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Child Failing School Because Of Laziness? Is it a Motivation or Effort Problem?

Nothing quite breaks your heart like seeing your child’s report card and noticing an F or attending a parent/teacher conference and hearing that your little one is failing school because of laziness.

As soon as you hear those words, it’s your first instinct to find a way to motivate your child so that they can reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of parents wind up grounding their children. Instead, it’s important to look more in-depth at the situation to determine why your child is failing school because of laziness.

Determine long term solutions that will instill motivation for years, unlike grounding which provides a short term solution. 

Is Laziness The Problem?

It’s important to determine whether your child is failing school because of laziness. If this has been a consistent problem, it could be that they lack motivation.

However, if your child suddenly did a 180 and has stopped doing their school work, it is a sign that your problem is not your child failing school because of laziness. There is a wealth of other underlying problems that might be the cause of their failing grades. 

Check For Mental Illness

Children that suffer from mental health problems often appear to be lazy, even though they aren’t. Common mental health illnesses, such as depression, can pop up during childhood or in the middle of the teenage years.

Traumatic experiences can also result in PTSD, which can have an effect on their schoolwork. 


Depression affects millions of people, and symptoms can often be unnoticed by parents and caregivers.

These are common symptoms, but it’s important to note that children should be evaluated by a medical professional and that this is not intended to substitute medical advice from a professional.

child seeking comfort to parent

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Inability to concentrate


PTSD, which is short for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can result from either experiencing or witnessing something traumatic.

A child can develop PTSD from something that may seem minor to us as adults, such as seeing a car accident. Symptoms can also range from mild to severe. 

Common symptoms of PTSD include: 

  • Irritation
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks


ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, makes it extremely difficult to concentrate.

Children with mild ADHD may appear to be lazy as they may seem to be daydreaming as they tap their foot, but they might actually not be able to pay attention. A primary care provider can typically diagnose ADHD. 

Common symptoms of ADHD include: 

  • Poor time management skills
  • Trouble multi-tasking
  • Poor problems solving skills
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Forgetfulness
  • Aggression

These are the most common mental health illnesses that can result in a child failing school, but there are many others that might be causing you to think your child is failing school because of laziness.

Other problems that can contribute to children bringing home failing grades include: 

  • Learning disabilities
  • Eating disorders
  • ADD
  • ADHD/ADD combo
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder

If your child suffers from a mental health disorder, contact them to determine if that could be the cause of their failing grades.

If not, it can’t hurt to have a psychiatric evaluation completed to make sure that your child is not suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness.

Low Self Esteem Or Feeling Self Conscious Could Be The Culprit

If you’ve noticed that your child is suddenly feeling self-conscious or wants to change their appearance. They may be suffering from low self-esteem.

For example, a child that is overweight may suddenly want to wear baggier clothes and not want to participate in sports. A child may also want to suddenly start wearing makeup.

Low self-esteem can pop up at any age. Other symptoms of low self-esteem include: 

  • Social withdrawal
  • Overly preoccupied with personal problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Very sensitive to criticism

If your child is suffering from low self-esteem, it can also have a drastic impact on their performance in school.

boy alone on the pavement

Children with low self-esteem often do not want to try for fear of failure, fear of criticism, or because they feel that they are not good at the task at hand. Things that you can do to help your child develop healthy self-esteem include: 

  • Using positive affirmations
  • Compliment them
  • Address their faults of failures delicately, and remind them that we are all bad at things, but that’s okay
  • Avoid harsh criticism
  • Be a positive role model
  • Teach them new skills
  • Encourage them to help others

Are They Bored?

My daughter did exceptional in school. She could read by the time she was four. She flew through everything that her teachers handed her. She recently graduated at 16 and attended a semester of college.

However, we did have a few bumps in the road during late middle school and early high school. She was dying of boredom. In seventh grade, they evaluated her for advanced classes, but we quickly discovered it was more of the same thing but more work.

With her being at a college level, they did not offer classes that would meet her academic needs. As we found ways to motivate her, it was clear that the reason she was not doing her homework was that she was extremely bored due to how easy the work was.

Make sure your child is being challenged in school. 

Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities often exhibit behavior problems and fail in school. Occasionally, this presents itself as them being lazy because they refuse to do their work.

They may have difficulties learning the way that the material is being taught, or they may have a learning disability in specific subjects.

Schools in the United States are required to test children for an IEP at the request of the parents.

It’s always better to have your child tested for learning disability to determine whether one is present than for them to have one and it is brushed off as them failing school because of laziness. 

Changes At Home

Sometimes, children withdraw from certain things due to changes in their environment. This is not necessarily a bad change. Perhaps a new sibling was born, you’ve recently moved or started dating a wonderful new partner.

Any change can cause a certain amount of shock to children. The younger they are, the more likely they are to be affected by changes at home.

Take a good look at when your little one started failing in school, and see if it correlates with a change at home. If it does, don’t worry too much. It will all balance out as they adjust. 

How To Motivate A Child To Do Well In School


If your child is failing school because of laziness, or even if they simply appear to be, it’s important to motivate them in the proper way. There are key techniques that can be used to put the pep back in their step.

Likewise, there are others that should be avoided because they can make the problem significantly worse. Pay attention to how effective strategies are so that you can fully understand what your child needs. 

Avoid Social Isolation

When children are feeling down and already in their room a lot, the last thing that they need is to be further socially isolated by being grounded.

Taking away their phone or social media can break bonds with friends, something that is extremely important to their social development.

Children that are suffering from mental illness need to be around positivity, something they will not get if they are by themselves in their room. Instead, opt for additional chores or other forms of punishment. 

Encourage Internal Motivation

Internal motivation means that a person does something because they want to, not because there is an external reward or consequence.

For example, when you ground your child for not doing their homework, it gives them external motivation to do their homework because they do not want to be grounded.

Instead, you want to focus on internally motivating them. This will encourage them to do their homework and excel in school because they want to. 

This article is full of spectacular advice to help you increase your child’s internal motivation. Even if they are failing school because of laziness, this will help them.

It focuses on revamping the rewards systems that most parents have in place and empowering children. 

Make Sure That They Don’t Feel Like A Burden

Sometimes, children can feel like a burden. When we as parents point out how much money we’re spending on tuition or how hard we work to pay for tutoring that they refuse to go to, we unintentionally add to that feeling.

child with arguing parents behind him

Instead, don’t shame them or let them know that money is going to waste because of them failing or refusing to attend tutoring. Avoid those subjects and focus on the underlying issue.

When children feel like a burden, they are less likely to succeed in anything, including school. 

Discuss Future Goals

What does your child want to be when they grow up? If you don’t know the answer, it’s time for conversations about the future. When you have those conversations, it shows your little one that you are interested in their life.

You can also use this conversation to discuss how important school is so that they can reach their end goal. This alone can give them a bit of motivation.

Join The PTA

Children of parents that are involved in the school typically do better in school. This is because they have more support at home. When parents sign up to participate in the bake sale, it sends the message that school is important.

If you stop to speak with teachers and other parents, it shows your child that you are involved. Being a good role model is always an exceptional way to offer children the guidance that they need. 

Make Homework A Priority


Children that are not doing well in school often do not turn in assignments, or they simply do not do them all together. Even if your child feels that school is meaningless, it’s still important to make homework a priority.

This helps lay the foundation for success in school. These tips will help encourage children to do their homework. 

Establish A Routine

Children of all ages thrive when they live in a structured environment. Just as you would establish a bedtime routine for a toddler, you need to establish a homework routine for your older child.

Make sure that this routine is something that you can stick to. For example, homework time can be from 5-6 every night. If children do not have homework, they can study for tests or read a book during homework time. 

Lay The Ground Rules

As a parent, you need to be firm with your child when it comes to homework. If you didn’t previously make this a priority, it’s not too late now!

However, this will require you to lay some ground rules. For example, no electronics until homework is completed is a popular ground rule. 

It’s important to note that this is external motivation. It can be used, and is not harmful to children, but should be used while continuing to work on your child’s internal motivation simultaneously. 

Be Available For Assistance

When you’re available during homework time to help your child, it shows them that you care about their education.

If children know that you are not too busy for a question here and there, they will feel more comfortable asking for help when with specific assignments they are having trouble with.

mother helping child learn

Last, you are being a good role model when you set aside time out of your day for homework time, too. Children learn more through modeling than they do anything else.

Final Word

In order to determine if a child is failing school because of laziness, it’s vital to address underlying issues. It also doesn’t hurt anything to make sure that there are no underlying issues present.

If there aren’t, you should slowly start to see the results if you follow the tips above. You’ll also see your child more motivated to do other things as their internal motivation increases.

You’ll have a better bond as you talk about their future, and you’ll know that you’re being the role model that they need to succeed.