School is out, and many kids get lazy. Is that okay? How should parents respond to children’s laziness? And what can kids do?
While the rest of the world hums with activity, there are times when we’d rather take a pass. Like a heavy-eyed dog, not quite ready to chase that squirrel. Or a car with the motor running but going nowhere. For now…
There are consequences for everything people choose to do or not to do. Kids who don’t regularly brush their teeth get cavities. If they laze about and watch cloud formations, they might relax. If they don’t bother to learn the rules of a game they may not enjoy it as much. (Or they may create their own rules and enjoy playing it even more!) If they don’t apply sunscreen, they’ll likely get sunburned.
Some consequences of laziness are far more serious than others, especially if they involve health or safety concerns. It makes good sense to encourage kids to think about why they aren’t doing something, and also what might transpire as a result of not doing it. Here are three basic questions they could consider:
1. Am I willing to live with what happens as a result of being lazy?
2. Will my laziness have an impact on anyone else?
3. If my laziness is potentially problematic for myself, or others, do I want to do something about it—and if so, what?
Many people think that lazy people are disrespectful or negligent. And some are. For example, let’s say you’re part of a team. You may be playing defense, or offence, or another position, but if you don’t do your part and your team suffers as a result, then you’re not being fair or considerate of your team-mates’ needs and feelings. However, everyone is different, and so are the reasons for their behaviors and attitudes—including laziness. There may be legitimate reasons for it.
Our daily lives have become increasingly hectic. Kids, too, are programmed and busy, and confront various kinds of demands. We all need downtime, and appreciate opportunities to unwind. These intervals can be appropriate, and beneficial. We have to be careful before calling someone lazy because labels can be misleading, and finger pointing can be hurtful. What appears to be laziness may be something else altogether, including a way of coping with being maxed out, a time to recharge, a form of learning, or a readiness strategy or prelude to productivity.
Laziness can happen repeatedly, for long or short intervals, and at different times of the day—or year. Summer, in particular, often invites people to take on a sense of lethargy. And, who realistically can be fully productive all day, or across twelve months of the year? Laziness can be an appealing anecdote for individuals who take on too much, or for burnout. And, being lazy can also provide welcome time and space for reflection, and to help with the challenges of prioritizing and decision-making. Laziness provides a chance to experience creative “aha! moments” that might not occur when otherwise too busy. Moreover, lazing about enables people to rest and conserve energy, reserving the right to do things later.
However, the downside of laziness is that it can impede progress, hamper relationships, fuel self-indulgence, and short-circuit creativity.
Tips to Help Kids Combat Laziness (Assuming They Want To…)
Think of ambition as an outgrowth of laziness. The most skilled athletes know their responsibilities and live up to them, but they don’t think about their sports or practice 24/7. They enjoy leisure time and occasional lazy days, too. Then, they flip the “action switch.”
The three questions noted in the paragraphs above provide a starting point for thought and action. In addition, here are several practical lazy-busting suggestions to share with kids:
- Embrace the calm. A framework for positive action can begin by being tranquil, and feeling that you can do whatever you put your mind to.
- Know what’s required. What exactly has to be done, and why? By when? How? What’s most urgent? It’s good to take stock of what matters most (to determine what’s really important to you and/or others, now or for the long tem), but to also give yourself breaks and allow for lazy do-nothing times.
- Take a step. Just one. This will start you moving forward. It will also help you to appreciate the pleasures of the path once you’ve begun. As you proceed, focus on a single task at a time. You don’t have to complete everything at once. Think about moving forward slowly, steadily, and comfortably.
- Get a handle on your emotions. Feelings—like worry, happiness, anger, trepidation, sadness, and guilt—influence how you behave, including how you might respond to requests, suggestions, or expectations. Emotions have a direct bearing on motivation. When you feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, it’s difficult to devote time, energy, or willpower to a task. It might be helpful to get some assistance, talk to someone you trust, or check out this article on emotional well-being at The Creativity Post. ("Children's Emotional Well-Being: Eight Practical Tips for Parents")
- Narrow down your to-do list. Be smart about what you must do so you can also schedule in time to kick back and ease up. Consider eliminating nonessential tasks, finding shortcuts, or shifting your burden. (That is, remove, revamp, or reallocate.)
- Respect your body’s clock. Have you heard about circadian rhythms? It can be interesting to learn about wake and sleep cycles, including how levels of energy and alertness fluctuate, how to take advantage of times when you work most effectively, and how lazy or idle intervals can be beneficial or well-earned.
- Be creative. Use your imagination. Try innovative solutions and alternative ways to approach lazy-inducing tasks such as dreary house-hold chores, room cleanup, and other non-enticing activities. If something appears too boring, easy, difficult, silly, or irrelevant, it will likely be of little interest. A creative approach can be motivating!
- Exercise. Play—preferably outdoors. This will invigorate you so you will feel less lethargic. Laziness is a form of sluggishness, an absence of action. Exercise and playfulness are stimulating, and can help you tap your strengths. Remember, inactivity is a choice!
Cautionary Words on Laziness
I sat outside today and watched the birds in my backyard, while mulling over what I was going to include in my next presentation. Anyone looking over the fence would have thought, “She’s being lazy!” What might look like laziness on the outside may in fact be busyness or measured pre-productivity and planning on the inside.
Laziness can take a variety of forms such as gazing, wandering, zoning out, or daydreaming. These are seemingly indicators of laziness. Nevertheless, the brain is always whirring, and the mind is active.
Although being lazy is commonly thought to be a cop-out, or a negative response to responsibility, laziness can give the body a chance to re-energize, and to store up reserves of enthusiasm and vigor to call upon when needed. A lull often precedes a storm. And, a whirlwind life is not necessarily the most efficient. Laziness can sometimes be welcome relief! Moreover, lazy people can contribute a lot—albeit in their own way and time. Indeed, scientists, artists, authors, and others who “appear” lazy may be mentally active, generating solutions, designs, or story lines. Keep in mind that a person who seems to be productively occupied may actually be busy with unimportant or shallow tasks, whereas someone who seems to be lazy or sluggish may be engaged in deep thinking. In fact, lazy people sometimes find the simplest or most direct or way to tackle problems. They laze about, and then wham! They get going.
So how can you tell what might be “good laziness” as opposed to downright slothfulness (or unhealthy or excessive laziness)? Ask yourself whether you’re doing something that revitalizes you, or truly matters to your well-being. If you’re engaged in something worthwhile for your body or peace of mind, chances are you aren’t really being lazy. You may be purposeful. (And purposefulness can lead to strengthened intent and productivity.) Plus, even if you are being lazy, that’s not sinful. There’s something to be said for pressing the snooze button, or swinging in a hammock in a gentle summer breeze, or enjoying a restorative nap. Take ownership of your laziness. And, take the time you need to recharge your energy and build up the “desire you require” in order to do what you have to do.
Then do it.
Reading and Resources
Important note: If children’s “laziness” takes the form of not talking to anyone, not looking after themselves properly, or curling up in a ball and staying in bed for extended time periods, then it’s prudent to seek help. The laziness might be related to concerns that signal a need for counseling or medical attention. Dr. James T. Webb has written a great deal about depression and other issues that warrant the attention of healthcare professionals. His books and articles are valuable resources. To learn more about his work, go to Great Potential Press at www.greatpotentialpress.com
Kids can keep track of how much time they laze about—per day, or maybe per week. If they discover that they’re wasting a great deal of time on a regular basis, they might want to consider the implications of that, and also possibly check out Mitzi Weinman’s book, It’s About Time: Transforming Chaos into Calm from A to Z at www.timefinder.net
Everyone has a different sense of what laziness is, and isn’t. To find out more about how children may appear slow to act, or opt to procrastinate—and how to empower them—take a look at Not Now, Maybe Later.
The quotes appearing in italics within this article have been extracted from the author’s award-winning book, Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate. Additional information about supporting children’ productivity and motivation can be found within that book, and also within Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster. To find out more about these books, please go to www.joannefoster.ca