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Why Is My Kid Lazy? 11 Hidden Scientific Reasons

Parents often wonder, “Why is my kid lazy?”

The truth is, most lazy kids are not really lazy.

There could be many hidden reasons for your child’s seemingly laziness.

A young girl lying down on her book.

Find Out Why Your Child Is Lazy

People often assign unmotivated kids a “lazy” label, implying that their inability to study or do school work is a character flaw.

Many of the reasons your child is lazy are common, yet little known.

Both physical and psychological reasons can contribute to the problem.

The first step towards addressing this problem is to identify where the “laziness” comes from.

Why My Kid Is Lazy

Oftentimes, what looks like laziness on the outside may actually be the lack of energy inside.

Besides physically weary, lazy kids may also be bored, discouraged, and mentally unmotivated. 

Here are 11 most common, yet hidden causes for the “lazy child” appearance.

1. Learning Disabilities

Many lazy children are misunderstood kids who are silently dealing with their unidentified learning disabilities.

A study conducted by Queensland University of Technology in Australia evaluated 20 children, aged 7 to 10 years old, who were regarded as lazy by their parents and teachers.

Close examinations revealed that 17 of the 20 children suffered from a range of learning difficulties and significant problems with attention​1​.

Learning difficulties caused them to become disinterested in learning and to lose motivation.

Parents and teachers thought these kids were just lazy and did not recognize their special needs.

2. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

ADHD is one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders. Children with ADHD or ADHD symptoms have trouble focusing.

Untreated inattention symptoms can affect the child’s ability and motivation to learn​2​.

ADHD has three subtypes:

  1. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  2. Predominantly inattentive
  3. Combined

Although children with any of these subtypes have problem focusing, predominantly inattentive kids rarely exhibit behavioral issues that would lead to a diagnosis.

Therefore, these children are often not diagnosed during childhood​3​.

ADHD is also considered underdiagnosed in girls because the symptoms appear differently for them​4​.

In addition, children can have ADHD symptoms without meeting the criteria for a diagnosis.

All these may be reasons why a child appears unmotivated and lazy.

3. Sleep problem

Lack of sleep can make a child appear lazy and unmotivated.

When a child is not well rested at night, they become tired during the day and have less motivation to achieve​5​.

Sleep supports the consolidation of declarative memory​6​

Insufficient sleep can affect the child’s learning and academic performance​7,8​.

Sleep deprivation can be due to staying up too late watching YouTube, playing video games, or chatting with friends online.

In addition to delayed bedtime, electronic devices emit blue light can also affect a child’s sleep quality​9​.

Health problems such as sleep apnea can also result in poor sleeping quality affecting your child’s motivation to learn and daytime functioning​10​.

4. Depression

Children who suffer from depression have diminished motivation and decreased energy to pursue activities​11​

Insomnia is also a common symptom of depression. 90% of patients with depression complain they have sleep problems​12​.

These kids appear lazy and disinterested in anything, including schoolwork.

5. Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are prevalent among children and adolescents.

Children suffering from anxiety are less intrinsically motivated​13​.

Children don’t necessarily need an anxiety disorder diagnosis to be affected.

Kids with academic anxiety also suffer from lower intrinsic motivation to study​14​.

6. Controlling Parents

Next to biological needs, autonomy is the most important motivator that can inspire someone to act.

Autonomy is the sense of control that individuals have regarding their own activities.

Children who engage in learning without external force or pressure are more motivated learners.

Those who fully accept the value of learning are also more self-motivated​19​.

Controlling parents demoralize students who must study regardless of whether they wish to do so.

These parents lower their kids’ motivation to learn, leaving the uninspired students to appear lazy.

7. Strained Parent-Child Relationship

A close, warm, and supportive parent-child relationship can motivate children to learn.

On the flip side, a strained relationship can create stress for a child and make them feel demotivated​20​.

8. Lack of Competence

People cannot be motivated to engage in activities they don’t feel they can ever master.

Children who lack skills in or do not believe they can master school subjects will be unmotivated to study​21​.

9. Stress

Stress is a major demotivator.

When we’re under stress, the dopamine levels in the brain can drop, and this causes us to feel unmotivated to do anything​22​

There are various reasons for stress, e.g. sudden death in the family, natural disaster, parents’ separation, parents fighting, moving to a new city, arguing with the best friend, etc.

10. Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment includes more than abuse and neglect; it also includes physical aggression such as hitting, slapping or kicking a child​15​.

Child maltreatment, abuse and neglect can lead to emotional and behavioral problems in kids.

Emotional and behavioral issues affect the child’s competence and performance in school​16​.

Maltreatment can also result in cognitive impairments—greater concentration difficulties and poorer motivation​15​

11. Substance Abuse

Drug abuse can significantly affect the brain chemistry and motivation​17​

Statistics show that the experimentation with addictive substances and the onset of addictive disorders occur mostly during adolescent and young adulthood​18​.

Final Thoughts On “Why Is My Kid Lazy”

All of these reasons can lead to stress for children. If we want to motivate our kids, we need to identify the hidden cause for their lack of motivation so we can remove the stressor accordingly.


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