How to Help High Energy Kids Focus
Kids are doing a lot of multitasking these days—from surfing the Web to texting, instant messaging and listening to their iPods®—constant distractions compete for their attention. With so many potential interruptions, it can be difficult for children to stop and focus on the task at hand. Yet, helping children develop self-discipline, effective focus strategies and concentration skills at an early age is a basis for long-term success in high school, college and the professional working world. Here are some practical and manageable tips parents can use to help their children focus, complete their homework and ultimately succeed.
Here are some ways to help your child stay focused:
Get the energy out first
Moving the body motivates the brain. Try having your child walk or bike to school, play outside after school, do chores around the house, or play on a sports team. Make sure your child has had a chance to run, walk, or jump around before sitting down to homework.
Turn off screens and cell phones
Before your kid tackles homework or does anything that takes concentration, turn off the television. Or if others are watching it, make sure your child is far enough away that he can’t be distracted by it. Also, shut down or move him away from the computer, and if your child has a cell phone, make sure that’s off too.
Make a to-do list
Having a lot of chores and homework assignments can be overwhelming for kids. Help your child focus on getting things done by making a list — together — of everything he needs to do for the day or week. Then let him cross off each task as he finishes it.
Try to avoid conversations when your child is working. To cut out distracting talk altogether, you and your child can even come up with a few basic signals. For example, when you point to his work, that means he needs to go back to what he was doing. Or when you raise your hand, that means he should stop what he’s doing and get to work. For some kids, it helps to just lay a hand on their shoulder to bring them back into focus.
During homework time, make sure your child takes a few breaks. After working for 10 or 20 minutes (depending on his age), have him get up and move around, get a drink, and then go back to work. But don’t let him get involved in something else during the break. Just make that time a relaxing few minutes.
Set Expectations Early
Explain to your child that just as you have many important responsibilities (at home, at work, in your community, etc.), learning is their most important “job” right now. The earlier you set your expectations and establish a routine for learning, homework and studying, the easier it will be to maintain. Make it a family practice: Allow older children to set an example for younger children—include younger children in homework and study hour by having them quietly color, look at books or do some other learning activity during this time.
Establish Rules for Homework Time
There is nothing more distracting than a knock on the door and an invitation to play when it’s homework time. Require that your child’s homework and studying be completed (neatly and correctly) before going out to play. This can be hard in the summer, when other children are off from school at different times. As seasons and activities change throughout the year, be flexible and adapt to changing schedules.
Rewards can be controversial because they can easily become brides. But the fact is, we respond to positive reinforcement. If you think a positive reward system will work for your child, avoid money, material or food rewards. Instead, negotiate the rewards based on spending quality time together. Ask your child to think of things they would like to do with you, and then make that a monthly goal.
Learn What Style Works
Children have different ways of learning and processing information. Make it an effort to find out what style works best for them. Some children may work better if they are able to walk around and think out loud. Some children do better lying on the floor with their material spread out around them. As long as they are making good progress, be flexible with what works for them.
Work with Teachers and Instructors
Partner with teachers, instructors, therapists and tutors for advice and support. They may have insights, observations, and suggestions you haven’t considered. Be open to trying new ideas. Work together to establish short and long term manageable goals, expectations for improvement, and progress.
Being able to focus, concentrate, and maintain good study habits are life skills that will set your child up for success in all aspects of their lives-from the baseball field to the stage. It’s not just about completing assignments, it’s about establishing discipline and perseverance that will give them the ability and self-confidence to pursue goals, manage set-backs and know what it takes to achieve.