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Diagnoses, Responsibility, and Laziness

Can We Blame Them?

A lot of behaviors that parents are worried about are really within normal. I find that many parents are so ready for their child to have a mental health diagnosis, and it really isn’t serving them, this mindset. People are often quick to decide a behavior is really a clinical problem (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, a personality disorder), and by doing so, they sort of lock themselves (or the person being labeled) into this "diagnosis" which becomes an identity. Unfortunately, this inevitably forces the diagnosed person into a very stuck position, where they "have" this issue and, while they will likely be put on medication and even get therapy, the mindset is that they have this issue, what do you want from them?

Is it Laziness?

However, as much as I don’t think most problems are pathological, I also don’t think that labeling the problem as a sign of “laziness” or some other non-clinical label is helpful either. It completely misses the point of why the behavior is there. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as "lazy" and that when we call someone lazy, we are being lazy in missing the actual point, whatever the actual point is, because there always is one. It's a general term, lazy, that doesn't capture anything of the reality with which we are dealing.


I do believe that many of the children in this generation, while not struggling with clinical pathology or with laziness either, is a problem of the environment getting in the way of natural consequences. Natural consequences are the best teachers. I wake up late, I miss my school bus, I miss my test, and I lose points on the test and need to do a makeup. That makes me not want to wake up late again. I fight with my sister and then have no one to play with and so I make up with her so we can have fun again. I don't clean my room and then I can't find things when I want them. When we don't get in the way, natural consequences will teach children most of what they need to learn about prosocial behavior, responsibility, organization, etc. I'm not a fan of blaming the lazy children who can't be bothered, as I think this completely redirects attention from what actually is creating the perceived laziness, which is the environment's inability to allow the child to experience natural consequences.

Allowing for Natural Consequences

If parents and schools and other important figures in children's lives would stop protecting children from natural consequences, I believe we would see a significant reduction in this problem. I don't think we need to encourage hard work per se, so much as we need to get out of the way and do less. By getting out of the way of natural consequences, children get the opportunity to learn from reality, which is the best teacher. By authority figures doing less, children get to learn from the real deal instead of getting into a battle with the authorities in their life - it's a win for everyone.


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