Somewhere along the line, we’ve come to associate slouching with being inattentive. That’s why we often hear adults telling kids, “Sit up, and pay attention!”
Yet, I know many kids who actually pay less attention when made to sit up straight.
How can that be?
Well, some kids have retained primitive reflexes. In such case, sitting upright in a chair isn’t as automatic as it should be.
For example, a child with a retained Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex will experience difficulty doing movement that goes against the pull of gravity. So these kids can only sit upright for a very short period of time before being “pulled down” (i.e. gravity wins).
This then explains why such kids sink lower and lower into their chair, or they sprawl across the desk when reading and writing. At least, in these positions, they can start to concentrate on the task as hand (they’re no longer distracted by fighting gravity) . . . that is, until they’re, once again, told to sit up straight.
Some teachers mistakenly think the child who always puts his head on the desk while writing is not going to bed at an appropriate time. She may even call the parent about this.
If the parent does not also understand the connection between retained primitive reflexes and difficulty sitting upright in a chair, she may now put her child to bed earlier (even though she’s a little miffed about the call because her child does go to bed at a decent hour).
Yet that mom can put her child to bed at noon or earlier—and he’s still going to go down, down, down when sitting in a chair. He’s wired to do so.
But now, the teacher may think the parent is ignoring her bedtime concern or lying about his real bedtime. After all, the child is still always sprawled over the desk. Since the mother is putting the child to bed earlier, she may start to think the teacher is just out to get her son. And all the while, no one understands the real reason the child slouches.
We’ve actually all experienced fighting gravity while sitting up. Think when we’ve had a bad flu. Suddenly, trying to sit up (let alone straight) is very cumbersome. We’d much rather be lying down, right? Imagine, then, how difficult this is for kids with primitive reflexes, who have to deal with this all the time.
So, maybe the next time we see a child slouching . . . we let it be.