Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is your child Lazy?

"What if I'm not interested in anything? What if I'm lazy?
If you were very hungry, would you make the effort to eat, 
or would you be lazy and starve? 
I don't believe in lazy. 
You just need to find what you're hungry for.
So, get out and try different things.
One way to try different things is to go to school.
Another way is to leave school.
 Or you can do some of both."
James Marcus Bach
Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar: 
How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success.

Once a mother said to me that she thought her daughter was getting lazy.  The topic was homework and the fact that her daughter wasn't being assigned enough of it, and because of this her daughter was getting lazy about doing homework.  She said this to me in front of her daughter, age 11. This conversation caused me to reflect on the word lazy. The topic of homework is something I had already reflected on at length when my girls were still in school. If your child is in school and you think they are not being assigned enough homework go to your library and check out "The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing," by Alfie Kohn. Or start with this article, written for school principals: Rethinking Homework.  

Now, back to the topic of "lazy."  

I came to the conclusion that the word lazy has no place in my vocabulary. When you think about it, "lazy" is generally used to describe someone who isn't doing what the person using the label thinks they should be doing at the time. Often parents use the word lazy to describe their children when their children are not doing something the parent wants them to do.  "She won't clean up her room, she's being lazy."  "She is too lazy to put her clothes in the hamper." If your child won't do what you want them to do when you want them to do it that doesn't make them lazy. 

Children are not lazy. People are not lazy. If you think someone is lazy then it's time to consider why. There are many reasons a person might not be doing what you think they should be doing at any given time. They may be tired, sick, or suffering from depression. Perhaps they have been over scheduled, over worked and haven't had any down time in weeks - they could be burnt out. They may not share your values when it comes to the importance of whatever it is you think they should be doing. You may have expectations for that person that are not in alignment with who they are. They may be in the middle of a video game and want to finish it before they move on to another activity. They may be deep in thought or processing a recent experience. There are a whole lot of reasons why someone may not be functioning at the level you expect them to function, performing a task that you think they should perform. When you use the word lazy it's not really about them, it's about you. 

Why do you feel the need to use the word lazy. 
How did adults use the world when you were a kid?
Why do you feel the need to label someone negatively?
What are your expectations and why are they important to you?

When we strive to create a respectful partnership with our children we seek to understand them, to interact with them compassionately and support them in figuring out what they are hungry for. It's a wonderful privilege we have as parents, to support a person in their journey of self discovery as they figure out what engages them, where their passions lie, and what lights up their eyes and drives them forward through the power of intrinsic motivation. 

Not doing something that has no value to you, that isn't relevant to your life, is not being lazy, it's actually a smart way of saving your time and energy to do what is meaningful. Taking time to relax, sleep in, or engage in a seemingly non-productive activity isn't lazy, it can be a way to recharge so that you have a greater enthusiasm when you return to your regularly scheduled activities. Listening to your body and learning to live in harmony with your natural energy levels isn't lazy, it's a healthy way to live a happy and productive life. 

The way that you live your life, the amount of activity you prefer, the tasks that you find engaging and the activities that you enjoy are not going to be the same for anyone else. We are all individuals who will make different choices and have different innate preferences and patterns. As parents it is vital that we learn to recognize and respect that our children may live life very differently from our initial expectations. Helping them recognize and honor their bodies' needs for rest, renewal and down time is just as important as supporting them in finding and nurturing their interests and passions.

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be
perfectly themselves,
and not to twist them to fit our own image.
Otherwise we love only the reflection
of ourselves we find in them."
 Thomas Merton
No Man Is an Island