My teenage child doesn't want anything

by Anna Kazakova
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During puberty, the child abruptly becomes as if he were an outsider. Suddenly everything becomes tedious or super boring for him, he seems lethargic and aloof. At school he sits tiredly at the desk with his hands on his head and doesn't even want to unpack his backpack. He doesn't want to study - he doesn't want to do his homework! 

What happens to the body and psyche - and how can parents support their child during this period by maintaining good contact with them?

With such a deep gap in motivation, it usually doesn't help to explain that school performance will have a big impact on later life. 

In this article, we'll talk about how parents can respond to a lack of desire and interest in learning. But first, let's understand why these changes occur.

Puberty: no turning back

During puberty, the body begins to reconstruct, It requires a lot of strength and energy. At the same time, the desire for independence grows. The last thing an adolescent wants to hear now is parental advice, especially when it is accompanied by accusations.

Parents have to expend more and more energy to get their offspring to react in any way. Fathers and mothers realize that the old channels of communication no longer work.

At this point, many of them would like things to go back to the way they were before, but unfortunately, it's impossible to fix everything and bring their old child back. That's why parents have to readjust, too. You have to learn to control your own emotions as well as accept the point of view of others.

Remember that defiant behavior, lethargy, taciturnity, apathy and lack of interest in learning are all the result of the fact that the teenager is now undergoing great physical and mental development. 

Your child's behavior is not intentionally disrespectful and he does not want to hurt you. Some cognitive skills are simply not fully developed at the beginning of puberty. 

Hormones such as testosterone and oxytocin increase during puberty. As neuromodulators, they also influence nervous system function and are responsible for changes in social behavior during puberty. 

Peer relationships suddenly become much more important than family. The search for identity begins, and young people are now primarily interested in what their peers think of them, and from now on social media will play a significant role in everyday life. 

How do parents react if a child doesn't want to learn?

During puberty, children think about everything except school and learning. Their brains are in the remodeling stage, and they begin to search for their own identity. 

The fact that they are distancing themselves from their parents and the adult world is an important process. Try to remember that you, too, have experienced this - and been through it. Understanding is as important to children at this time as openness and interest. 

Even if your son or daughter sometimes behaves negatively toward you: Listen to your child and ask how they are really doing. Above all, give them the feeling that you are there for them when they need you, regardless of the circumstances.

A teenager doesn't want to go to school. 7 tips on what you can do.

Irritation and unwillingness to learn, as typical signs of puberty, are perfectly normal. Still, parents often worry that school performance will suffer in the long run. Here's what you can do to avoid it:

  1. Clear rules should be established for teenagers.

Of course, teenagers need more and more freedom. However, they are not yet ready to make decisions about their lives on their own. On the contrary, they need clear boundaries at this time. However, many parents confuse these boundaries with rigid authoritarian instructions. It is more promising if you tell your children what is important to you, how you feel when rules are not followed or when your child does not treat learning appropriately. This is better than constant rebukes to your teenager.

  1. Rituals help children during puberty

Playing on the computer, listening to music, going out with friends, or just lounging on the couch for hours: teenagers prefer anything to doing their homework or preparing for the next exam. This is where fixed rituals help. Agree on clearly set office hours and provide a workspace that creates a pleasant atmosphere rather than a distraction. Explain to your child that success can only be achieved by taking personal responsibility. Even a famous soccer player has to practice on a schedule, and a famous singer has to show up to an agreed-upon band rehearsal - whether they want to or not.

  1. Teenagers need to learn how to learn

It is often not enough to memorize by heart, especially during puberty, when young people's brains need new impulses. A playful approach is good for learning new material. For example, suggest that the child develop a story quiz that family members must solve over dinner. Or draw what you have learned in the form of a "mental map. Writing your own cheat sheet is an effective teaching method. Because the facts must be stated in an extremely concise form, they are easier to remember. 

  1. Allow teenagers to prove themselves

Parents tend to limit the use of free time for extracurricular activities. Especially when things don't go well at school, the child becomes lethargic and can't bring himself to do anything else. However, educators and psychologists advise against this. Activities outside of school, whether it's hip-hop lessons, hockey club or even just hanging out with friends, give young people a chance to prove themselves, find a sense of accomplishment and gain recognition. All of this is important for their self-esteem, which is often weakened by poor grades and problems in school. But note: a teenager should have free time only after doing all their homework!

  1. Motivate teens, not frustrate them

Of course you shouldn't praise a disinterested and dismissive teenager, but it's not a good idea to constantly scold and browbeat him, either. At some point it can only make things worse. Do an experiment: praise your teen for (obvious) little things without exaggeration for two weeks. For smiling in the morning, for a cup that went in the dishwasher, for a page of homework without ink stains, for trying to solve a math problem (even if the result is wrong). It's about praising your child for striving to do the right thing, not just pointing out his or her mistakes. Praise for effort gives most teenagers a huge boost of motivation.

  1. Family time together

Falling grades at school and the constant disinterest of adolescents during puberty often make the family situation excessively heated. It is all the more important that parents and children regularly spend time together. Whether it is an excursion, a game night, cooking or jogging together is up to you. It's also enough to get together at the family table at least once a day for a meal together. Discuss anything other than school and lack of motivation at this time.

  1. Limit your teenagers' media consumption

Television, computer, cell phone: excessive media consumption paralyzes many young people. Teenagers spend hours in front of devices, are immersed in the digital world, and no longer feel the joy of real life. However, strict bans are not a good solution. It is better to make an "agreement" with your child to use gadgets at a certain time and make sure that he definitely goes out for air during the day. An adequate amount of sleep is also very important to avoid overwork.

When is it worth it (and whether) to seek professional help for teenagers

Although lack of interest, lethargy, and a drop in academic performance during puberty are the rule rather than the exception, you should monitor your child closely. If apathy persists for a long time or reaches an anxious stage, you should talk to the teachers and possibly seek help from a psychologist. If your child complains of insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, if he is estranged from friends, suffers from headaches or abdominal pain - you should definitely find out the cause. Such conditions can be symptoms of depression, which requires immediate treatment. 


Lack of motivation, unwillingness to learn are frequent companions of teenagers during puberty. Hormones and emotions throw your child out of balance, and restructuring takes place in the brain. Children are tired and very sensitive during this period. They suffer from mood swings that may include bouts of crying and loud slamming of doors. A lot of understanding, empathy and patience is needed during puberty. Pressure, on the other hand, creates counter-pressure and is therefore unhelpful. Keep this in mind as you think about how and what you can do to help.

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