We talk a lot in these blogs about helping your kid achieve their potential, maximizing their social development, improving work ethic, and so much more. But today we are going to look at the championship habit that will help facilitate all those changes: focus.
It is tough to focus. Some of us seem to be innately good at it, while some of us are terrible. Some of us can do it in complete silence, but some of us need music on in the background. The best way to get your attention focused on something is different for everyone, but it can be even harder for kids.
Your children are growing, learning, absorbing everything they can from around them, while having more energy than many adults combined. I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be for a child or a teenager to focus, but here are five tips that I’ve successfully used to get kids to focus on a task.
1. Understand what they can and can’t do.
Like I said, everyone is different. No two people can focus on the same thing, for the same length, in the same circumstance. Start by understanding how long your child can focus for and what distracts them.
Also figure out when they have the most energy during the day. Odds are, it is in the morning and during the evening after dinner. Capitalize on this time and focus that energy on the tasks that need their attention. Asking them to focus immediately after they get home from school or sports might be too much for them.
Understand how they learn best, too. If your child needs to study for a big test coming up, but they are an auditory learner, find a video for them to listen to or read their material out loud with them. If they are visual, let them read or watch the videos. If they are more off a hands-on learner, ask them to apply their knowledge into creating or drawing something.
2. Plan it out
Just like most things in life, you shouldn’t try to improve how your child focuses without a plan. In my experience, children aren’t great at making plans, but they benefit immensely from following one.
Start by setting aside a time and place each day that will help them focus. Whether that be at the kitchen table, in their room at a desk, or on the floor while you do your work, start establishing a routine of when and where focusing will be easiest.
Don’t let your child multitask. You might think you are great at multitasking and think your child should be able to do it too, but you are wrong on both counts. Multitasking might feel more productive than focusing on a single task, but it quickly leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and lesser-quality work. Your child’s focus will improve if they have only one task to worry about.
If your child is faced with a big task—maybe a big project at school—then break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Make a checklist of what needs to be done and a plan for when it has to be completed. Focus on one item on that list at a time, then look at the happiness on their face when they check each box off.
One thing to note: your child will get distracted. No matter how great they are at focusing, distractions are inevitable. Factor that in when you are setting aside time for them to focus on a project or task.
3. Don’t set unrealistic expectations
Focusing is not easy and trying to improve your focus is even more difficult. Don’t think that this is something that will happen over a few days or a week. Building focus is a championship habit that you should never stop working on.
Make sure you let your kid take breaks when they need it and be proactive in suggesting them as you see them become unfocused. Breaks boost energy, so a 15-minute break followed by 15 minutes of work will likely produce better work and focus than 30 minutes of straight work—if they are feeling tired.
Make sure to keep your eye out for signs of them being overwhelmed. Offer your assistance if you see this or consider calling it for the evening. If your child starts to feel overwhelmed every time they have to focus on something, they won’t want to sit down and do work ever again!
4. Get rid of distractions
Focusing is hard enough, so don’t make I harder by keeping distractions around. Once you determine a place for your kid to really focus, make sure it is clear of distractions. Their workspace should be away from the TV and shouldn’t be too loud with music or discussion—though some music might help. Keep it uncluttered so the only thing they are looking at or reaching for are the things they need to do their work.
Don’t let electronics into their workspace either, unless needed for the work itself. Ask them to keep their phones in their room or with you. They can look at it during their break, but it is a constant distraction. If they have to use a tablet, Chromebook, or laptop, see what parental controls you can put on there to limit what they have access to when they should be focusing.
Electronics won’t ruin your child’s concentration. In fact, for some learners it might be exactly what they need. Just be mindful that it and other distractions are used appropriately when they should be concentrating.
5. Be mindful of how YOU affect them
Sometimes the factor most affecting your kid’s concentration is you. As a parent, you might think you are doing what’s best for your kid, but sometimes you are hindering more than you are helping. Keep these things in mind when helping your child focus:
- Be understanding of their particular situation
- Be calm, no matter how many times you repeat yourself or they become unfocused
- Find the root of the problems as they arise—what don’t they understand, why do they dislike a certain topic, etc.
- Be proactive in observing and helping them
- Help, but never enable your child
There is something that needs to be said about your child and focus. If your child has extreme difficulty focusing, there is a chance that they have ADD or ADHD. Do not think that these are conditions you can diagnose yourself. If you think your child might have ADD or ADHD, talk to their teachers, a doctor, or any specialists you might have access to. These conditions are commonly misdiagnosed by parents and this has led to a stigma against those who genuinely do suffer from them. Always seek professional advice when diagnosing your child.
The championship habit of focusing is a lifelong journey, but one that will allow your child to reap rewards from it for years to come. Help them train their focus with the above tips and just see how their focus improves.