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School Problems:
“My 10 year old cannot seem to focus.”

Dear Annie,

My 10 year old son gets distracted very easily and forgets what he supposed to do.
  1. After he comes back from school we ask him to change and come downstairs, and he forgets why he went upstairs.
  2. In school his teacher said he is very distracted and does not sit still. He walks from his desk for no reason.
He is getting good grades in school. He is a very good kid. If a thing interests him he can do such wonderful job.

In real world not all jobs are very interesting, but you still need to do it.

I would like him to be aware of his surroundings so that he can focus and finish his job and not get distracted. He had a Playstation, Gameboy etc.. We took away everything we thought would be distracting. He can only play during summer holidays and breaks.

He has been asking for Wii and we are refusing as it might be one other distracting factor. But there is peer pressure that all his friends have it. Not sure how to say that these things are not good without pointing that he gets distracted easily. Would like to be positive.

Appreciate any pointers that you can provide to make him more focused on the task at hand.

10 year old's mom

Dear 10 year old's mom,

You say that your son is "getting good grades" in school. That's excellent! So this proves that when he needs to focus he is able to do it. And of course, even more important is your evaluation of your son as a "very good kid."

While I'm sure it is frustrating at times for him to get distracted and forget what he's supposed to do... I hope you let him know that what is most important to you is his goodness and his loving spirit. If you spend too much time reprimanding him about his distractibility, or labeling him as "forgetful" you might be unwittingly damaging his self-esteem. I'm sure you don't want to do that!

Your son is quite young. And I'm guessing that this behavior you are describing has been part of his personality from a very early age, true?

You say, "when a thing interests him he can do such wonderful job. In real world not all jobs are very interesting. But you still need to do it."

I understand your concern. As a parent myself, of course, I appreciate that it's important to teach our children that not every task that must be done is "fun." However, I'd like to point out that some of the world's most brilliant, creative and inventive people have also been described as "easily distracted" and "forgetful."

There is a great need for creative people. They are the ones who often come up with innovative solutions to age old problems.

Perhaps your son is meant for this path. It may be too early to say.

When it comes to his walking away from his desk for "no reason" I would suggest that you let the teacher handle it. If she feels overly concerned, then I'd suggest you and your son talk with the school counselor.

In terms of his homework, I suggest that you and your son work TOGETHER on a new plan of action. When he gets home from school, AFTER you warmly welcome him home and he's had a snack and a bit of a rest... Then sit with him and talk about what assignments he has that are due the next day. Let HIM show you his assignments. Take a clean piece of paper and let HIM decide in which order he will do each assignment. Some kids like to do their favorite subject first. Others like to get their least favorite subjects "out of the way" and save their favorite subjects for last. This should be your son's decision. The more he becomes his own boss, the more he will raise his level of responsibility for his work.

Help him draw a schedule with blocks of time in 20 minute intervals. 4:40-5:00 pm for example. Let him fill in which assignments he will work on in each 20 minute block.

When a 20 minute block is completed, have him show you his work. Then let HIM check off that block on his schedule. What's important here is to have him see the PROGRESS he makes when he stays focused.

Also, you need to rememer that he is 10 years old. For a child his age who is challenged in staying focused, it is VERY important for him to schedule "mini-breaks" in between each 20 minute block of work time. 5-7 minutes is enough. During that time he can do what he likes AS LONG AS the break does not exceed 7 minutes. Set a timer if you have to. And when the break is over, then back to the next assignment.

At the end of the evening, congratulate him for the excellent job he did focusing and completing his homework. If there is time before bed, have some quiet time as a family. Read a story... Talk. Laugh. Enjoy.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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