The Myth of Laziness
How many times have you heard a teacher say that your child has tremendous potential "if only he'd just apply himself" or "if only she'd work just a little harder"? How often have you said the same thing to your son or daughter? Or perhaps you have a coworker who can't seem to finish anything; his reports are never in on time, or her projects are always behind schedule. No matter what excuses you hear, you suspect that laziness is the real reason for your colleague's low productivity.
Almost no one is actually lazy, says Dr. Mel Levine, author of the #1 national bestseller A Mind at a Time. Low productivity -- whether in school or on the job -- is almost always caused by a genuine problem, a neuro-developmental dysfunction. Despite this, untold numbers of people have been stigmatized by unfair accusations of laziness, many of them adults who still carry emotional scars from their school days.
In The Myth of Laziness Dr. Levine shows how we can spot the neurodevelopmental dysfunctions that may cause "output failure," as he calls it, whether in school or in the workplace. Dr. Levine identifies seven forms of dysfunction that obstruct output. Drawing on his years of clinical experience he describes eight people -- children, adolescents, and adults -- he has worked with who exhibited one or another of these problems. He shows how identifying the problem can make all the difference, leading to a course of corrective action rather than to accusations of laziness and moral failure. For example, a child who is unable to plan or to think ahead, who cannot consider different methods of accomplishing something or has difficulty making choices may wait until it is too late to complete an assignment or may act impulsively, creating a pattern of bad judgments and careless errors. Dr. Levine explains how such a child can be helped to learn how to plan ahead and weigh various alternatives. This sort of problem, if untreated, can persist into adulthood, where it can wreak far more havoc than in the classroom.
The Myth of Laziness explains the significance of writing as a key barometer of productivity during the school years. Because writing brings together so many neurodevelopmental functions -- such as memory, motor control, organization, and verbalization of ideas -- it can provide crucial clues to pinpoint the sources of output failure.
With its practical advice and its compassionate tone, The Myth of Laziness shows parents how to nurture their children's strengths and improve their classroom productivity. Most important, it shows how correcting these problems in childhood will help children live a fulfilling and productive adult life.
Pediatrician Levine, a developmental-behavioral expert, offers theories on why it's so hard for some teenagers even bright ones to succeed in school. "Often these individuals absorb and process information well; they learn but they don't produce," he says, adding, "people say glibly that they are not 'living up to their potential.' " Levine prefers the term "output failure" over "laziness." In a series of case studies, he discusses the biological, neurological and psychological factors that may be responsible for "output failure." He focuses on kids challenged by oral and written communication; he believes parents and educators must pay attention to different learning styles rather than simply label a child as lazy. Even fidgeting, according to Levine, may be a plus: "Isn't it odd that kids get criticized for being fidgety when they should be commended for implementing a strategy that significantly elevates their attention?" Despite the thought-provoking theories and discussions of problems such as impairment in the generation of ideas and memory difficulties, only the final chapter, "Cultivating and Restoring Output," offers a broad range of strategies that can be used to remedy such troubles. Still, the advice e.g., create a home office for kids, document time spent and level of output, adjust expectations is on target and should help struggling parents.