By Cheryl Ye, Certified Practising Speech Pathologist
Dear parents and educators,
Lazy. When used to describe children, the word makes me cringe. Yesterday I was chatting to a friend who told me about her child’s lack of interest in reading. Then she proceeded to say “I think she’s just lazy. She can do it but she’s lazy to read.”
Having worked with many children with literacy difficulties, I had to chime in to find out more about this reported "laziness".
So I probed, “What do you mean by that? Why do you say she's lazy to read?” The parent responded “well, she can’t remember the words she just learned. We will teach her to read a word, and she will forget it the next time we show her the word again.”
So, is she forgetful, or lazy?
Is she lazy because she’s forgetful? Or is she forgetful because she’s lazy?
If she had a better memory, will she forget so easily? Will she still be “lazy”?
Do you see where I’m going with that? Lazy is a useless word. It’s confusing. It suggests that this child might be just as capable as another child to read, but chooses NOT to because she gets a kick out of NOT reading more than reading.
After asking a few more questions, I found out that the parent had been wondering for a while now if her child has dyslexia. As an experienced practitioner who has seen so many of these cases, this did not surprise me at all. So we spoke about ways she could teach her child.
Often we fail our kids because we do not teach them the way they can learn, maybe because we do not know how. So we give ourselves an “out” by saying “oh, they’re just lazy.”
We tend to do more of the things that comes naturally to us. If something is easy and comes naturally to us, there is no question that we will do it. For example, I love cooking. So I cook. And will often look up new recipes, host dinner parties, etc. And through the years, I’ve become a decent cook.
However, I dislike sewing. I dislike it because I’ve never been good at it. And I’m not good at it therefore I dislike it! Am I lazy to sew? I suppose you can say that! But the real reason is because I’m just not gifted in it!
So, parents and teachers, if your child is taking a while to learn a skill, or is not willing to try reading, writing, or speaking…please ask yourself why? Is it because it’s harder for them? Is there something else they’d rather do ? And why is that?
Please, let’s stop blaming our children and calling them lazy; delete that word from your lexicon.
Instead, let’s find constructive ways to help them learn and thrive. It's so much more rewarding that way.