HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

Is My Child Just Lazy?

By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator


How do I get my third-grader to want to do more than just "average" work? Whenever I ask him to do his best, his consistent response is, "I don't care if I am the best or at the top. I just want to be in the middle."

He always compares himself to the slowest students in the class saying: "Well, I write better than ___." Is this just a laziness problem?


I think it is important to emphasize with children of all ages that their goals (and yours for them) should be to do their personal best. Try to eliminate the comparison of your son to the other students in the class. Ask him if he thinks that he did his very best on a test, or if this particular work is an example of his best product. Encourage him to make his weekly/monthly goals to improve, little by little, on his past performance. He can increase the speed of his math facts or make his written work neater. Choose a tangible and measurable goal that will enable him to improve each week.

Then be sure to reward the positive with lots of verbal praise. Tell him how proud you are of his achievements. Once he feels the intrinsic rewards of success, he's more likely to be motivated to want to do better and to challenge himself. Again, I think the important concept here is not that he should try to be "the best," but that he should try to do "his best."

Allison Gardenswartz is the founder of a San Diego tutoring center specializing in gifted and remedial learning and test preparation studies. An educator for over 15 years, Allison is an expert in identifying and enhancing the learning abilities of school-age children. Allison now fully devotes her time to parent education, consulting and college counseling. Allison has a teaching credential and has taught for several years in various public school systems. She has three children: Jacob, 11, Sofia, 7, and newly adopted Ryan, who is 3.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"Just want to provide a helpful tip. My 9 yr old daughter and I played the Spongebob Life game recently. I took the college route and she took the shortest route to get over the bridge. When it came time to select a job, I got to choose a higher paying salary due to my college level. She wasn't not very happy that she had to take a lesser salary. I used that as an opportunity to talk about her school lessens and how they will help her as she progresses through to college and will have a significant impact on her salary choices afterward. Now, she always takes the college route! "
"My son is a third grader and behaves much the same way as the one described here. I think such a child does not like to be compared with others but, rather, wants to set his/her own goals. It must have something to do with his/her strong drive for independence or control. Your tips are a good reminder to me. Thanks!"