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Irresponsible Child or Teen? How Kids Avoid Homework and Chores

Posted by Dale Sadler

Are you having a tough time getting your son or daughter to do their homework or chores? With sports, art class, and a myriad of other activities, responsibilities can fall to the wayside. Children and teens are masters of NOT doing things, and unless you see what’s happening, you may fall prey to their excuses, distractions, and various forms of manipulation.

So why doesn’t the work get done? In a very broad sense, alternatives to homework are easier. This is why the reading assignment is left untouched. Even if you took everything out of your child’s room and all that was left was to sit and stare, that might be the option they’d choose. Why? Well, it’s much easier than doing their  Science or Algebra homework. They can go over their Facebook page in their head and have more fun with a wad of paper than your housecat. I say make your child earn the right to use the internet, TV, Nintendo, Playstation, cell phone, XBox, DVD player, Game Boy or whatever fun alternative he has waiting on him when he’s done reading about Paul Revere’s ride.  If he chooses to not do his work, he’s choosing to not have fun in the afternoons. It’s not your problem or decision, it’s his.

Does he complain about his teachers and the amount of homework they give? What student doesn’t? (Maybe there’s a good reason for his struggle. If so, you can speak to his school’s special education coordinator about your concerns.) But realize that while your child is complaining, he is not doing. It’s easier to talk about it than it is to actually do it, and if he can get you to believe that it’s too much, he has a powerful ally — you. Soon, you’re calling the principal, the school board, his teacher, and filing a petition with the state to outlaw all homework longer than five questions. What has happened? Nothing, because he has still not done his homework. Some teachers do give a lot, but there’s a purpose behind it and that purpose should be respected. This complaining may also result in you doing the work for him. “Mom, it’s just so hard,” he complains. Feeling guilty, you help him and help and help and help until the line between who is actually doing the work is blurred. Maybe he needs more attention from you, but now is not the time to give it. Instead of working to avoid his responsibilities by demonizing his teachers or by getting you to do the work, he should be working himself to earn the grade he deserves.

Maybe you’ve noticed that most of the students in his class ARE getting the homework done. Nevertheless, your child has shifted the focus from why he’s not getting his work done to why he can’t. If there aren’t special needs to consider, the idea of L-A-Z-Y should not be dismissed too soon. Many parents buy into a “too much homework” mentality, but when you do, the goal of establishing a working attitude in an otherwise bright student may get lost; especially if he guilts you into doing the work for him. Think of it this way — if it was easy, he wouldn’t be learning anything.

Does your child argue with you when asked to do anything? This is also easy because teens love to argue with adults. While you spend half an hour reasoning with him to do history, the time he should have been investing in his work is history. Make your expectations clear, give a directive, and don’t argue.

As you work to improve your son or daughter’s study habits, make sure you take a step back and look at what is actually happening. Is your child really struggling, is he wasting time by arguing, or does the B on his report card more realistically reflect the work you have done? Remember, your goal is to get him to do his work — and his likely goal is to avoid it. The question is, “Who will win?”


About Dale Sadler

Dale Sadler is the author of 28 Days to A Better Marriage and How to Argue with Your Teen & Win. By day he works with middle schoolers and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men's issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit

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