How to Help Distractible Kids Develop Solid Study Habits
First, knowing why your child is so easily distracted can help you determine the best strategies for helping him develop solid study habits. Some children are just wired to be excitable and easily distracted. Others may have very curious temperaments, which causes them to constantly go from one thing to another in search of more knowledge. Still others may just be bored, and therefore easily distracted. Getting to the root of the problem is a major factor in determining the optimal way to help your child.
Set Up the Environment for Study
Once you have a clear idea of why your child is so easily distracted, then it’s time to get busy and deal with the cause and retrain her to focus. Organization and structure are going to be critical for most kids. Find a spot in your home or child’s room that can be dedicated to school work. This area should be away from major distractions, like the television or places where other family members may be socializing. Realize too that each child is unique and may require an environment that could be counter intuitive to you. For example, some children need absolute quiet in order to concentrate and study, while others may need music or some background noise. If you have a child that needs background noise in order to be attentive, just make sure that it helps and does not hinder progress.
Setting up the designated study area is the next step. Decide with your child what is needed to create a space conducive to school work. This may be an ongoing project, as you will find that some ideas may work better than others and changes will be required from time to time. Paper or notebooks, pens and pencils should all be handy. Make sure there is a pencil sharpener within reach. You may want to color-code folders so that each subject has a different color. Have a calendar nearby with due dates for projects and papers.
Many kids now work almost exclusively on computers. You may want to consider helping your child set up notices and automatic reminders on her computer to keep track of upcoming project due dates. You will also need to make sure the computer is being used for school work during study time and not for video games. If you choose to allow your child game time between work sessions make sure that when the break is over, so is the game time. Remind her that once she finishes her work she will then have plenty of time to play video games without interruptions.
Adults often use lists as reminders of all the things they have to do. Many take great pleasure in crossing things off their list or putting a check mark beside the completed task. Use this same technique with your child. Write up a list of all the things that need to be completed for school and put it somewhere visible in the study area. Tell your child that she can mark off each task when she finishes it. Occasionally your child may have a big project that will need to be completed sometime in the near future. For these instances, show her how to break the project down into smaller pieces and how these smaller components will go on the list. As each one gets marked off, she gets nearer and nearer to completing the larger project.
Teach your child how to set realistic goals. You can start small by planning out the homework at hand. If the goal is to get the math work done in an hour, break up the hour into 15 or 20 minute increments. Tell the child he can take a short break after the agreed upon amount of time, but that he will need to return to his studies after the break. Use a timer to keep track of the study and break time. Encourage your child by acknowledging his progress along the way. Keep in mind that children have short attention spans and that some schools tend to pile on the homework. You will need to help your child find a pace that works for him so that he can get his work done without a lot of frustration. Showing him that he is completing his mini-goals bit by bit will encourage him in becoming more goal-oriented.
Keep rewards reasonable and make sure that you’re striking a balance between rewarding your child and bribing her to do the work. One of the best rewards, one that will reap life-long benefits is showing your child how good time management and completing tasks will lead to free time. Of course, you will need to monitor her work to ensure that she isn’t speeding through it in a slipshod manner. You want to instill a sense of pride in a job well done, as well as enjoy the positive consequence of finishing in a timely manner.