talents or hobbies get hard at some point and require discipline and perseverance to grow. My mother put me in piano lessons as a kid and I loved music, but when I started having to count timing and read multiple notes in both hands, it got hard, so I quit. I didn’t feel like it was fun or amusing. It took too much effort. On the other hand, my little brother pressed through that difficult time in learning the piano and plays beautifully now. It got easier and he loves it. Tell these kinds of stories to your kids. Not as a lecture when they are upset because it’s hard but during the good times. Tell these stories at bedtime or when riding in the car.
3. Pursue a Passion: Encourage them to pursue things that they want to do, learn, etc. See through the obstacles. I often ask my counseling clients, “If there were no obstacles or barriers, resources were not a concern, and there were no other obligations to keep you from it, what would you do with your time and energy.” Some struggle even to identify something they would like to do because it is so hard to imagine life without the regular, every day things that they feel interfere with what they would like to do the most. Once they have identified at least one thing they would love to do, but just feel like they haven’t had a chance to do, I ask, “Why not start?” I had a client that wanted to become an artist but said he didn’t have money for classes or supplies. I showed him a video of a guy that created incredible art from simple things around the house. I showed him countless youtube videos and blogs that taught people how to draw. We carved out a time that he could pursue that dream and passion. We looked for ways he could do it instead of all the reasons he couldn’t. This video is an awesome example of letting your child take the lead and pursue things that interest them. Check out hackschooling.
4. Invite them to work: When you ask a person what the most valuable thing their parents taught them is, they often say, “They taught me to work hard.” Kids rarely say this because of course, kids are not usually grateful for this when the lessons are happening. We don’t have to be mean or cruel about it. Actually, we’ll have better results if we are not pushy, demanding or “mean” about work. Work with them when possible. Set limits and inform them of natural consequences of not fulfilling chores, but never assume the role of the slave master, cracking the whip all the while.
5. Cut out things that are unimportant, non-urgent and irrelevant. Do purposeful work: Don’t dig a hole for the sake of digging a hole. I actually knew a kid growing up that had to do that very thing. His Dad was a workaholic and felt that “life is work” and therefore if there was not something else to do, he had my friend and his siblings go in the back yard and dig a hole and then fill it up. This friend of mine was one of the laziest kids I ever knew. He hated to work and could hardly ever see the purpose behind his work. Do purposeful work, play and other activities. Help them understand the importance and that you appreciate their contribution.
6. Encourage Reading: Reading is entertaining but requires real mental effort. Reading is not a passive experience and yet we can select books that are every bit as fun and entertaining as TV or any other techno-medium. Reading encourages critical thinking and active involvement in the story. It requires imagination and promotes success in other areas of a person’s life.
7. Set goals and help them achieve goals: I’m a huge advocate of family nights, when family can teach and learn together. One of the greatest functions of a family night is to allow for opportunities to identify and commit to goals. It also gives a time to review past goals and make changes if necessary. Goals that are initiated by our kids and are important to them are motivating to them. When a kid has something they are working toward that they really care about, rewards and gimmicks become obsolete and unnecessary.
8. Exercise and keep them active: It used to be that kids didn’t need to “exercise” because they ran and played and jumped and flipped and kicked and swung and climbed and well, you get the idea. That is still the best way for kids to get exercise. We don’t need to enlist our toddlers in P90X or enroll them in a weekly Zumba class, although my kids have enjoyed doing those things alongside my wife and me. (My boys love to get their pull ups in, with a little help). Kids simply need to get up and move. This fosters healthy weight and fitness but also provides our children with one of the most important elements of creating positive mood and motivation.
9. Help them know their role and purpose in the family: Show appreciation for the tasks and responsibilities they provide in the family. Teach them during the good times that everyone in the family has value and purpose. Our roles may be different and different people have varying abilities and contributions but all are significant. Never call them lazy. Even if a child is being lazy, letting them know that and giving them the label will never take you closer to what you want to accomplish.
10. Find time to be lazy: I know this one seems a little counter-intuitive but we all need to rest and recharge. Practice and teach your children how to relax and meditate. Show them the peace and exhilarating joy that come from just sitting near a babbling stream, feeling the warm sun on your skin or taking a power nap. Share these experiences with them. One of my most profound memories with my father was a moment sitting on a hillside, watching a beautiful mountain lake as the full moon rose and glimmered on the surface of the water. Sometimes, these moments are just what we need to bring the inspiration and energy to pursue life with vigor.
Question: Do you think interest, drive and determination can be taught?
Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of “5 Jump Starters for Powerful Family Cycles: Creating Happier and More Effective Parenting THIS Week!”