My Child Doesn't Want to Do Anything: What Should I Do?

If your child doesn't want to do anything, it's important that you help them fight apathy and regain motivation. Find out how to do it.
My Child Doesn't Want to Do Anything: What Should I Do?
Elena Sanz Martín

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 18 May, 2023

Many parents complain that their child doesn’t want to do anything. Although this situation is more common in adolescents, it can happen at any age and often causes great tension and conflict in the home. For parents, it can be very disconcerting to see that the child has no interest or motivation, and it’s common for them not to know what to do about it. Therefore, we want to help you better understand the situation.

In one way or another, parents feel that their children are a reflection of themselves, of the education they’ve given them, and of their good or bad performance over the years. However, no family is exempt from facing an apathetic, rebellious, or unaspiring youngster. So, instead of focusing on guilt, we suggest you discover the most appropriate solutions to help your child get back on track. Let’s get started!

Find out why your child doesn’t want to do anything

To find out why your child doesn’t want to do anything, it’s important to look at a few key parameters. So, before looking into the possible causes, try to answer some questions.

How old is your child?

The problems that a child under six years of age may present are very different from those of a 17-year-old. If your child is in their teens, it’s common for them to be more apathetic and disinterested. Also, they may express a desire to abandon extracurricular activities or be rebellious when it comes to fulfilling their obligations. On the other hand, in younger children, these circumstances are less frequent and can therefore alert us of certain difficulties.

A young child looking sullen, as his parents arguei n the background.
Some situations can generate a great impact or important changes in children, which can have repercussions on their state of mind. For example, when their parents have divorced or there’s a complicated family situation.

What’s their personal situation?

If the child has experienced recent changes in their life, this may be reflected in their mood and motivation. Divorces, loss of loved ones, or moving are some of the situations that may influence this. Similarly, if there’s a complicated family situation or integration with peers at school isn’t optimal, the child’s attitude may suffer.

Are these behaviors new?

It’s important to identify whether your child’s reluctance or disobedience is a recent development or whether it has always been more or less present. This will help you to know if it’s due to a specific event or to some more transversal aspect such as their personality or the education they’ve received.

In what context does your child not want to do anything?

Finally, try to define the problem clearly and objectively. What does it mean that your child doesn’t want to do anything? They may refuse to study and help out at home but still enjoy a lively social life. Or, on the contrary, they may even have lost interest in their hobbies and friendships. The reality behind these two contexts is very different.

What to do if your child doesn’t want to do anything

The answers to the above questions will have helped you to get a clearer idea of the situation you’re facing. But what can you do if your child doesn’t want to do anything? Here are a few suggestions.

Have a proper conversation

Although it may seem obvious, it’s important to talk to your child and ask what’s wrong, not with accusations, threats, or demands, but with the genuine intention of understanding what they’re feeling and what difficulties they’re experiencing. Find an appropriate time, use a calm tone, and opt for understanding rather than judgment.

A father having a serious conversation with his teenage son.
Talking to your child about what’s happening to them is a good starting point to find the causes of their reluctance and help them find their motivations.

Mark responsibilities

Often, when a child doesn’t want to do anything, it’s because they’ve received an excessively permissive or overprotective upbringing. If their parents have never allowed or encouraged them to become responsible and autonomous, we can’t expect them to magically develop those qualities when they reach adolescence.

So, start assigning them age-appropriate tasks and set consequences based on their non-compliance. Even if you’ve never done this before, this will help to begin to reverse the situation.

Encourage their motivation

If the child feels disinterested and apathetic, try to encourage their motivation by suggesting activities they like. It’s common for young people to prefer, above all, to stay on the couch watching screens, but this isn’t healthy. Organizing cultural, sports, or leisure plans with the family can be a good alternative to activate them.

Help them find their passions

If apathy manifests itself in the school environment, it’s important to help the young person find their passions and their purpose. Many teenagers can feel lost and unmotivated because they’re not clear about where they want to go in their work life. Helping them identify their talents and interests can help them find their path. And this future goal will be the greatest motivation to fulfill their obligations.

As you can see, there’s a multitude of contexts that can lead a child or young person to not want to do anything. But, in all of them, understanding and parental action are fundamental. Instead of blaming and berating your child for their behavior and harassing them to change, it’s better to identify the cause and take firm action to address it. Although the changes may be difficult at the beginning, in the long run, they’ll help your children to get out of the doldrums and regain their enthusiasm and energy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.