I came across an article recently that started with this line… “Why are teenagers such moody, lazy, selfish nightmares?”
Rude, right? Would we find it acceptable to speak about any other group of people this way? No. But when talking about children and adolescents apparently this kind of behaviour is totally fine. And very common. We have all heard ‘just wait until they are teenagers!’ as if this is some inevitable development. They will all become moody, lazy, and selfish.
When I look at my tween and teen all I see are some pretty amazing people. They are inspired, funny, respectful, passionate, motivated, connected, and enjoyable to be around!
Teens are not lazy.
Laziness is not an inherent quality of the teenage years.
If you think teens are lazy, maybe it’s time to consider why. Maybe instead they are bored, uninspired, lacking autonomy, stressed, and fed up with being controlled.
What are we trying to do in our teen years? Grow into adults, be independent, and find our place in the world. And yet, most teens are stuck in school for the majority of their week. They want to do meaningful things in the real world, but instead have all their time taken up with busy work. They may have interests and ideas, but they have no time to pursue them.
Instead, they’re kept busy studying for the next exam, or writing the next assignment on a topic they likely didn’t choose but have to do anyway. They get judged on how well they perform, shamed if it’s not good enough, and pressured to work harder. And then adults have the audacity to call them lazy if they are not motivated to do this, if they are not putting in enough effort, and if they want to spend their spare time just chilling out after a week of following instructions.
At a time when they’re seeking independence, most teens still have very little agency. They still need permission to go to the bathroom! At most schools, they’re told how to dress, how they can have their hair, and when they can take a break. They cannot choose what they learn or how they spend their time. We want them to act mature and responsible but fail to treat them that way.
After spending their childhood in an environment where what they learn is decided for them, of course they are bored and unmotivated. After years of being coerced to learn through rewards and punishments, it is not surprising that intrinsic motivation is low.
Being told what to do and what to learn is not inspiring. Sitting in a classroom all day instead of being in the real world goes against what their instincts are telling them. Is it any wonder they would choose to do the minimum they need to do to get by?
I have a teen who has never been to school. She wakes up every day with dozens of ideas. She is always busy creating, learning, researching, connecting with people, contributing to her community, and a million other things. She appears to be unique. An outlier. And yet, her friends who don’t go to school are the same. None of them would ever be described as lazy. They are not special, they are just living without school. With freedom and autonomy. If you put them in school, I have no doubt they would behave the same as their peers.
Next time you think of a teen as lazy, try to challenge that belief. If people were inherently lazy the human race would not have gotten very far. People want to challenge themselves, they want to contribute meaningfully, and they are curious and creative. It is unfair to put children in an environment that crushes all these qualities and then judge and punish them for it.
Teens are not lazy. They are just reacting to how they have been treated.