How do I motivate a lazy child?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

Some families struggle with teenagers who seem to be involved in way too many activities (if that's you, tap HERE) while other families struggle with a son or daughter who shows no ambition to do anything. Maybe their grades are slipping and the college application deadline is around the corner, or maybe they haven't even thought about what they want to do with their life. Aside from doing everything for them, how do you as a parent show your students that God has a grand plan for them that is bigger than themselves and their comfort?

The Bible has much to say on the topic of laziness and working diligently, especially in Proverbs. Proverbs 26:13-16 provides wisdom and warnings to the one who is lazy. This passage labels the "sluggard" as one who makes excuses (v.13), sleeps excessively (v.14), and refuses council (v.16). If you have a son or daughter that struggles with laziness, then you may be able to see him or her in these verses. But reading the verses is only half the battle.

While showing them where they are falling short is necessary, it is critical that you give them something to strive for and attain. Proverbs 13:4 says that the sluggard will forever desire while those who are diligent are satisfied. This is not a promise of blessing if we work hard; it is a confirmation that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has a plan for your student's life and your student will only be satisfied when he or she is striving for or in line with that plan.

Encourage your student with Ephesians 2:10, which says that we, as God's children were created to do good works which God, has prepared for us. Your student's life is not about his or her comfort; it is about serving God with all of their heart, mind, and soul so that they may be of use to those in need (Ephesians 4:28). Invite them into God's big picture and grand story, which is much larger than themselves.

Things to think about:

What does my student value?

What is your student spending most of their time doing? Sleeping? Eating? Playing video games? Watching TV or YouTube? Start thinking about why they are doing such activities. Maybe they enjoy the competition in a video game and might appreciate playing a family board game or joining a sports team, either at school or in a recreational league. Really try to think about what they value and encourage them to put God first then pursue what they value.

What am I calling my student to?

Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Have you clearly communicated your expectations to your student or do you just expect him or her to perform the way you want? Maybe they don't know your expectations or think they are too high, so they don't even try. Also, think about how you are challenging them in their faith, reaffirming that they are critical players in God's grand plan. Strive to come to expectations together. Have a conversation about where your expectations are for your student and ask them what they think the expectations on them should be. Compromise on the expectations in conversation. Then also have the student help decide the consequences for not living up to the expectations. Have them agree to the right course of action when expectations are met, so the student knows the parents isn't he bad guy when that time for consequences happens.

Is my student lazy or hurting?

For some, apathy is a response to hurt. The teenage years can be quite difficult and come with many ups and downs. Some teens respond to the downs by "checking out" in order not to feel anything at all. Engage your student in a discussion of how their social or dating life is. Be attentive to how they respond and seek further help if needed. Pray with them and encourage them that they are loved by you and by God.But what if your student won't talk about their hurt? Sometimes parents are the last people with which a teenager wants to open up. Asking more specific questions rather than a generic "what's wrong" can often help your student to offer up more specific answers. A couple of suggestions:

  • What was one high and one low from your day today?
  • What emotions did you feel when you experienced that high and low?
  • If you had to describe your current emotional state in one word, which word would you choose?

This last question is also an excellent exercise to put into practice with a teenager who just won't open up. Hang a whiteboard on their door, and try making an agreement with your kid: they don't have to open up about EVERYTHING, but if they can start by offering up one word each day that describes how they feel, you can ask them questions about why they feel that way. This simple exercise can increase communication from zero to something, and that's a huge step!

What am I modeling for my kids?

Students will most often mimic what they see from their parents. Are you leading yourself well in being active and diligent? Are you pursuing the Lord through a quiet time and bible study? If not, then you will be sending mixed signals to your student. He or she will hear you say one thing but see you live out another. If you are modeling well, continue to do so and don't give up. Show them what a diligent, abiding relationship with God looks like. There's a chance that your student might model you in the same way.

What do I do now?

Have a conversation with your student about their laziness or lack of drive. Listen to why they may be lacking in drive and pray for them. Don't be quick to give advice but listen to them. Maybe encourage them to plan out a weekly calendar with their assignments and fun activities they may want to do and hold them accountable for it. But most importantly, remind them that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The Almighty loves them and He has an adventure waiting for them ahead if they are willing to follow. Also, try and help your student determine what's distracting them from being productive. If it's video games/internet/phone/etc. try putting those things in locations where their usage can be better regulated by you as a parent (their bedroom is probably not a good place for these things). Helping your student identify and set up a distraction-free workspace and time can help jumpstart their productivity.

Want to go deeper?

Max Lucado has a book titles "Cure for the Common Life." Its main purpose to help you explore and embrace your own talents to experience the life that God indented for you. To purchase the book or audio book go here:

Also, check out this 5-minute audio message from John Piper on how to fight laziness:

Source for Study / Footnote: