Laziness: Fact or Fiction?

  • Written by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed.

“Idleness, indifference, irresponsibility are healthy responses to absurd work.”

—Frederick Herzberg

“Marjorie is lazy.  That’s all. You need to push her to get things done,” said Ms. Busch.

We were in a parent/teacher conference and I felt uncomfortable with the word “lazy” as a descriptor for five-year-old Marjorie.  Lazy seemed derogatory.

Marjorie’s teacher, Ms. Busch, had 25 years of experience to my five.  Marjorie’s parents nodded their heads and didn’t seem upset that they had a lazy child.  To me, the word “lazy” felt like a splinter under my fingernail. Lazy didn’t belong in a sentence about a five-year-old girl. I wanted to banish the word with its perception of character.

After the conference, I visited with Ms. Busch about her use of the term. As an observer in her classroom of three to five-year-olds, my questions were directed toward understanding classroom dynamics.

“When you use the word ‘lazy’ what do you mean?” I asked Ms. Busch.

“Lazy is someone who can do the work, but won’t.  They would rather visit with their friends, watch the clock, play outside, go to the bathroom 10 times a day, wander around the room, whatever, to get out of doing what they should be doing,” Ms. Busch said.

“What specific behaviors do you see in Marjorie that make you think she is lazy?” I asked.

“Marjorie,” Ms. Busch said with a gentle grin, “loves to talk. She gets some work out and looks busy, but she’s talking to her neighbors at the table. She never completes a task. When it’s clean up time, she heads straight to the bathroom and emerges when it’s time to go outside.  She cries and whines if I try to get her to complete a task.  Marjorie can do the work, but she won’t.  She is lazy.”

“Would you mind if I observed Marjorie for a couple of days and kept notes?” I asked.

Ms. Busch was right.  Marjorie talked all the time and seemed skilled at avoiding any kind of meaningful task that was age appropriate. Marjorie did spend time with the three year olds, showing them how to do puzzles, sweeping and dusting.  Marjorie “bossed” the four and five year olds around. She was busy all day long in everybody else’s business and avoided her own.

Observing children at work gives us insight into their character, their interests and possible obstacles to their development. After observing Marjorie for a day, I didn’t believe she was lazy. I saw Marjorie avoiding work that involved writing or lining up materials, such as math materials for counting or moveable letters for spelling, activities in which other five year olds were actively engaged. Marjorie’s choices for work were appropriate for three and four year olds.  Visiting with her neighbors covered up Marjorie’s careful watching of their actions.

By observing Marjorie, I saw her difficulty with fine motor tasks such as using a pencil and scissors or picking up small materials, such as single beads or puzzle pieces. She had difficulty cutting a straight line and putting objects back in order.  Marjorie’s “bossing” of four-year-olds was her translating into spoken language certain knowledge, such as numbers to one thousand.

Marjorie was hitting obstacles and had weak fine motor skills.  She needed to process information out loud to form clear long-term memories.  To overcome these difficulties and compensate for lack of skills, Marjorie talked, did “baby” work and avoided work with small materials.

After discussing my findings with Ms. Busch, we brainstormed for lessons for Marjorie that would assure her success by using larger materials, by building her fine motor control and by allowing for verbal processing.

Ms. Busch told me: ‘It’s like we were taught. It is the adult’s job to remove obstacles for the child.  I was focused on Marjorie’s being stuck on an obstacle instead of trying to figure out what that obstacle was and removing it.  Laziness is a sign that a child’s between a rock and a hard spot.”

How to help your child love food

  • Written by Dara Schmeck, MS, CCC-SLP, Bothell Pediatric and Hand Therapy
The USDA has established guidelines for healthful eating patterns, with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.  However, many picky eaters tend to refuse these foods, leading to mealtime battles.  Here are some things you can do to help your child learn how to enjoy a broad variety of foods:

Offer a variety of foods at each meal and snack.  Be sure a starch, protein, and fruit or vegetable is present at every meal.  Teach your children about those foods, talking about taste, texture, and smell.  Keep your language positive or neutral, and avoid any negative words (e.g., slimy, stinky).  Model how to eat those foods, and what happens to them as you chew.  Encourage any interaction with new foods; sometimes poking a new food can be a victory.

Establish a mealtime routine.  Include a verbal warning prior to the meal, set-up (e.g., washing hands), and clean-up (e.g., clearing plates from the table).  When a child knows what to expect at the meal, they are better prepared to handle the challenge of a new food.

Eliminate distractions.  Turn off the TV, remove toys from the table, and focus on the food.  The table is your classroom to teach about food and eating patterns; help your child focus by removing attention-stealers.

Schedule meals and snacks.  Children should eat approximately every 2.5 hours, resulting in 5 meals/snacks each day.  Their stomachs are too small to hold enough calories for the day with only 3 meals.  As well, the body’s natural hunger cycle occurs about every 2.5 hours.  Take advantage of naturally hungry times to offer more healthful foods.

Eliminate snacking or grazing between meals.  When your child is snacking between meals, they will not be hungry at meals or snacks when you are offering healthier food choices.  This makes it easier for them to refuse those foods.  Juice or other flavored drinks can also reduce appetite.  Offer only water between meals and snacks.

Engage your child in mealtime preparation.  Let them come grocery shopping and help you cook.  Empower them by letting them choose and prepare that dinner’s vegetable - they may decide to try it!

Get messy.  Playing with food is a normal part of the developmental process in learning to eat foods.  Use food as your materials for art projects or even as face paint.  The more exposure a child has to a food, the more familiar it becomes, and the more likely they may be to decide to try a new food.

You are the most important factor in your child’s relationship with food.  Model healthful eating patterns yourself; your child will learn by your example.  Be patient - eating habits do not change overnight. If you continue to struggle with your child at mealtimes, our Food Explorers feeding therapy program is designed to promote positive interactions with food and decrease resistance to touching, tasting, and swallowing food.

PACE: Outdoor Education

  • Written by Woodmoor PACE
Photo by Maltby Photography.
Approximately 144 excited kids arrived early Friday morning at Saint Edward Park in Bothell to experience what life has to offer in an outdoor classroom.   Kids who usually spend their days in a traditional indoor classroom were able to experience learning in the beautiful natural setting.

The Woodmoor Elementary PACE Program (Parents Active in Cooperative Education) offers many unique learning opportunities.  For Outdoor Education Day, kids were given the chance to learn how to create their own box oven and enjoy the tasty pizzas they cooked with adult supervision.

The Sarvey Wildlife Center brought owls, falcons, hawks and other birds. There was a woodworking station, a live bat station and a geology table.

The Seattle Science Center allowed the kids to learn about rocks created by volcanoes and observe a model volcano in action.

Tours were guided on the trail to allow children to learn about the watershed.The Eastside Audubon Society was also there to give the kids an introduction to birds.

When there was down time during lunch, PACE parent Eric Stray was on hand with a sound system, allowing any child who was interested to dance in the grass.

Kids of all ages came to celebrate a day they will not soon forget — one filled with learning and surrounded by their peers.

Outdoor Education Day Coordinators Heather Stanley and Shannon Cortinas, along with many other parent volunteers, worked countless hours to bring this fantastic event to fruition.  Was it worth it?

Just ask the kids who are still proudly wearing their PACE wristbands and talking about the adventures of that day and probably will do so for years to come.

The Woodmoor PACE Program is a choice program offered through the Northshore School District.  Placement is by blind lottery, open to children ingrades 1-6 (space permitting).

PACE is committed to an enriched learning environment, emphasizing active participation of parents, innovative teaching techniques, and creating a partnership of teachers, parents and students.  PACE at Woodmoor Feeder schools include: Canyon Creek, Fernwood, Maywood, Moorlands and Woodmoor Elementary schools.

PACE at Woodmoor is hosting an information evening on Tuesday, October 18, at 7 p.m.

For additional information, call (206) 861-5692 and visit the website at

Choral Conductor Rodney Eichenberger visits The Bear Creek School & The Overlake School

  • Written by Sini Fernandez and Natalie Higashiyama of The Bear Creek School
Courtesy photo.
The Upper School Choir at Bear Creek spent Thursday morning, October 6 working with a master. Choral director Rodney Eichenberger is a legend in choral circles, having taught for over 50 years throughout the United States at three Universities and as a frequent guest artist at seminars and workshops on choral conducting. Mr. Eichenberger brought his passion and energy to Bear Creek as he worked closely with Judy Loudenback, Upper School choir director and the choir on the music from Handel’s Messiah, Susan Brumfeld’s No Time, and Henry Davies’ God Be in my Head.

Eichenberger demonstrated how movement can improve pitch, tone and rhythm. He instructed the singers to hold their hands open, as if holding a ball, and lift them up on Brumfeld’s line, “Rise, O Fathers, Rise.” Throughout the morning, students learned to hear and change pitch more accurately through a simple finger gesture, pointing upward while singing a note instead of pointing downward.

In unrehearsed, spontaneous demonstrations, singers internalized musical concepts aurally, visually, and kinesthetically. During a line from Handel’s For Unto Us a Child Is Born, he remarked, “Don’t be vague when you sing that part.” By listening to each section of the choir individually and then changing the individual order, spacing and number of rows, conductor Eichenberger improved the entire production and vocal tone of the choir. Among his memorable pieces of advice, “Never sing the same word the same way.”

Eichenberger’s philosophy that musicality is enhanced through movement extended to Judy Loudenback, Bear Creek Upper School choir director. He encouraged her to move with “purpose or intention” while conducting. Loudenback especially appreciated that “Rod was able to take music to a deeper level. He is a master at understanding the small nuances of choral music and helping students understand how to bring their music to the next level.” Choral students remarked throughout the day how Eichenberger made them sound so incredible in such a short time.

Attention Deficit to Attention Abundance

  • Written by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed.

Nine million prescriptions were written last year in the United States for school- aged children for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). In 1975 roughly 150,000 children were taking Ritalin. In 2003, the latest figures available, about 6 million American children took Ritalin.

Drugging children to get them to behave seems to be the trend. What we have learned in the past 10 years with information from FMRI’s (functional magnetic resonance imaging) of children’s brains is how rapidly the brain is changing and developing.  Neurologists call this brain development  “brain plasticity.”

Children are learning how to concentrate and neural pathways are being created in the brain structure for concentration. We need to ask: Are we using drugs to change behavior or our children’s brains? Surely there is a better way.

A study using FMRI’S on monks’ brains showed that during meditation the monks’ brains changed dramatically, suggesting that mental training changes the structure of the brain.

Dr. David Stein, author of Ritalin is Not the Answer and father of two sons diagnosed with ADHD, says that our children have learned to be inattentive instead of learning to pay attention. Children with ADHD haven’t been shown how or when to pay attention. Stein lists these behaviors that parents and teachers associated with ADHD:

Active Manipulations: Not doing as told (non-compliance), defying commands (oppositionalism) and temper tantrums.

Verbal Manipulations: Poor-me statements, negative statements, nagging, interrupting, physical complaints (saying they are ill or hurt when in fact they are not).

Inattention Behaviors: Not paying attention, helplessness and dependency, dawdling, poor reading skills, poor school performance.

Other Common Misbehaviors: Tattling, fighting with siblings, aggression, lying.

With his caregivers skills program, Stein recommends visiting with the child and going over this list, saying something like:  “My job is to help you learn how to pay attention. Here are some behaviors that show me you are not paying attention.  When I see you doing one of these things, I’m going to ask you to go to a chair and sit for 10 minutes.  Then I will come and ask you why I sent you to the chair.  If you can’t tell me, I’ll ask you sit for another 10 minutes or until you can tell me.”

“The chair” is a place where the child is safe and comfortable (Stein recommends an upholstered chair), but cannot see, hear or do anything distracting — no TV, radio, music. No window to gaze out of. No books or toys.  And no talking.  Just the chair, the child and his or her thoughts for 10 minutes.

An example:  We’ve asked Tommy to get his pajamas on.  He makes no effort to do so.  We give no second reminders.  We simply say, “Tommy, please go to the chair.”

Tommy starts to cry. “But Mommy, what did I do?  I don’t want to go to the chair.”

Kindly and silently, we walk Tommy to the chair, then say, ‘Ten minutes.”

If Tommy talks or gets out of the chair, we add another 10 minutes to his chair time for each infraction.

After 10 minutes, we return to the chair and ask, “Why did I send you to the chair?”

Tommy should say something like this: “Because you asked me to get my pajamas on and I didn’t turn off the TV and I started watching another show.”

If Tommy says, “I don’t know,” we kindly say, “Ten more minutes.”

I have used Dr. Stein’s program successfully with five to nine year olds. My experience is that a child will do a 20- or 30-minute session in the chair only once. For children under age five, five minutes instead of 10 may be appropriate.

Dr. Stein’s technique trains a child to think and pay attention. Those 10 minutes in the chair are spent creating mental pathways for concentration. With Dr. Stein’s program, as the adults in charge, we can unemotionally direct the child to appropriate behavior.  No raising our voice.  No saying, “How many times do I have to tell you?”  We make requests once.

Dr. Stein makes recommendations for situations requiring stronger measures.  If a child continues to be disruptive, consult a pediatrician or family counselor for guidance in establishing effective training techniques.

Let’s teach our children to pay attention, instead of paying for drugs.  Let’s use brain plasticity to help our children learn to attend and to “be here now.”

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit  Copyright 2011.