Stumbling block #6 – Laziness

Does your child dawdle about writing? Laziness can make kids unwilling to spend time planning, writing, and revising.

Welcome! We’re halfway through our Monday series on 10 Stumbling Blocks to Writing. So far, we’ve looked at five problems that plague reluctant writers:

  1. Lack of confidence
  2. Lack of skills and tools
  3. Lack of motivation
  4. Limited writing vocabulary
  5. Perfectionism and self-criticism

Today, I’m going to change direction a bit and address a different kind of stumbling block: writing laziness. More than any of the previous hurdles, laziness tends to be a character issue, making it a little more challenging to deal with.

Stumbling Block #6

Problem: The lazy child is unwilling to spend time planning, writing, and revising.

Solution: Offer structure, rewards, more consistent supervision, and opportunities for immediate success.

If your child is lazy about writing, chances are he’s lazy in other areas too. Laziness is more global, affecting multiple facets of home and school life. It robs him of a sense of accomplishment, feelings of self-worth, and motivation to improve himself. How can he learn anything or pick up a new skill or develop a talent if he’s too lazy to get up and do something?

How Can You Help Your Lazy Child?

A lazy child often fears failure. So by not completing assignments, he avoids those feelings of inadequacy. If I don’t do my work at all, there’s no way Mom can criticize my writing. He may also have learned that if he doesn’t do an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide. This proves to him that laziness works. Unfortunately, he wins.

So what can you do to help a lazy student?

Consistently Address Your Child’s Laziness

1. Determine whether it’s laziness or procrastination. The procrastinator will—eventually—get the assignment done, but the lazy student may never do the task.

2. Supervise your child. As inconvenient as this may be, direct supervision is really the main way to deal with this behavior. So first and foremost, make your lazy student work! This may mean that you need to sit with him until he finishes each task, but stick it out and don’t give up on him!

3. Learn what motivates or helps your lazy child. For instance:

  • Does he thrive on recognition? Then don’t save all your praise for a final draft that may or may not materialize. Instead, make sure you’re giving kudos for small steps of progress along the way.
  • Does he doubt himself? A lazy student may not believe he has any strengths, writing included! So encourage a sport or hobby where he shows interest and aptitude (baking, drawing, tennis, etc.).

Understand What Profits the Lazy Child

1. Choices. The unmotivated student benefits from having choices, such as what topic to write about or whether to do his writing assignment at his desk or the kitchen table.

2. A predictable plan. This child needs to know exactly what to do each day and when assignments are due. He’ll also gain from having smaller, short-term responsibilities in which immediate success can be readily achieved.

3. Structure. To guarantee that your slothful student actually does the work, you must make sure the steps of the writing process are built into the program so there’s no escaping the responsibility. A program like WriteShop ensures that the student must, for example, brainstorm before writing, and must edit and revise before receiving a grade.

Does your child dawdle about writing? Laziness can make kids unwilling to spend time planning, writing, and revising.4. Time limits. Open-ended deadlines are not a lazy student’s privilege. Give and stick to time limits. Expect him to complete a certain amount of work in a set amount of time.

5. Meeting lesson expectations. Make sure your student understands what is required of him. He needs measurable targets, not fuzzy instructions. Specific, detailed directions are invaluable to the lazy child.

6. A certain amount of responsibility. Your student must learn to be responsible for completing assignments, following directions, and revising his work. Your job is to provide supervision, encouragement, structure, and deadlines in order to help him learn diligence.

7. Using a writing checklist. Proofreading is an important lifelong skill. Self-editing helps any student take responsibility for his progress as he learns (and takes the time) to look for his own errors. Ideally, the lazy student needs some sort of checklist as a guide to help him identify errors in content, style, and mechanics.

  • A checklist (such as the comprehensive checklists found in WriteShop I) reminds him of every element that needs his attention. As he compares his rough draft to the checklist, he can make corrections and improvements.
  • A lazy student’s tendency is to check the boxes willy-nilly with eyes glazed over. But the diligent parent will recognize this character flaw in her child and work THROUGH the writing assignment with him to develop the qualities of diligence, discipline, and initiative. Eventually, through parental perseverance, your student will learn that writing is a process—and editing and revising are as much a part of that process as the actual writing.

8. Rewards for accomplishments. Depending on your child’s age, consider using a progress chart, marble jar, or other reward system where he can earn rewards (such as going out for ice cream) or free time privileges (such as minutes to play video games or watch TV).

Not sure if laziness is the issue with your child’s writing? Laziness has a cousin in procrastination, which is Stumbling Block #7. The problems—and solutions—are similar. Next week’s tips will help both the lazy child and the procrastinator finish those writing assignments!

Share a comment: Do you have a lazy student? What, if anything, seems to motivate him or her?

2009 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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WriteShop  provides schedules, checklists, and detailed instructions that help a lazy student stay on task. Parent supervision is also a key element of the program. Train your little ones early using WriteShop Primary. For older students, choosing WriteShop I and II will help you equip and inspire successful writers!

Photos: Kieran Connellan and William Grootonk, courtesy of Creative Commons
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5 comments ↓

#1 Diane on 12.07.09 at 5:21 am

“He may also have learned that if he doesn’t do an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide.”

This is what I’m allowing to happen in our home. Overwhelmed with trying to keep everything on track and allowing independence to grow.

#2 Kim on 12.07.09 at 9:12 am

Thanks for your honesty. Staying on top of things can be hard for us moms!

#3 Isabelle aka Canadianladybug on 12.28.09 at 4:47 am

I find that your advice can also be applied to other issues of laziness and procrastination in the house.

Thanks for giving good ideas!

#4 Amy on 01.08.10 at 7:05 pm

Danger #1 in our house: Distracted Mom.
He may also have learned that if he doesn’t do an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide.
Yup. That’s me. I’ve found it very helpful to have them sit right next to me at my desk or take whatever I’m working on and sit next to them at the table. They cannot move on until they’ve finished the assignment and I’ve acknowledged or corrected it (as the case may be). This has helped a LOT.

Amy in Peru

#5 Kim on 01.08.10 at 8:32 pm

Isabelle: That’s absolutely true. Typically, when something is a character issue, it’s more widespread and harder to nip in the bud. Laziness in our kiddos requires so much diligence from us as parents, doesn’t it?

Amy: As you’ve discovered, sitting with the kids is really effective. I used to do this during our homeschooling years too. Usually I was lesson-planning or going over their papers. That way, we were all “doing school”!

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