Monday, March 12, 2007

My Lazy Kid

“Teachers have been telling me that my child is lazy and that if only she just worked harder, was more motivated, etc., then she could do very well. We have responded by setting aside daily study times, requiring her to complete all homework before going out to play, providing her with stars for success, taking away all video games and grounding her for poor grades. Our interventions have resulted in study times that take all night, angry outbursts, depression (“I just wish I was dead”), loss of friends, no free time and… poor grades. Help!” The parent saying these words generally looks the part of the beleaguered parent with the wear and tear of endless nights of battles over homework and being the target of child anger being etched in their face.

Hmmm….. First, a quiz. Which would be easier? To put in forty-five minutes of study time, go out and play, be the recipient of parental praise and have extended free time… or… take four hours to complete a homework assignment while having your parents relentlessly harass you, lose privileges, have your videogames taken away, lose friends and have no free time to play? I’m thinking that it would be much easier to just do the work in the shortest amount of time and receive the benefits… and so would every child. Present to each child in school (through about age 12 years) a request that “Who ever wants an “A” in all their classes for this year, just raise your hand” and you will see 100% compliance or agreement. If the ante was raised slightly, “Who ever wants an “A” in all their classes for this year, raise your hand and walk around the track one time (400 meters)” and you may see a slight reduction in compliance. How about “Raise your hand, walk around the track one time and run the 100 yard dash in under 11 seconds” and you will begin to lose some more hands.

The point?…. everyone wants success, but at some point the child may not have the tools to achieve that success. For the child that is working four hours while screaming and crying, losing privileges and enduring parental harassment, these conditions are obviously more readily available than success by studying 45 minutes. I see about 350 children each year… and during the past 20 years, I believe that I have seen about three “lazy” children (and each of these were adolescents with psychopathic features). The rest? The rest were children with undiagnosed learning disorders that have variously included deficits in attention, visual-spatial processing, visual-motor integration, auditory processing disorders… or children that were the victims of significant life stressors, neglect, deprivation, etc. that undermined their capacity to translate abilities into “real world” performance on a consistent basis.

Your child has been labeled “lazy”? Consider the probability that your child has an undiagnosed learning disorder or other stress-related disorder. The solution… consider having a formal evaluation completed to rule out this potential.

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