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In their email to me, his parents call him “The Laziest Kid in America.” The child in question, a third grader, hides his clothes rather than put them away properly (in truth, hiding them probably takes more effort), would sometimes rather poop in his britches than stop what he’s doing and go to the bathroom, forgets to bring work to or from school almost daily, and is nasty to his parents when they don’t give him his way. He’s bright but his grades suffer because he doesn’t do his work.

His mother says that he would love being confined to his room with books only because then he could be lazy all day, every day. He is currently on restriction with no after-school activities but doesn’t seem to care. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this story, etcetera.

This little guy is proof of the fact that of all the species on the planet, only humans have the capacity to act deliberately in ways that are clearly contrary to their best interests. He is also a living example of another, related, aspect of human nature: proper consequences do not always produce proper behavior. Thus, the battle-cry of many a teenager: “I don’t care what you do to me!”

Obviously, these parents are not in denial concerning their son’s problems. They are not enablers. They have punished him appropriately for his irresponsibility. Under the circumstances, his stubborn laziness can be regarded as a clever form of defiance. Without being assertive, he is nonetheless asserting that no one has authority over him; that no one can tell The Almighty Him what to do. The fact that his defiance is not outwardly defiant is what makes it so “slippery” and therefore so frustrating. Most definitely, only an equally clever and slippery response will do, one that transfers frustration from parents to child. Another way of saying this: At the present time, the monkey of the problem is on the parents’ backs. This child will not learn to tame his monkey until it’s riding his back.

A home visit from my old friend “The Doctor” is in order. I advised the parents to sit down with TLKIA and tell him they had spoken to a doctor about his problems, which they have now put in list form and affixed to the door of the refrigerator. The Doctor says that his problems are all symptoms of sleep deprivation. Some children need more sleep than others, he says. Some children have a very, very difficult time getting enough sleep, he says. These sleepy children do things like poop in their pants and forget school work. The Doctor says sleep-deprived children often talk-back at their parents, back-talk being the sort of thing sleepy people do without thinking. Interestingly enough, sleep-deprived kids are usually smart kids. The better the brain works, the more sleep a person needs.

The Doctor, after careful consideration, has said that this child must go to bed every night, seven days a week, lights out, at 6:30 in the evening until everything on the list has completely disappeared for one month. During this time, he cannot watch television, use a computer, or participate in any after-school activity. So, if every symptom of sleep-deprivation disappears for three weeks and then TLKIA hides his clothes instead of putting them away, the month starts over again. The perceptive reader may correctly surmise that this could take quite some time. That’s true, but then this problem didn’t develop overnight. I sense, furthermore, that these parents are just the people for the job.

John Rosemond

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.

 

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