I have parents approach me asking how to keep their child focused when learning something new or doing school work. This is something that we all face from time to time as parents.
Children can lose their focus for a number of reasons including…
- they are not interested in the task
- they are distracted
- the task is too hard for them
- they would rather be doing something else
Below are some tips that have helped in our household. Please share your tips in the comments below.
Breaking Up the Tasks
Our brains start to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. Therefore in order to have optimal concentration, try to break tasks into 25 minutes of focused blocks of time. This is also called the Pomodoro Technique and will help your child focus on the task at hand. After 25 minutes has ended, have your child take a break. After the break, they can come back to the task for another 25 minutes.
Create More Beginnings and Endings
When reading a book, we tend to remember the beginning and ending for longer periods of time. Also, when we watch movies, it seems like the start and end of the story sticks in our brain. The proper terms for these occurrences are the primacy and recency effect. Primacy Effect is when you remember things at the beginning of the list because it happened first. The Recency Effect is when you remember the end of the list or an occurrence.
Remember we said the brain starts to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. When you combine your knowledge of the Pomodoro Technique, Primacy, and Recency Effects, it makes sense to create more beginnings and endings. You may accomplish this by taking more breaks. Your child will remember more because there are more “firsts and lasts” bits of information that will stick in their brain.
Many of us want to put ALL the blame on our children for NOT having better focus when it comes to school or learning something new. However, I think we have to look at our role in the matter as well.
For example, I wanted my son to have better focus in the morning while getting dressed for school. We were always rushing to get ready for school. The problem was I often got out of bed late causing him to rush. He is the type of child that gets the tasks done but likes to takes his time to do it.
Once I started getting up earlier in the morning, he seems to have more focus.
For the days when he needs to move a little faster, I created some games/activities to make our morning routine efficient and effective.
As far as studying, it is effective to make the information more relevant to your child and break it up into smaller tasks. We will talk about this in the next point.
Sometimes children find a task so daunting that it is difficult for them to sit for 25 minutes. This is where Shaping can help save the day. Shaping is a technique many counselors use to teach kids new behaviors. It allows you to build a desired behavior in children using small steps. Once the child has mastered a step then you move to the next one.
If it is difficult for your child to focus for 10 minutes, have them try five minutes. If they are successful next time, add one or two minutes to the next session. Keep doing this until you have reached the desired 25 minutes. Also, give your child small rewards for completing a task. It will help keep them motivated.
Have Children Take Charge of Their Learning
I remember being in school thinking to myself, “Why do I have to learn this?” Some of the information we learned as children have never been used in our adult lives. However, learning something new strengthens your brain and puts you in better mental shape to be creative and work on your passion. When your child does not see the point in what they are learning, request that they be creative and make it relevant by using the Chain Linking technique. Chain linking is a memory technique that allows your child to use their imagination and creativity to link facts to pictures and stories.
Chain linking is a great way for your child to take charge of their learning because they are creating the factual links to pictures and stories. When they create ways to remember information, they have more of connection to it. It also helps them learn information faster in a fun way.
When your child tells you a task is too hard, talk to them about the Power of Mistakes and its importance in learning.
I hope you find this helpful!