At Ease — If  They Please

At Ease — If They Please

At Ease — If  They Please

When children laze about, should their parents be concerned?

“Who seeks shall find.” – Sophocles

All day, every day, kids decide what they will do – or won’t do. That is, whether to be resourceful, resistant, or receptive; active, inactive, or proactive. Their moods, feelings, preferences, and maturity all have a bearing on how any given day will unfold. Supports, influences, and encouragements also matter.

Kids take stock of what might need to be done—and how, where, when, and why. Sometimes they opt to opt out.


The word “languishing” has become a trendy buzzword since the publication of a recent New York Times article by Adam Grant. As a result of the pandemic and the various emotional, social, academic, and other impactful ramifications it has wrought, many people have found themselves caught somewhere between doing and not doing. Languishing is more or less a state of stagnancy or a lack of motivation. It applies to children as well as to adults. It seems that there is a general sense of “blah” and that urgency, productivity, excitement, and creativity have been left adrift in a sea of vulnerability, sadness, confusion, and frustration.

In a nutshell, people are fed up.

HOWEVER – with the arrival of summer, the availability of vaccines, and the newfound and welcome freedom to socialize, travel, and finally hug family and friends, there’s increased optimism about the “the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.”

Languishing be damned! We can pick ourselves up and get incentivized, be upbeat, discover invigorating things to do, and get creative!


It IS summer, after all. It’s an opportune time to watch cloud formations, gaze at constellations in the night sky, daydream, reflect, skip rocks, deprogram, and unwind. School is out, and nature beckons. There are books to read, hammocks to plop into, games to play, bubbles to blow and chase, and picnics to enjoy. And yes, that is all good! In fact, it’s important. Moreover, even when the body is “lazing about” the brain is still very active. Those billions of neurons are running at a swift pace, revitalizing the mind, and certainly NOT languishing.

I write elsewhere about laziness. “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 store up reserves of enthusiasm and vigor to call upon when needed.” So there. (That said, in Lazy Days, I also discuss three questions regarding the consequences of laziness, its potential impact upon others, and what to do about it.)


People often disdain or criticize those who appear lazy, lamenting that they’re shamelessly wasting time, not doing their part, or being a bad influence. Parents, in particular, may be concerned that if their child is lazy then their learning will suffer. It is true that lack of effort can be impactful and compromise an individual’s achievement and overall well-being. Indeed, wheels in motion go a lot further than ones that do not turn. Forward momentum requires at least a minimal amount of purposeful ignition.

Of course, wheels come in different sizes, revolve at different speeds, and go in different directions — much like individual drive and development. And, there are times when it pays to be less driven (or to even remain at a so-called standstill) out of caution, or because it’s beneficial in that particular moment or interval.

Children need downtime. Unstructured play and lazy days can lead to meaningful learning experiences. In the same way that scientists, authors, artists, architects, and others may ease up and use the quiet time to plan, generate ideas, and problem-solve so, too, can kids use lazy times to replenish their minds and bodies. Moreover, a person who appears to be inert or lazy may be productively occupied in deep thinking — whereas it’s quite conceivable that one who appears to be oh-so-busy may be engaged in trivial tasks. A thinking, laid-back person may be busy in their own fashion, prioritizing, decision-making, taking a breather, strengthening intent, conserving or restoring energy, or relishing calm. In the whole scheme of things, they may ultimately hit upon the most efficient or simplest way to tackle a problem and get stuff done, going from lazing to blazing!

  • Laziness is your call. If you choose it, own it. Don’t make feeble apologies or devise pretexts. Excuses and explanations are annoying to others.
  • When you take a swath of leisure time try to also set aside a chance to focus on “next steps.” Then when you want to flip the action switch, you’ll be ready to do so.
  • Reading is not laziness. Neither is thinking, planning, seeking serenity, or practicing mindfulness. You may appear to be idle on the outside while propelling yourself forward on the inside. (A duck floating serenely on a pond is actually paddling beneath the water’s surface.)
  • Naps are not slothful. They’re restorative. They can improve your mood, alertness, and responsivity, enabling you to be more tolerant and less harried. A side benefit is that napping can even lower blood pressure.
  • Laziness can occur in cycles. Individuals have different energy-filled times of day or night based on their own personal 24-hour clock (often referred to as their circadian rhythm). It may be helpful to get to know your own swings of tiredness and attentiveness, or listlessness and productivity. Laziness can be part of a healthy balanced approach to daily demands.
  • Are you lazy if you’re playing a video game? Doing a puzzle? Listening to music? Drawing a picture? Checking the internet? Waiting for a creative idea or inspiration? Laziness is not always easy to identify, and there’s a fine line between laziness and enjoying calm. Don’t be too quick to chastise yourself (or others) for taking time to chill out, ponder, or relax.


“Every day we write the future…” – Amanda Gorman

It’s been a challenging year on many fronts, and parents and kids have earned the right to take it day by day; to slow down and lighten up; to choose when to be effortful and when to be lazy. Encourage your kids to remain positive, and to think of all that they might accomplish down the road, over time, and as they’re ready. Remind them that it’s counterproductive to draw comparisons with others who seem to be more energetic or industrious at any given time. Reassure them, “It’s okay to set a pace that works well for you.”

I could write more but I’m feeling a bit lazy…


Joanne Foster, EdD, is a gifted education consultant. She’s the author of several books, including Not Now, Maybe Later, and Bust Your BUTS (winner of an IBPA Silver Benjamin Franklin Award). Her most recent book is the 3rd edition of the award-winning Being Smart, entitled Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change. (Coming fall 2021, and available for pre-order now). Dr. Foster has many published articles featured at The Creativity Post, First Time Parent Magazine, and elsewhere. She works with educators and parents, focusing on learning, motivation, creativity, and child development. For more information, and for lots of resources, visit her website at

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