Jen Haynes. 2020
One of the most debilitating words in the English language is “Lazy”. Adults will label a range of behaviours exhibited by children with the descriptor. Once the label is affixed, it remains for many children for the rest of their life, being passed on to their own children; a noxious cycle of judgement passed down generations.
The toxicity of “Lazy” is in the subtleness of the word. You can’t point at Lazy, it is not a uniform behaviour in every context and it is not able to be objectively defined. Instead, it sits in the hazy world of judgement that we are taught in our childhood by the angry adult tossing the word at us when we are engaged in a behaviour. For most of us, that behaviour is then labelled as “Lazy” in our minds, to emerge throughout our lives as part of our shame cycle.
So…what does it stick to?
The only consistent description for the term is that it is used when the labeller wants the labelled to do something other than what they are currently doing.
Stop being lazy! I asked you to do the washing up, and here you are reading a comic!
The “Lazy” label always requires a judgement that the opposing behaviour is somehow valueless…according to the labeller.
Accept your own needs!
The challenge for us as adults working with children is therefore to use our Acknowledgement Principles in this context:
#1 – Reciprocal Development – What is the priority for the developmental stage of the child versus your own? Children’s minds are generally primed for learning language, exploring social skills and taking on new systems of learning. They need time to process the vast amount of data they are taking in. Staring into space is often the most important part of a child processing information. It is absolutely NOT a waste of their time.
#2 – Non Exclusion – Just because it doesn’t seem important to you as the grown-up or the other person in this interaction, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Explore the interests of your child and learn to honour those interests. When a child is determinedly focused on a computer game level, they are seeing it as their “work” and to stop in the middle is torturous! Expand your viewpoint to include their interests.
# 3 – Whole Of Life – When you are labelling a “Lazy” behaviour, how much of what you are judging comes from your own life story? Remember that your tone of voice, choice of language, body language and facial expressions, all communicate judgement to your child. What are you relegating to the “Lazy” label, and how will this impact on their life? Do you want them to think negatively about these behaviours for their whole life?
#4 – Face Your Shadow – It is time to integrate the behaviours that enrage you in the child in front of you. What seems so “Lazy” that it makes your blood boil? Is it because the job they were supposed to do will fall to you? Is it because you think their lack of eagerness to be responsible seems synonymous with their not caring? Note down what emerges for you and then use a shadow process to explore how this is a projection from your own safety strategies. Find out how to honour and integrate them.
#5 – Active Awareness – With all of this new insight, move aside your own story of “Lazy” and make way for what the child in front of you really needs; honesty about your own feelings. If you feel uncomfortable saying, “ Stop putting your interests ahead of my responsibilities, just do what I have told you to do immediately.”, then consider the actual value of the task you are delegating to the child. What do you need? What do they need? How can you both be comfortable with the outcome of this investigation?
Create your own word
Spend some time before speaking to your child to notice what they are doing. What does it look like? To facilitate the retiring of the Lazy word from our vocabulary, consider one of these alternatives to follow “Stop…”:
Resting. Reflecting. Thinking. Imagining. Playing. Talking. Socialising. Having fun.
Sit with how it feels when you actually say what you mean.
Personally I find stamping my foot like a toddler and allowing myself to say “It’s not fair” was the first step to realising that I too could choose to not wash-up right now, and instead, I could join my child watching the clouds go by. That would be important and valuable time spent bonding, imagining and experiencing joy.
Want more insight into the value of play?
To find out about the importance of play for grown-ups then have a read through this fascinating article from Research into Organisational Behaviour. I will also be featuring the importance of play soon, so keep connected to have access to the resources.