Do you sometimes feel that when it comes to getting your child to do homework, you wished you could close all doors and windows and make a room small and still enough for your child to sit still, focus and get all of his or her homework done without being distracted? Have you been getting complaints from your child’s teacher about his or her inability to pay attention in class?
This is quite a common scenario in every household; no matter the age of your child, children from the age of preschool level to university level have trouble focusing. With the added distractions of modern technolgy, even adults complain of getting distracted easily.
So how do you get your child to focus long enough for him or her to complete their schoolwork? Here are some things you can do to help your child focus better.
#1. Time and Location
While sitting on a bed may be a comfortable place to do homework, you will most definitely find your child asleep in the next few minutes. Same goes for homework in front of the TV. Sitting in a distracting place will not help a child pay attention to the task at hand. Create a conducive environment, away from distractions for your child to work or study. Studies have shown that having a clutter free work space with a comfortable chair and good lighting helps children focus better. For young children especially, make sure that the amount of time he or she spends doing homework, extra work or study is realistic. Expecting a 6 year old to sit and do Math problems for an hour is pushing it a bit too much. Make study time little pockets of time. Let your child achieve a task in 20 minutes and then have a five to ten minute break. This way, you will have fewer complaints from your child and at the same time get him or her to complete what needs to be done.
#2. One Task at a Time
A child is not yet able to multi task like some adults do. When you expect your child to face multiple tasks, he or she will tend to shut down even before getting started. Kids are not able to manage their executive functions when faced with a row of things to do, all at the same time. Instead of giving your child a list of things to be done, try working with him or her on a task at one time. For example, instead of asking your preschool child to complete the tracing of A to F, get him or her to finish A first before going on to B and C. This way, your child’s brain absorbs one thing at a time and retains it better too.
#3. Rewards and Recognition
Everyone needs motivation. Adults find better bonus makes them work harder at work. A better commission makes us push for more sales. Kids too, need constant motivation. For younger children of preschool age, setting up a rewards chart almost always work wonders. Include plenty of details in the reward system. Every time your child completes homework within a stipulated time, he or she should be able to add a sticker to the chart. You can add on things like meal times, extra activity time, bed time and anything else that require your child to focus for a certain period of time. Be careful not to forget the rewards though, as children can get very upset if they don’t get anything after doing so much! I usually tell my kids that each sticker is worth 50 cents or a dollar, and when they collect a minimum of 20 stickers, they can redeem them for money and treat themselves to whatever they like. Try to encourage them from a young age to spend a percentage of their rewards on the less fortunate. You get to kill two birds with one stone this way; teaching your child empathy from a young age in this way goes a long way in creating the personality of a child.
#4. Be Patient
It cannot be easy accomplishing a task when you are dealing with a fidgety and distracted child. Your patience level will be tested, sometimes in ways you can't imagine. However, if you allow yourself to lose your temper easily, your child will be even more distracted. He or she may think it is alright for them to get angry too. Yelling or worse still, spanking your child will not get you anywhere. Gather all the patience you have, try to look for creative ways to make your child interested in doing his or her work and study and above all, breathe. There will be times when you feel like blowing your top off, but this wouldn't work, for the more you're angry, the more your child will shut you out, or worse, hates studying.
It's important to remember that children who struggle with their attention span don’t usually do it on purpose. They need help, so give them your full support, attention, encouragement, but never your impatience.