Written by a guest blogger
Parenting a child is hard work. Early on there are the sleepless nights, the messes, the tantrums.... Your child is completely dependent on you and it is exhausting. You dream of the days when they can take care of themselves - dress themselves, bathe themselves, do their own homework, drive themselves where they need to be..., it sounds gloriously freeing. But along with it comes an independent person with their own identity and own ideas, one who doesn't always (ok, hardly ever) listens to your advice and begins a journey that can be extremely frustrating and mentally exhausting as a parent.
We have a philosophy in our household - "just give your best effort, we will never be disappointed if you just try your hardest." That phrase is easy to say, however, hard to implement. It just isn't possible that this child who has "so much potential" has done his best when he brings home a B-, a C, or worse. He needs to work harder, he is not doing his best, he is LAZY. Or, is there something else going on?
Anxiety? No, you say, that is not possible - my kid is happy, he isn't panic stricken, worrying about every little thing. In fact, he couldn't care less about things going on with his school work - that is not anxiety, that is being lazy. The kids who have anxiety are "super-achieving academic elite - kids who are enrolled in multiple Advanced Placement courses and volunteering at the local soup kitchen while mastering an obscure Chinese classical instrument and holding down spots on several sports teams." These "Harvard or bust" students are the ones under real pressure, the ones suffering from anxiety, not my snap chatting, xbox playing, homework forgetting child.
don't care one bit about academic pressure but that behavior is "a direct response to the stress they are experiencing." These kids aren't lazy - they are faced with pressure and demands and they are fearful that they just can't do it, and their response is the "opt-out" response. Their perfectionism and fear of failure doesn't manifest as doing everything 110% to make sure they don't fail, their coping mechanism is to do just enough not to get into too much trouble but never doing too much to put themselves out there to experience the failure they fear.
Does this sound familiar?
None of this is to say that your child doesn't have huge potential - he absolutely does. The thing is, everyone gets there on their own timetable. Your child is not destined to be less successful just because he didn't figure it all out in high school. In fact, high school is the place for a child to develop and practice new found independence. Their decisions, both good and bad, made while still under your roof helps to prepare them for when they leave for college; and even then you need to remember that "your son needn't, and really can't, be completely grown up before he leaves for college." He can and will get it and your interactions with him (whether you are a parent, counselor, advisor, or teacher) can make the journey easier or harder.
With teen anxiety rising to epidemic levels we need to recognize and help teens who manifest anxiety in all ways, and that may be by changing your view of what anxiety really looks like.
"Too much emphasis on 'potential,' on a life yet to be fulfilled, keeps us - and our kids - from living and enjoying the lives we actually have. Perhaps, when it comes to our children, the only potential we should be concerned about is the potential to grow and mature."
He's Not Lazy was written by Dr. Adam Price, a clinical psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents and their families for more than 25 years. Find out more about this book HERE
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