It is so frustrating when you’’ve given instructions to a child only to find them distracted with something else and your original instruction lost in la-la land.

Two of my children have been easily distracted – for different reasons. Here are some of the things that I have found helpful:

  • They need to be emotionally disconnected from what they were doing (often just moving them away from the activity will help here – giving the instruction “Come to Mummy” or me going and getting them and moving before giving an instruction helps)
  • I make sure I have eye contact before I talk
  • Hold their hands – so you are feeding their need for touch and movement (rub their hands with your fingers as you talk)
  • Get them to verbalise back the instruction (maintaining eye contact)
  • And then the last thing is keep their boundaries tight – which may mean go with them to ensure they do what they’ve been told, or watch them from a distance, and it certainly means inspect what they’ve done.

Though this takes time and is tiring we need to keep our eyes on our main goal. Is our goal to have them say, wash their hands (which, yes needs to happen) or is our goal to get them to focus and pay attention? We need to set our actions consistent with what our training goal really is.

We need to see boundaries as the thing that will help them do the right thing. When we send them off to do something, knowing that they are likely to be distracted we are setting them up for failure. If our presence helps, then that is the boundary they need to have. Which means if we’ve asked them to wash their hands, as soon as they go towards something else (toothbrush / shower curtain – whatever the distraction may be) we can redirect before they are connected with that something else – if we are close by.

A few other tools:

  • A routine helps with a lot but of course that doesn’t help with the incidentals like ‘go wash your hands’.
  • Having something to hold – like a card with a visual prompt of the instruction may help. Some people hang these prompts around their children’s necks.
  • As they get older and have a sequence of activities to remember (like chores or routine activities or school assignments) a list will help – this could be visual using clip art or words once she is reading.
  • They need to learn to be accountable – to report back or to tick off a list etc.

Each one of us – whether we are labelled ‘easily distracted’ or not have a set of coping skills which come into play whenever we are outside of our comfort zone. This is what we need to give our children – coping skills. When we have this mindset we change from being frustrated that they get distracted to being proactive in our parenting with their well-being as our motivation.

Read another post on the Distracted Child: 5 Simple Strategies to Help the Easily Distracted Child

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