I have been a high school English teacher for 9 years. I not only work with lazy teenagers everyday, I was one. Before we examine how to deal with a lazy teen, we need to know a little about the psychology of a teenager. There are reasons why teens behave the way they do, and believe it or not, it's not to make you crazy.
In 2004, a study by James Bjork, a neuroscientist, used MRI scans to study the brains of teens and young adults. Bjork reported in the Journal of Neurosciencethat even though both teen and adult brains showed a high desire to win, a different area of the brain lit up much less in the teen brains. The test consisted of having both teens and adults play a game with a monetary reward as the motivation to win. "...we found that what was markedly deficient in the adolescents [was the region in the brain responsible for motivation, the ventral striatum]. This is despite the fact that questionnaires after the test indicated that the adults and the adolescents were equally happy and excited about the prospect of winning [money]. But the adolescent brains didn't show in the actual circuitry and their activation in their brain."
(Read the full article here: http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?type=article&article_id=218392370)
What this study tells us is that teens may be predisposed to be lazy. This explains why sometimes, no matter how sweet the reward offered may be, you just can't get your teenager to do what he or she needs to do. Don't despair though, this doesn't mean that there aren't things you can do; it simply gives you the science to keep your sanity in those moments you are at your wit's end.
So what's a parent to do?
Responsibility is one thing that helps young people. If your teenager has no responsibilities at home, then you are encouraging his or her laziness. This should start at a very young age, even toddlers can learn to clean up after themselves. However, if you have not started already given some of the household responsibilities to your teen, it is not too late. Teens should be doing their own laundry, feeding the pets, taking out trash, cleaning their own rooms, dishes, even preparing dinner on a regular basis. That's not to say that they should do all of these things every day, but a schedule should be made as to when your young adult is supposed to complete which tasks. They should especially be responsible for the things that most pertain to them. Like if they have a car, they are responsible for the maintenance and even some payments of that car. Or perhaps he must use his driving privileges to help chauffeur younger siblings. Your teenagers should know exactly what is expected of them, and there must be rewards and consequences, which will be discussed further in a later paragraph.
Get them a job. Being employed is one way to combat laziness. Young people will not be permitted to slack off at their jobs, so they are learning to become accountable for their own benefit. If they get lazy at work, they may lose their job. This option is not always right for every teen. If your teen is struggle with school or not mature enough to handle a job in the community, then this might not be the right option. Even for a teen who is ready to become employed, work hours should be kept to a minimum, after all school and socializing take up lots of time, and are also important.
Build in lazy time. That's right, build in time to just "veg-out" during your daily routines. If your teen knows that between 8pm and bedtime he can just sit like a bump on a log and watch TV or surf the web, he is more likely to be willing to complete the tasks that are his. This cannot be just an unspoken rule in order to work. You must arrange this with your teen, and stick to it at all costs. It should be a time that fits in best with your family's schedule and should be at least an hour in length. During this time, you must not ask your teen to do anything, but you can use this as a form of reward or consequence for completing other household tasks.
Rewards and consequences. This is another aspect of raising children that must be very clearly discussed. As a parent it is your job to make sure your teen knows the consequences of his actions. Rewards often work better than punishments, but as the study above has shown, this is not always the case. Define clearly to your teen that certain things are privileges that he may have as long as he pulls his weight. Driving the car, lazy time, carrying a cell phone, using the laptop or computer for non-school related things, can all be taken away or limited should the household chores not be completed. Create consequences for laziness and stick to them. For example, you may state that if two weeks has gone by and you teen has failed to take out the garbage (a job defined as his), he will have to give up his cell phone for the entire weekend. In the reverse, you must recognize when things are running smoothly and getting done well. It is never too much to tell your teen that you are proud of the maturity he shows in helping around the house, and that you appreciate all the time he spends doing his chores. You may also want to state that if two weeks goes by and all chores have been completed, there will be an extra reward.
Make a set schedule. Most people do much better when they know what is expected of them and when. Teens are not immune to this. Create a schedule with your teen's involvement. Actually write out the jobs that are his and yours on a calendar. Don't forget to write in "lazy-time." Then your whole family can clearly see who is responsible for what. And when things do not get done, one person cannot blame another.
Motivating teenagers can be very difficult, but with a clear plan, rewards and consequences, and a little flexibility, you can make it run just a little more smoothly.