Does your son not care about school? Does he prefer to stay in, playing video games, staring at screens, and not getting any physical activity? Is his room a complete mess? If so, your son might be turning apathetic to his life. Here’s what you can do if your son doesn’t care about anything.
While it may look like your son doesn’t care about anything, he likely cares about the activities he engages in right now. For example, he could care a ton about video games or his gaming community. Or he could be motivated to escape into video games to avoid bully or social exclusion. Signs of apathy could also be a sign of underlying issues whether that’s depression, social exclusion, or video game addiction.
In this article, we will discuss why your son doesn’t care about anything, understanding the psychology of someone who is apathetic, mental health concerns and how to address them, and what you can do at home to start motivating him.
If video games are leading your son, helping him overcome it does not have to be a one-person endeavor. It can be difficult to get on the same page as your kid and get him to stop spending the whole day gaming. We’ve worked with thousands of gamers, and we know we can help you, too. Click here to learn more about Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching.
What Does Your Son Care About?
When we look at someone who sits at home and does not do anything, we naturally conclude that this person is apathetic and unmotivated. However, we need to revise our current understanding of motivation.
Everyone has motivation. BUT their motivation can be pointed in a direction that may not be productive. It’s much easier to redirect motivation than to create motivation. Children can also be motivated to stay comfortable. Let’s dive into that problem.
Values vs. Desires
The key to motivation to understand is the difference between values and desires. Both you and even your child may desire him to participate in school, put in his best effort, socialize with his classmates, and make lots of friends. What kid doesn’t want to be accepted by their peers or be skilled at something? While desires can motivate us to do the things we want to, they will always lose out when weighed against values. People have “wants”, but wants rarely get us to act. That raises the question, what does your child value?
The easiest way to figure this out is to observe his behavior and determine what he prefers to do all day. Does he prefer to stay in bed? Is his time spent on YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram all day? Does he spend countless hours playing video games?
All of these activities can be manifestations of avoidance. If your child spends all day trying to lose himself in videos, social media, and games, then there may be things that he is trying to avoid. These can be emotions he does not know how to deal with or external environments that hurt him. Maybe he gets bullied at school, the pressure of performing at school is too much for him, or he feels rejected and not good enough. Essentially, there’s something that happened that causes him to value being safe over putting himself out there.
In the later parts of this article, we will go over how to have a conversation with your son in a way that he opens up to you about these problems.
Addressing Parental Concerns
It is difficult for parents to watch their children live in apathy. It hurts to see your child not living up to his full potential.
Figuring out why your child became apathetic is important. Surprisingly, potential can be a reason children become apathetic. Often, we label some kids as “gifted”. They may be good at school, sports, and socializing. However, over time they start to fall off. They develop an identity of being smart and they stop doing things that can make them appear knowledgeable or unskilled. They stop asking questions in school, they don’t apply for colleges or extracurricular programs for fear of looking dumb. They are protecting their identity as a “smart kid”.
This leads to avoidance, which can make parents think their children are apathetic. To the child, it may be better to appear apathetic than to look incompetent! They don’t attempt anything that makes them feel that that they are not smart.
While it is entirely natural for a child to not be good at something when they first try it, “gifted” kids shy away from these opportunities. They prefer to engage in activities that make them feel smart and avoid activities that they are not immediately good at.
Additionally, parents find it difficult to discipline their kids. If you take away their screens, they will throw a temper tantrum until you give in. Understandably, parents are scared of the child hurting themselves if they go too far. Similarly, parents may find it difficult to enforce boundaries because they love their kids. Parents can find it difficult to make their children discipline because it means making their children uncomfortable or sad. It can be hard!
Parents are also concerned that their child’s behavior reflects on their competence at parenting. They feel that it is their fault that their child turned out this way. However, nobody is perfect. No matter how good you are at parenting, every child develops certain maladaptive behaviors because of how their young brains process the world around them.
Moreover, you can love your child and try to discipline them as much as possible, but that won’t solve his problems. The solution lies in understanding his behaviors and working WITH him to steer him towards a life he wants to live.
Mental Health Concerns
Sometimes, children can be apathetic because of mental illnesses such as depression. We HIGHLY recommend getting a clinical evaluation if your child has some of the following symptoms:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness.
- Pessimism and hopelessness.
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much.
- Loss of interest in things.
- Overeating or appetite loss.
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away.
- Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Additionally, your child might be addicted to video games or screen time. Video games and websites such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram serve as a perfect escape from real-life problems. If your child spends excessive amounts of time gaming, he may be trying to shut off negative emotions that he does not know how to deal with. While on the surface it may look like he doesn’t care about anything, his behavior shows that he values not feeling negative emotions.
Moreover, video games are also good at helping your child meet fundamental psychological needs such as a feeling of triumph from winning games and social connection. That is one of the reasons why it is difficult to get your child to stop gaming. As a result, if he is gaming all day, his brain is too engaged to care about doing anything else.
How to Motivate Your Son if he Doesn’t Care About Anything
Here’s how you can motivate your son if he does not care about anything.
The first step is to get on the same team as your child. If your relationship with him is antagonistic and you argue about schoolwork, then any conversation in which you try to get him to do something won’t work. He will always see it as him vs. you, and he will be on the defensive. It will make him less receptive to your suggestions, ideas, and attempts to help.
One of the simplest ways to build rapport is to be around him when he is down. Don’t try to probe him — respect your child’s space and emotions, and let him become comfortable with you being around when he isn’t doing what he should be. He may get anxious, thinking you will scold him and punish him for not doing his schoolwork. However, over time, this anxiety will go down as his mind learns that it’s safe for you to be around.
If it gets too much for him and he asks you to leave, it’s ok to give him his space. A great alternative is to invite him out of his space and into an open room for a conversation. Make it clear that he won’t lose his access to gaming or YouTube just by talking about it with you. This is a great way to gain his truth and make him more receptive to your thoughts.
Understand his Motivations
Once you’ve built a rapport with him, try to understand his motivations. If you genuinely understand your child, he will be appreciative and more likely to answer your questions. Why does he prefer to stay at home and be comfortable instead of engaging in schoolwork and living a fulfilling life? Here are some more questions you can ask him:
- How does he feel on a day to day basis?
- Does he get bullied?
- Does he like gaming? What kind of games does he like to play?
- What does he watch on YouTube? Why does he like to watch it?
- What is his favorite pastime?
- Are there any things that he wishes he did?
- How does he feel about the way he spends his day?
Motivating Your Child
Once you’ve understood why your child is not motivated, it is time to get him the help he needs. If he gets bullied at school, then the solution might involve sorting the situation out with the school authorities. However, your child may have developed maladaptive behaviors due to bullying, so working with him to reach out to the school counselor might be a good idea.
Remember to not go behind his back and try to solve his problems. That will jeopardize the rapport you have built with him and make it harder to help him. It might make the situation worse because he will find it hard to trust you in the future.
If he is addicted to video games and screens, then addressing the underlying issues will be more effective than taking away his games altogether. To help your child with video game addiction or screen addiction, you need to set effective boundaries, enforce them regularly, and also make him feel that you hear him.
Additionally, if there are mental health concerns involved, we highly recommend seeking a clinical evaluation. The earlier these problems are recognized, the easier it is for your child to learn to live with them and become a functioning member of society. The longer it is delayed, the more likely it is for your child to develop self-esteem issues and become hopeless about leading a functional life. This is especially true if you do not have a neurotypical child, such as in kids with autism or ADHD.
It is very important to be patient. Learning that your son doesn’t care about anything is a difficult situation to find yourself in. Your child will not get “fixed” in a day, a week, or even a couple of months. You have a long journey ahead of you, so it will help to have support systems in place that you can rely on.
Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching can help. It is a 12-week virtual coaching solution created by Dr. Alok Kanojia, known as Dr. K, the world expert on video game psychology. It covers the most frustrating, challenging, and common dynamics around excessive gaming and screen time, including:
- Managing your child’s expectations
- Setting and enforcing fair, effective boundaries
- Dealing with resistance from your child
- Approaching your child based on their stage in adolescence
- Adapting your approach for autism, ADHD, mood disorders, or substance use
For 12 consecutive weeks, participants get access to a workshop and Q&A with Dr. K and weekly support groups led by Healthy Gamer Coaches. The dual support structure helps parents get started and follow-through in helping their children combat excessive gaming.
Healthy Gamer’s affordable solutions are priced to be cheaper than seeing a therapist. For the price of three hours of therapy, you get three months of support from Dr. K, Healthy Gamer Coaches, and other parents.
Click here to learn more about Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching.
Here’s what we learned in this article:
- We get it. It is hard to see your child become apathetic towards life. As a parent, you can feel helpless, lost, and alone. However, with time, effort, and the right kind of help and support, your child can grow to live the life of his dreams.
- It is essential to keep in mind that this will be a slow process. Change doesn’t happen quickly, so we highly recommend getting as much support as you can.
- Healthy Gamer is here to help. Our family programs have helped parents before, and they can help. Click here to learn about Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching.