If you Google “attention span of a child”, you’re met with a lot of different opinions from child development specialists and psychologists. The general answer though, is that children should be able to concentrate on one given task for up to 20 minutes, depending on their age.
So why do children become so easily distracted when they’re doing their homework or carrying out a simple household chore? There have been many times with my own children where I’ve asked them to bring me a diaper or their shoes from the hallway and I’ll still be waiting 5 minutes later.
Whether your child is 2 or 12, these simple steps I’m about to go through will help your child focus on the task at hand.
- Limit screen time
While it’s easy for adults to focus on a task with background noise, children haven’t developed this ability yet. There have been multiple instances where I’ve had a deadline with work, but my boys have been around. The only thing I can do in that situation is put the TV on for them and get on with my work.
Unfortunately, children find this much more difficult. If you want your child to do their homework but you’ve got the TV or the radio on in the background, this is going to hinder their concentration and it’ll end in a disagreement between you and your child. You can find more ideas on how to handle screen time here.
- Keep a calm environment around your child
I know that it’s difficult keeping calm when your child is being frustrating but getting mad at them won’t help the situation at all. Instead, simply keep reiterating what it is you want them to do and eventually, they’ll get the message and focus. If for whatever reason you do lose your cool, apologize and explain that their behavior is a little frustrating. This action will help your child in managing their own emotions and feelings.
This is also a good rule to teach by if you’re an educator. Having a calming environment in your classroom will keep the children focused and their productivity should soar! We have a lot of resources on Bounceback Parenting for handling anger, because it’s tough!
- Make sure the whole family is on the same page
When I was pregnant with my first son, one of the first things I did was sit down with my husband and discuss the ways we wanted to raise our baby. I didn’t ever want there to be a situation where we dealt with behavior differently, this wouldn’t be good for anyone!
It can be very confusing for a child if the discipline in their house isn’t consistent; they could get away with things around Dad that they definitely wouldn’t with Mom. This causes conflict within the home and the child can feel out of control, which can lead to distractions and misbehavior.
- Give your child frequent breaks
While this might take them twice as long to complete a task, it’s a really smart way of keeping your child focused. Think about how the workday is scheduled. An employee is allowed a set number of breaks throughout the day, as well as time for their lunch, so they don’t become too burnt out and can do their job to the highest of their ability. The same is true for kids.
Tell them that they have to do their homework for 10 minutes and once that time is up, they can go off for 5 minutes to get a drink or a snack. Once their break is up, they have to come back for another 10 minutes of concentration.
- Having a consistent schedule is key
If your child is easily distracted, it might be a good time to have a set schedule throughout the day. I don’t mean plan your day to the last minute, but just rough times and tasks will help them see what they should be doing and when.
For example, if they get home from school at 3.30pm, have to do their homework at 4pm and their dinner is ready by 5.30pm, they’ll see that they have to complete their homework in an hour and a half before they can eat. If you decide to have them help clear the dinner table before they can have their dessert, they’ll know that they have to do the boring task to get the sweet treat. You can find some ways to keep a flexible schedule here.
Trust me, I know how difficult and frustrating it can be dealing with a distracted child. It can feel like half of your life is spent negotiating and waiting around for them to complete the task you’ve set for them.
But if you try and stick to the 5 points I’ve outlined above, your home should become a more peaceful and relaxed environment. Not only will it help the attention span of your child, you might even notice that the adults become more focused as well which is never a bad thing!