How Do I Motivate My ‘Lazy’ Kid?

Tauna & Kirsten
In Ask Our Experts
By Tauna & Kirsten | September 12, 2018
My 11-year-old daughter is a good athlete, but doesn’t want to work hard to make the top team. She’s overall pretty lazy about most things she does (musical instrument, etc.). Beyond asking her constantly to practice and offering to do it with her, what can we do to motivate her? We can’t physically force her to practice more.
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Raising Kids to Compete and Win

I really feel that laziness is mostly a product of an environment. Although some kids are go-getters and some will stand and watch the world go by, as parents we have to find ways to motivate and encourage our children to be productive. At 11 years old, just telling her or trying to force her won’t work. She has an ingrained attitude that needs to be reprogrammed. She needs to be put in a situation where laziness won’t be tolerated, but still have her time to do what she wants. You and only you know what she doesn’t enjoy to do, make that the only other option. I have never met a kid who would rather clean a bathroom than go out and kick a ball. Make practice or hard work in a chosen endeavor the more fun thing to do. Every time you pick up a scrub brush, she will most likely run out to practice.

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Peak Performance Coach

This is a great research project! Brainstorm with her things that she loves to do without being told. For example, I never need to remind my 14-year-old son to play Fortnite. (Ha!)

Note the responses that she gives. Does she like to work WITH others? Or is she more of a soloist? Does she like the idea of collaborating or would she rather be left to her own devices? The earlier she understands what and how she truly “fills her own bucket,” i.e.., what reinvigorates her, the more curious, content and ultimately more driven towards something she cares about, she will be.

It could be anything from music to fashion to art to acting to creating animation to food. If sports isn’t her thing, discuss that while she may not want to play on a competitive level, picking something that she can do for her health and well-being is key. It could be joining a non-competitive swim league or a climbing gym or the cheer or drill team. Or if she’s more of a soloist, golf or tennis or mountain biking or surfing or ice skating (depending on where you live). Girls tend to like activities where they can be social with their friends. Find something which allows her to have her social time, but also gets her moving.

Pick one thing: Take her to a book store and let her pick a book on a topic she’s interested in or a hobby she’s been curious about. How could she go about learning more about this interest? Does she know anyone who does something similar to this? Or is she motivated by money? Perhaps you have a budding entrepreneur on your hands. What adventure can she explore from selling lemonade to baby-sitting to mowing yards or being a CIT (Counselor in Training) at a camp for very young kids? There are things she can do which will have her moving her body but not necessarily be about competitive sports.

And, it’s ok if she’s not 100% motivated on her own yet. This will come as it is part of the executive functioning which hasn’t quite kicked in yet.  Model to her what it is that motivates you. You going for your 10K run every morning or meeting friends for tennis is very important for her to see that this is a lifestyle you want her to have long after she leaves middle school.


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