How to Not Raise a Lazy Child
Worried about the findings of a 2017 Stanford University study which revealed India to be among the laziest countries in the world? Here are some tips to drive away idleness from your child.
By Susan Philip
A Stanford University study conducted in 2017 revealed that India ranks 39 among 46 countries in the world when it comes to being lazy. As parents, isn't it your duty to ensure that you do not raise lazy children?
Well, no child is born lazy. Laziness is a habit. It generally sets in when your child is in the primary school stage. And, by the time your child becomes a teen, the ‘lazy’ stage is almost a rite of passage. But, as a parent, you need to remember that a lazy child will turn into a lazy adult. And, laziness brings with it a whole host of problems. On the one hand, it brings with it obesity and related health issues. On the other, it practically erases the ability, as an adult, to achieve positive results in any venture. And this brings with it its own problems. So, the best thing is to prevent your child from becoming lazy. If she has already acquired the trait, don’t be discouraged. Things can be set right with patience and sensitivity. For this, you need to first understand whether your child is actually lazy.
How to identify whether your child is lazy
Have you labelled your child as lazy because his teachers complain that homework and class work are not being done properly? Find out the reason for your child’s behaviour. Make sure that there is no underlying physical or cognitive problem with your child. Talk to him to find out whether he finds it difficult to understand his lessons. Or, is his eyesight causing him problems? If so, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Also, don’t hesitate to have your child screened for learning disabilities, if you think his performance and behaviour warrant it.
Maybe you call your child lazy because she refuses to put away her toys, go out and play, or complete the chores that you have given her. She, probably, prefers to spend all her time glued to the TV or a gadget. This could well be because the tasks that you have given her are too much for her age. Also, you may be setting standards that are too high for her to achieve, and she’s scared of disappointing you. You need to have a frank talk with your child and scale your expectations (and also your criticism) to levels that she can cope with.
Once you have ruled out physical, cognitive and other difficulties, you will be left with just one reason for your child not performing to his capacity - laziness.
Here are some tips to help your child get over it. Even if your little one is a bundle of energy and a cheerful ‘doer’ as of now, these tips will help you prevent him from developing the dreaded problem at a later stage.
Some dos to not raise a lazy child
1. Encourage physical activity – Laziness is often explained as a reluctance to exert oneself physically. Normally, infants are active along age-related parameters. This has to be encouraged, so that a child does not slip into a liking for inertia, and hesitate to get moving. Even if your child is not naturally prone to be up and about a lot, she can be encouraged to develop a liking for active exercise for short periods.
What you can do:
- Schedule regular time outside for your preschoolers and primary schoolers. It should be spent in organised age-appropriate activity, not just standing on the edge of the playground and kicking a stone.
- Set distances to be run, and rope in other children if possible for a friendly race. Remember, the main goal is to get moving, not reaching the finish line, so be generous with your applause just for running.
- Teach her to skip and encourage her to gradually increase her stamina.
- Join your child in throw-and-catch sessions with a ball, teach her skateboarding, and get her to learn to play games like cricket or tennis.
- If your child has fallen into the habit of ‘lazing about’ on his bed or the sofa, you may need to provide him an incentive to play outdoors. You could offer a reward for completing a set number of ‘playing outside’ sessions - even an extra half-hour of the coveted video-game! Do this only until the physical activity becomes enjoyable in itself.
- Schedule activities for the older child so that she is kept optimally engaged.
- Even during weekends and holidays there are many short courses that the child can attend to broaden her horizons and tap talents – music, dance, yoga and skating classes are commonly available.
2. Take the bore out of the chore – Driving away boredom from routine tasks and allocating responsibilities will surely help your child stay active. Children as young as three years of age are old enough to undertake some responsibilities in the house.
What you can do:
- You could start by making your toddler in charge of collecting the day’s newspapers and stacking them in a particular place every evening. Make it a game. Tell him to see if he can complete the job before you finish singing ‘Mary had a little lamb’.
- Don’t insist on perfection right from the start. Praise him for putting it in the right place, and gently straighten the pile yourself.
- Slightly older children can be made responsible for putting away their toys and books, putting their used clothes into the laundry bag, and common tasks like filling up water bottles.
- Give them a small reward if they do all the tasks or complete their homework for a week, without being reminded.
- You can also put up a chart, and award stars for responsibilities well done. An agreed-upon number of accumulated stars can be exchanged for a dream toy or some other treat. (Black stars for jobs not done can also be put in for older children.)
3. Underline the merits of hard work – Children understand simple reasoning. Therefore, talk it out with them.
What you can do:
- Talk to your child about the benefits of hard work.
- Tell her that results are directly proportionate to effort. The more she tries, the better she will do.
- Tell her also that usually things get easier after some time. The sums get easier with practice, the spellings stay in the mind with repetition. And it’s much quicker to tidy a room every day than doing it only once a week.
4. Practise what you preach – Children have role models, consciously and unconsciously. And parents are the first such models.
What you can do:
- The best way to prevent a child from becoming lazy is to not be lazy yourself.
- You could even have shared family time for completing tasks. If Saturdays are holidays, set aside a couple of hours for dusting the tops of the shelves, wiping the fans and giving your car a deep clean. While you’re doing that, your child can wash her canvas shoes, scrub her lunch basket and, maybe, even do a few practice sums. See which of you finishes first.
And now, for some Don’ts
1. Don’t overdo being a role model – You could easily fall into the habit of groaning about how no one else has a sense of responsibility, and go around doing all the chores that you had allotted to others. This will give the child the idea that things will get done, whether he exerts himself or not – a very bad idea, because it doesn’t work out that way in adult life.
2. Don’t be too critical – it could work adversely, and the child might hesitate to even make an attempt at a task because of the fear of failure.
3. Don’t equate laziness with downtime – Everyone needs time to relax. Some need more time than others. It is in times of quietness and seeming inactivity that creativity and originality flourish. So don’t insist on filling your child’s life with activities of various sorts, 24x7. Once she realises that you are fine with her having some time to do what she enjoys doing, she will be more open to doing things she doesn’t enjoy – like putting away a week’s supply of vegetables or taking out the trash.
The bottom line
Never label a child ‘lazy’. No child deserves that. Every child deserves the loving support of his parents to help him bloom into a happy, productive, well-adjusted adult. So parents, let’s work towards that.
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