• Original Articles By Dr. Lavin Featuring Expert Advice & Information about Pediatric Health Issues that you Care the Most About

    Lazy- A Troublesome Concept

    Lazy- A Troublesome Concept

    Many kids in school struggle to succeed.  The national average is 1 in 6 children, millions of school children!
    There are a web of complex reasons why we find ourselves facing so many of our children not enjoying school and having such a hard time getting the work done.
    But one reason that we hear as much as any other reason should be put aside:  laziness.
    When we meet with families, one of the most common thoughts about why their child is not performing well in school is that the problem is the child’s attitude gets in the way.  The child either does not care, or seems to be dismissive of the work.  It actually makes perfect sense for any parent to think that the child’s attitude is a major piece of the puzzle.  And if that’s the case, why not conclude that they are being lazy?
    So why would we urge everyone to no longer think of laziness as relevant to the problem of children doing poorly in school?   The problem is that there is a major difference between laziness and other reasons for not doing work, and for nearly every child struggling in school, laziness is not the problem.
    To be clear, the word lazy means that the child is not doing work because they do not want to do any work, or anything.  When the word lazy explains a situation, we are concluding that the problem is the person has a fundamental defect in their relationship to work, and it’s a simple one- they don’t work because they object to working itself.
    There may be lazy children and youth, but we haven’t seen any.  With no exceptions that I can recall, everyone seems to want to do something.  It may not be what we want them to do, but nearly everyone likes doing something.
    In nearly every instance, what looks like laziness is far more likely to be someone choosing to do something else for a very good reason.  Those reasons can vary quite a bit, but nearly all are compelling, once understood.

    The key reasons children who are failing school avoid doing school work:
    1.  There is a cognitive dysfunction that makes the work very, very difficult to do.
    2.  There is an emotional problem blocking the path towards doing the work.
    3.  They would rather do something else.
    4.   A physical illness prevents access to the work.
    5.  Conflicts with the teacher or parents make doing the work very difficult to do.

    A look at the real reasons children who are failing school avoid doing their school work.

    Cognitive dysfunctions

    A great many children who struggle in school have one, or several, problems with how their mind works that make learning new facts, writing new essays, reading new books, doing math or science, paying attention or focusing actually very, very difficult.   One can be quite brilliant, and have one of these problems, and end up essentially being unable to some of the work schools assign.

    Consider how hard it is for any of us to do something our minds cannot do without tremendous stress. This is a very unpleasant experience, and like anyone, we avoid the unpleasantness and do something else.

    Emotional problems

    Anxiety, depression, and/or mania affect large numbers of people, including children.  When any of these conditions is active they can have a devastating effect on anyone’s ability to get work done.

    Rather do something else

    This is a unifying theme as nearly every child will have grades or days when they would rather do something else, and is the sense all children who struggle in school have when the other issues are present.

    Physical illness

    Of all the reasons kids refuse to do their work, this is the one not confused with laziness.  If someone’s eyes are injured, no one thinks the child is lazy if they avoid reading.  The same goes for nearly all physical illnesses, especially acute illnesses.


    It would surprise many to find out how many times a problem in school reflects conflicts with teachers, and parents, and friends.

    Why none of these reasons are explained by the concept of lazy.

    For each of the five examples of reasons children who struggle in school do not do their work, laziness simply fails to explain anything.

    If your mind cannot think through the problem at hand, your emotions keep you from attending, you are too physically ill, have serious conflicts related to the work, or would rather do something else you end up doing something else.

    It is almost never the case that laziness explains any behavior, notice how in each case noted, the child ends up doing something else, not nothing.

    Finally, assuming the reason school work is not done is laziness causes two very major problems:
    1.  Since it is not true, it misses the ability to do anything about the situation.
    2.  It is not an explanation, but really down deep, just an insult.

    1.  Many, many children struggle to do their school work, about 1 in 6 risk failure.
    2.  In nearly every instance, a reason explains their difficulty.
    3.  That reason is almost never laziness.
    4.  Thinking it is laziness seems reasonable, after all they are not doing their work. 
    5.  But calling your child lazy, in addition to being wrong, usually just makes matters worse, as it is more of an insult than explanation.

    We recommend highly that if your child struggles in school, that the real reason(s) be found, only then can situations change and the situation get better.

    To your health,
    Dr. Arthur Lavin 

    *Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person’s particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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