Lazy teens and self-motivation

There are several different issues with the idea that your teens are "lazy". The first is that it takes a good bit of time for kids to re-learn how to self motivate! School - and often homeschool, too - strips that away from kids. "Deschooling" as it's called takes months - for teens, expect nine months to a year, and know that, depending on how big of an impact school had on them, it could even be longer. It helps to imagine that your kid has had a serious long term illness and needs time to recover. Let them chill and recuperate. Hang out with them. Watch some shows and play some games together. Gently offer to do fun things together, but don't push. Take time to get to know each other in a different way than before.

Another big thing to know about young teens, though, is that the big developmental processes going on in their brains takes a lot of energy! They may need a lot of down time, time to ponder, time to daydream, they may even sleep more. Around the online home/unschooling community at large, this has been dubbed a "cocoon stage". Not all teens "cocoon" but many do.

But the other thing to keep in mind is that natural learning won't look like school learning. It will look like kids pursuing their own interests - even their non-academic interests. Things like doing hair and playing video games. So it will help you and your kid for you to treat those as "legitimate" interests from which they will, inevitably learn. There's plenty to learn! And it doesn't need to be directed toward any particular goal. School sets you up to think there's this big race toward a finish line, but it's not true. It's really okay to give your kids a chance to breathe and discover who they are and how they learn, naturally.

Something that comes up a lot in the autonomous education /unschooling movement is the way kids learn these kinds of skills without necessarily being taught. And often the ways they learn them are by doing exactly the sorts of things that parents and teachers commonly try to limit. There's a disconnect in adult expectations between the skills that we want kids to learn and the way we want them to learn those skills.

So parents will panic when a kid shows good attention span or focus when those aren't directed at chores or school work (Kohn mentions worthy subjects). Or worry when a kid keeps trying and failing at a game over and over, maybe crying and swearing, but persisting. Or when a child insists on using Just these materials in Just this way to do a project. Or creates a detailed plan and wants to stick to it, despite obstacles. When kids do those things independently - self confidently pursuing their natural curiosity - it's often seen as problematic.

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