Lazy Teenager vs. Frustrated Parent
Were you a "lazy teenager"?
What Can You Do?
All they do is sit on the couch and watch television. They spend so many hours using the computer that their butt has left a permanent impression on the chair. You believe that there must be something medically wrong with your child because they are constantly taking a nap. You are concerned. You are disappointed. Most of all, you are angry.
Suddenly, one bright, sunny day, after you’ve repeatedly asked your son/daughter to do something productive with their time and to prove that they still have a pulse, you watch them exit the house. You rub your eyes. You pinch your arm. Your blurry vision and the throbbing pain in your forearm prove that you’re not dreaming. You call to them to not be late for dinner. Without turning around or speaking, they raise their hand up and wag it half heartedly. You’ll take that gesture to mean that they’ll be home in time.
Are they going for a walk? Are they going to meet their friends to play a sport? You know you should’ve pressed them for more information, but you were in shock. Your child, that sweet, phenomenal creature, who, up until today, was a disappointment who only drained your patience and your money, is finally outside, taking steps to a place that isn’t the refrigerator. It’s a good day.
For the first time in months, you are able to sit on the couch in the daylight. You can watch some television. You can read a book. You can do a puzzle or two. You can notice, from this perspective, the dust that has collected on the family pictures. Still feeling happy about your child, you get up and grab the duster. They will see that you’ve dusted their picture and will know that you appreciate them. You look closely at their kindergarten picture. You smile at their missing teeth and that clump of hair that wouldn’t stay down. They were so cheerful back then. They were active and into everything. What happened?
You go into the kitchen and start making dinner. Getting out the ingredients, you realize that you’ve made the same five meals every week for years. This is a special day. You decide to run to the store to get other ingredients. You’re going to make your child’s favorite dish tonight. As you walk to your car, you call your child’s cell phone to let them know that you’re going out, but will be back soon. It rings and rings and goes to voicemail. They must be too busy getting in their exercise to hear the phone ring. You decide to drive in the direction they were headed in. If you see them, you’ll just wave and say you’re going to the store.
Before you can drive very far, you notice something odd. Sitting on the rock pile at the apartment complex around the corner from your house, you spot your son/daughter. They are alone. They are playing on their handheld game system. All of the good feelings you were feeling up until this second, quickly fade away. Once again, you are disappointed and angry. You roll down your window and yell out for them not to be late for dinner. They give you a surprised look. They never thought they’d be caught. You do a three point turn and return home. Along the way, you tune your vocal cords for the yelling you’re going to do when they get home. Your child is once again just a lazy lump in your mind. What is a parent to do about such a child?
In this case, as with many others, the parent needs to take away all technology privileges. If the television was to break, they’d just go to the computer for entertainment. If the computer breaks, there’s always the Game Boy, the cell phone, the iPod and etc. The more gadgets one has, the more prone they are to use one. Were you to take away all of these things, what would be left? Homework? Books? I, unfortunately, can’t think of one teenager who would open a book if all other entertainment options were exhausted.
Is your child sick and/or depressed? Has there been something that may have happened to cause such a dramatic shift in behavior or have they always been somewhat lazy? Being a teenager is rough. Your hormones are ever changing and always crazy. When you add something else into the mix (bad grades, heart break, divorce, death, etc.), things become even more fun. It’s like trying to mop the floor when you have a nose bleed. You’re doing your best to handle things, but your body keeps making you mess up. It’s never a bad idea to go see a doctor.
Still, what should a parent do when their child lacks the motivation to get off of their butt? Beyond removing distractions (television, internet, video games, etc.) and getting their child a check-up, the parent must set a good example. If you want your child to be active, you must be active too. You can’t be yelling at your child to run around the block or throw a basketball if you’re sitting on the couch next to them eating a donut. Offspring, regardless of age or mental maturity, look to their parent(s) to set a good example.
On the other hand, if you’re a health nut, your kids are capable of being lazy too. It’s a form of rebellion. “My parent(s) run two miles every morning and eat granola twice a day so I’m going to sleep till noon and eat nothing, but fried foods.” Every child goes through a period of rebellion. They see their parents as old and they don’t want to end up like them. They would rather risk their health than give in to their parents. One day, they’ll realize how foolish they were.
While every parent would like to have total control of their child until a date yet to be set, its unrealistic. You can’t encourage your child to be their own person while criticizing them for breaking from the mold. You can’t tell them to be more active because, seeing it’s what you want, they won’t do it. You can buy them cool running gear. You can have a tennis court built in your backyard. You can give your couch and ever piece of technology to Goodwill. You can make exercise look fun. Yet, don’t be offended when they don’t change their behavior. Teenagers are complicated people. They are children trying to become adults. They fight the urge every day to call you “Mommy” and “Daddy.” Too often, adults forget what it was like to be a teenager. They forget that the harder they push their child to change the harder their child will push back. When your child decides to be active, they’ll be active. Until then, take many, many deep breaths.