"He's Not Lazy" Book Discussion-'unmotivated/underperformers/opt-outs'

Hi,
I’m wondering if anyone is interested in starting a thread about this book, or other books/advice on “unmotivated/underperforming/opt-out” boys (and girls too). My youngest son, HS class of 2023, is in that category and this is the book that has helped me understand. Just reading the intro described our son so completely that I had a light bulb moment!

Has it solved all of our problems? No, but to me it seems the best path to take, and, importantly, has plenty of explanations behind understanding the “opt-out” kids.

So if anyone wants to discuss, please post here. The book is by Adam Price. My library app (Overdrive) has it electronically and on audio. Geared more towards middle and high school but maybe some with older kids can post their ideas or successes about the “unmotivated/underperformers/opt-outs”, or read it to shed some light on what might still be going on with their college student. Thanks!

Oldest son has adhd and learning disabilities. I learned early on that effort might not result in an A and that was okay.

Second kid, school pushed him to be advanced. But by 9th grade he hated being pushed. Thle whole “not working up to his potential” comments have been made. I know I am guilty of the “you can do better” comments too. But I stepped back and looked at all my kid was doing and I realized, my kid is doing what he can. I know that I as a fully mature adult can only do so much. When I spread myself too thin, I can’t give 100% to everything. I am working full time, plus I am taking grad school classes, plus trying to run a household, and I was doing a part time job as well. I recently realized my limit and droppped the part time job because I was truly failing at other parts of my life and it wasnt mentally or emotionally healthy.

So my kid is doing school which is basically a full time job. On top of that hes doing football 5 plus nights a week. And voice lessons. And 3 choirs. And working a part time job. And trying to do homework. Sure theres kids who can do all those things and still pull all A’s. But I decided that my kid is a good kid and its ridiculous to think that doing ALL that AND still pulling A’s and B’s is somehow showing that my kid is failing? What the heck?!

My kid is learning and growing. He is happy. He likes having a variety of things to do. I have zero concerns about him being successful as an adult because I know that he is a hard worker when its something that he is passionate about. Most important to me is that my kid is a kind person who will be a contributing member of society and he is mentally stable.

I HATE folding socks. I will push it off until the last load and leave it sitting there for a day before I dive in and get to matching them. I would consider myself pretty successful. I as an adult still find it hard to find the motivation to do things Im not interested in. Am I failure because I dont put 100% effort into folding socks?

My kid is doing what is expected. No he is not going above and beyond to get As in subjects he doesnt love. It doesnt mean my kid is lazy. It doesnt mean he will be a failure in life. He has stepped back and evalauted what is important to him and divides his time to ensure he is successful in everything he does. Getting a B is not a failure.

eta: I am not naive and that I know grades are money. College admissions is crazy competitive. But there are MANY colleges out there. I know way too many parents who are constantly telling their kids they arent good enough. An A- is not good enough. A “B” is not good enough. Heaven forbid they get a C.

Step back and think about that. The person who is supposed to love you the most in this world doesnt think you are good enough. Being reminded almost every day or every week that you are a failure in their eyes and not worthy.
Teen and young adult suicide is at all time high. I dont understand how some parents cant see they are part of the problem.

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Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I agree that a step back to look at all the great things about your kid is so important. And that mental health (and physical health), above all.

I’m not a parent pushing for As or top college admissions (although I realize those types of parents and students are overrepresented on this board). Nor am I pushing them to always be achieving and “building the resume”. If my son was doing all the things your son is doing, that would be great, and plenty. You say your son has evaluated what is important to him and is putting in the effort there. That is fantastic. That is not the case here. I am writing (and reading) about a kid who is NOT evaluating what is important to him and spending his time there. He does not have a variety of things he likes to do. He is not happy. It’s not about As, just to be clear.

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Social skills are lacking in many kids today. My oldest found his “thing” his freshman year and finally got out of the house those 3 short months of that activity season. Otherwise he was holed up in his room zoning out.
We were always clear with him that the choice upon graduation was college, school, or a fulltume job. Preferably out of the house. He chose a tech school to start moving towards an associate degree while working part-time. His 2 year degree will likely take him 4-5 years but he’s paying his rent and maturing.
We had him do a career exploration camp his junior year of hs which helped a ton. He was in therapy on and off too.
End of the day, the kid just has to understand the boundary and expectations. If i would have let my oldest stay home, there’s no way he would have matured. He had to be pushed out of the nest a bit. Being financially independent was the goal.

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This sounds like lots of boys etc. Check out… You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Kate Kelly, Peggy Ramundo, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

See if your son appears in these pages. Sounds like there might be lots of overlap then read… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/253203.How_to_Become_a_Straight_A_Student

Cals book is more on strategies, organization, not procrastinating, studying smarter not harder plus its a fun fast read. Lots of common sense time management tips that actually work. The point isn’t to be a 4.0 student but of course that would be great, but to become the best student you can be.

Thank you! Son definitely needs schoolwork strategies. He was able to coast along on his natural smarts until about 8th grade, then when it got harder, he didn’t develop the work skills and time management skills to keep up. Plus video games is a super great avoidance technique, and covid just pushed even more of the social life online.

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I haven’t read the book but I totally can relate. S22 is definitely unmotivated. He is naturally pretty intelligent and has managed to maintain a 3.8 at a competitive HS while doing as little work as possible esp this past year. His SAT scores are pretty good (1320) but he is retaking in 2 weeks and hasn’t studied at all for them. I think covid definitely helped him in some ways as the teachers were much more forgiving with grades and deadlines. But it definitely hurt him in terms of having any motivation. Being able to hide behind a computer and then a mask once they were in school gave him the anonymity to slack on his work. Normally he is somewhat of a people pleaser (other than to his parents) so he does the work so that he can avoid being singled out by teachers but with covid he didn’t seem to care.

He does play 2 sports and will be the captain this year of one of them, but again he doesn’t give them his all. He barely practices either sport when they are out of season. His social life is great, he has tons of friends, and that’s where he seems to put most of his time and energy. He did have a full time job this summer. Overall though, he just doesn’t seem happy. Our constant nagging doesn’t help and he is frustrated and down on himself for not having the motivation to do anything besides hang out with friends. The application season is going to be a real struggle and we are all dreading it. He definitely wants to go to college and wants to succeed but things have to change if that’s going to happen. I’m going to order a copy of that book now.

@2plustrio I would not say your son is unmotivated at all. I would consider him an overachiever and would be thrilled if my kids were anything like that. I could care less about grades, I just want my kids to put some effort into whatever they are doing.

As strange as this might sound, online video games can actually help with the social skills and collaboration of working with another human being. My son also had social issues it seemed looking back. But online he worked through games with others and joined teams etc. Some people he knew and lots he didn’t. But collaborating actually built confidence. He was always a good student and maybe that’s the difference but knew if his grades slipped through the the gaming would end. He actually did little shooter games and mostly sport games. In college he became part of a sports league, became the manager, won multiple world series (baseball), met his real life girlfriend and collectively with people around the United States did a 24 job hour marathon to raise $15,000 for a charity. He has actually met some of the cyber kids and just normal kids that like online sports. Most are engineers, business people and lawyers (mostly just graduated college like himself). This is their new world. It seems most young kids social skills are lacking these days. Turn the video gaming into a positive not a negative. There are actually studies out there about intelligence and collaboration and team work skills going up levels of games when playing in a group. I know this isn’t why you posted but just saying… It’s not all bad… But looking another in the eyes will never be replaced.

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For anyone interested, I found a podcast with Adam Price, the author, here: Podcast #448: Your Son Isn’t Lazy — How to Empower Boys to Succeed | The Art of Manliness - YouTube its about 45 min and touches on the highlights. I recommend the book highly, but if you are just wondering what this approach is about, that’s a good preview.

Thank you @Knowsstuff , it is great to read and remember about the positives of gaming! And in the pandemic, it really was how many teens were staying connected with each other! My big issue with gaming is my son uses it as avoidance, he has admitted, to not deal with or think about things he doesn’t want to do.

@MAmom111 , I know…covid was a huge hit on the schoolwork. We had to REALLY work with teachers, who were great, about keeping my son on track, which he wasn’t, really. And unfortunately, we are masking up for school again, but (so far) with normal school days and full size classes. The covid restrictions were a huge hit on mental health for adolescents, too.

I hope that the book sheds light for you like it did for us. The so-called lack of motivation is rooted in ambivalence and fear…it’s easier not to try, than to try and to fail.

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If your student has started to turn it around in HS, but the current HS GPA eliminates any possibility of attending a University of Virginia or College of William and Mary, don’t give up hope. Consider the thread “For Reasonably Bright HS students that would like a ‘Second Chance’”. https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/t/for-reasonably-bright-hs-students-that-would-like-a-second-chance/3536061

My son was already accepted to a number of lesser universities and had his mind set before I found out about RBC of William & Mary, but it would be great if someone else’s kid seized this unique opportunity.

My son rarely practices in his free time either. He does several hours a week in practice already. At home he wants to chill.

I’m curious what you are nagging your son about? He’s going to be a team captain, has good grades, is well liked and even had a job. What about all that is substandard? How is he a disappointment?

Going on a walk and going to listen to the podcast… Thx… My son was similar to a point. Graduated from engineering and has a great job… First month so far. Boys lack in mental maturity and some kids develop later then others that has to do with social skills. Not my field but should write a book about it. :roll_eyes::memo:.
… As they age it tends to improve. Does your son also have a reading comprehension issue or been tested for it? Curious if other testing has been done if you care to share…

Excellent pod cast Thx. Man, can’t tell you how many mistakes I have made listening to it. But a few things stood out. Definitely giving the kids some responsibility or any type. When they say something ask the last sentence back with a question. OK, I added that one in but it works to get them talking.

My son told me playing video games was a stress reliever especially after school. He needed to decompress and this was his way. I sat with him to show me what he does. To teach me. He was shocked I was showing in interest. I don’t game but wanted to see what it was all about. Who he was talking with also. I mean getting to level 1,065,562 of a man game actually is kinda impressive. But he could only do that since he was putting the time in. Imagine if he put that time into studying etc (he was already a good student)… That might resonate with your son…

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I’m glad you liked it! And you bring up one of the things we are working on…video games after school. We have never been a “homework right after school” family. I realize for many that works well. For us one pitfall is rushing through schoolwork or saying it is done/there is none. But we did/do allow downtime, rather than buckling down as soon as they get home. The problem with gaming is, it is hard to stop, especially when you know that what you are switching to is something you don’t want to do! Here, we need to be better at enforcing a hard window of time for schoolwork, and if it all gets done in that window with extra time, read, plan ahead. When that window will be is being figured out today. Trying to give son as much input and ownership of the plan as I can. As the book says, “structure without control.”

I don’t agree with podcast about not finding the root cause. Some of this can be learning disability also even mild. My son said his whole day was stressful so he needed to unwind first then tackle homework. But yeah, once they get started… Lol… Maybe ask him how much time he needs to relax before homework? Give him a snack… OK there I go but like my son would never just make himself something even though we know he was hungry. We ended up putting vegetables and fruit cut up in bowls or plastic bags so when he got home he would grab a few then go to the basement and play away… But maybe have him say something like an hour or hour and half then he starts homework then break for dinner and if done maybe another hour later… I don’t know but something like that… Not sure how old your son is but owning it. But of course he needs to realize there will be days that he can’t go back to a game etc. But yes, coming home and directly doing homework never worked for either of my kids.

I just kinda laugh. In my days my room was really messy. Now it’s executive functioning issues and adhd (runs in my family)… There is a study that says let them have a messy room if they want. It’s like they have to strive for perfection in school and it’s the place they can unwind and not have rules. My kids would agree. As they got older the rooms got more organized and cleaner… Lol…

Necessity is the mother of invention. Father abandoned the family. Mother was caring but had no academic background and was struggling with addictions and in finding shelter. I was good at athletics - a national champion in my event - but my motivation revolved around making the rich kids at my school not put me down. Same with academics - 3.8 with no work but didn’t let it get out of control. Main motivation was to avoid being called stupid and useless by the rich kids at my school. Ended up doing passably at one of the two most highly ranked undergrad schools which give out D1 scholarships, but did not mature the way I should. Anti rich kid motivation had its limits. Did well in grad school, way beyond expectations - I simply grew up. It was a different era in the 80’s and there was room to stumble around.

With this background, I didn’t give my daughters any academic direction. I never asked them about their homework. This was likely the result of dumb luck but I did repeat to myself often only to give the proper dose of medicine, which was almost nothing (although I provided everything they need in terms of material needs and then some). Oldest daughter was a Shipman at Michigan, younger one at Princeton. Both national merit finalists and thank goodness they could go anywhere they wanted with no debt, a car, great summer experiences, and so on. They did ask me for help once in a blue moon but in the end I reminded them they had to own whatever it is they wanted to do.

I do think if I had a boy I would have done quite a bit more. The key with boys is to find what motivates them, and give them space to fail and above all else, refrain from getting emotional with them (i.e., losing tempers). I think most parents of boys underestimate the positive impact they can have just by being supportive. With no effective parents, I had no margin for error or someone to pick me up after a mistake. Just be there.

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This all sounds so much like my S23. I will definitely check out the podcast this week and order the book - thanks for the suggestions!