Is your child easily distracted? Does homework that should take 45 minutes end up consuming two hours? If so, you are probably a frustrated parent. Chances are you have learned that punishing inattentive behavior doesn’t work. The question is: What works? Here are some ideas that might do the trick for you.
Set Up the Correct Type of Study Space
Most inattentive students need a fairly quiet place to study, but a small group of these students thrive on the hum of a busy area. To determine the type of space your child needs, you’ll need to do some detective work. For two days, have your child do his homework in a well-traveled area and then switch to a quieter area for the next two days. If you determine your child does better in a quiet place, find a couple of areas free from household action, but close enough to monitor his activity. Interestingly, kids retain more information when they vary the place in which they study. Alternating locations every day or few days is a good idea.
Don’t Fear the Floor
For some students, sitting at a traditional desk isn’t productive; however, there are other options. One is an exercise ball chair, which is a sturdy exercise ball in a steel frame with a comfortable back rest. Another option is a lap desk – a mini-desk that lies across your child’s lap. With a lap desk, the student can sit on the couch or another chair more comfortably. Some children actually perform better doing their homework standing up. Still others need to stand, pace, or even lay on the floor; therefore, don’t fear the floor!
Make a Mountain a Molehill
Depending on the age of your child, he may only be able to focus well for 20 minutes at a time. Often, the time you spend refocusing his efforts after 20 minutes may be better spent giving him a break so he can recharge and begin again. This can be done in two ways – by task or time.
- By task – Fold a worksheet in half. Instruct your child to do the top half, show it to you, and then finish the second half. Allow him to choose the problems or questions he wants to do first. When he’s done with half of them, go on to the rest.
- By length of time – Set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Tell your child, “Work as hard as you can for this time. When the timer goes off, you can daydream or play for 5 minutes.” Another option is to set the timer for a length of time for which you absolutely know he’ll be successful. When he succeeds, lengthen the span by a minute.
Let Her Fidget
Various studies have shown that distractible students can actually attend better when they are given something to hold or touch. A few good options are the Tangle Junior, Wikki Stix, or even a simple stress ball. By simply manipulating these toys in their hands, many students are better able to focus.
Insist On Exercise – The Miracle Drug
Aerobic exercise almost immediately elevates the chemicals in the brain that increase attention and focus. These chemicals act a bit like Ritalin or other medications used to treat ADHD. With frequent aerobic exercise, a distractible student can improve his ability to learn, so be sure to encourage your child to get out and exercise regularly.
Nag No More
If you feel like the only way your child can focus and finish is with your constant reminders, try a different method. Ask your child how many reminders she’ll need to finish an assignment. If she says she’ll need two reminders, then stick to that number. When she’s off track, state that you are giving a warning and then walk away. At any point when you see that she’s doing the right thing, praise her diligence. By giving warnings and positively reinforcing on task behavior, constant reminders will be gone for good.
Keep a Homework Log
When children continually struggle to do the work, it may simply be too difficult and the teacher may be unaware that it is so problematic. He or she only sees the final, corrected product, not the inordinate amount of effort behind it. For at least one week, jot down the date and length of homework. Meet with the teacher and share the information you’ve recorded. Ask for suggestions to help your child accomplish homework tasks. Remember, students should be spending about 10 minutes per grade level on homework per night.
Try using a few of these strategies and see what works with your child. Odds are that he or she will be focusing and completing work in no time at all!