A child who gets distracted is very frustrating! We set them a task and give plenty of time to complete it and yet they find a myriad of other things to do in that time.
Many of the difficulties we have as children will stick with us for life – we just learn strategies to overcome. As parents we need to give our children these strategies, these tools, to help them now and for the rest of their life. If our children are easily distracted, what external structure will help?
Here are the tools that have helped my kids stay on track.
1– A routine
Having set times (roughly speaking) where certain activities are expected helps a child to grow in self-governance. Whether you are directed by a clock or by a sequence of events if the child knows this sequence they can use it to help them stay on track, they know what is happening in their day. They know when food is expected, they know when they are to study, to play, and to relax.
2– A timer
I love timers! Each of my children has a timer and they are expected to use it as they learn self-discipline in any new area. They are allowed half an hour on the computer a day (free and fun time), they use the timer so they don’t abuse this privilege. They use a timer to pace themselves through their day; their piano practice, their reading time, to remind them to do a chore, etc. Another reason I like timers is that they make a noise that penetrates my world and I can use their timer to help me check in on them and encourage them to stay on track.
3– A diary or to-do list
I believe in teaching my children to be accountable to a to-do list. It sits there as their external reminder of the things they need to do. If the list remains constant some of the daily practices become internal habits but it is okay to be reminded of what needs to be done. We have lists for morning responsibilities (personal devotions, chores, exercise), independent work (which varies for each child but encompasses the things that need daily drill – music, math, writing, reading)
4– Check points
While our children are learning the skill of self-motivation we need to be their external-motivation. Creating check-in points in our daily schedule where we follow them up, see how they are doing, keep them on track and possibly even enforce consequences. I also teach my children to report back when they have completed their one task, be that a household chore or school work. I become used to expecting them, and if they don’t show up I know they’ve been distracted. We must understand that if our child doesn’t have a skill, we need to do that for them. So if they don’t have focus; we must create an environment where they can focus. They don’t have thoroughness; we must create an environment where they can be thorough.
5– Removing privileges
With responsibility comes privilege and the converse is true. Without responsibility, there is no privilege. The trick is that we don’t see the privileges our children have because it is all just our life. Privileges are the things that aren’t absolutely necessary to their well-being, e.g. Privileges are free play time, computer time, afternoon tea, visiting friends, playing sport…. Privileges will be different in each home, but think this through – what is really a privilege and what is the core basis of your child’s life? When we make a distinction the privileges can be used as rewards for a job well done. This is true to real life – I know that I can’t sit and scrapbook until my responsibilities are taken care of.
Giving Instructions to the Easily Distracted Child: Instead of being frustrated with the easily distracted child take the time to teach them to focus.
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