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How to deal with a child who won't concentrate?

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I have a very sensitive child, 7, who can concentrate and work on her assignments, some days. Then, other days, she's very flighty and won't work on anything for more than a few seconds before messing around and wandering off, sometimes literally.

How would you handle this? Because I'm getting very frustrated with her. I was having her work on her writing (our school day is very simple, math, writing and reading, in that order) and she would start the assignment, then just turn it into a doodle. She also only got through half of her math (two pages of Math Mammoth first grade) before she started working on some art project she came up with, which she spent the last hour working on. I sent her outside to play and told her that she wasn't going to be playing any computer games (my kids are really in to Minecraft, that's all she plays) until she'd finished her school work. So, then she was wandering around outside crying because she wasn't going to be allowed to work on her ponies on minecraft today.

by on Jan. 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM
Replies (21-30):
KickButtMama
by Shannon on Feb. 14, 2014 at 5:10 PM

I completely agree with this. 

Quoting ElaineJenkins:

Try breaking her activities into shorter chunks of time.  Younger children have a very short attention span, especially when learning something new.  When she starts to doodle/art tell her that she can work on it after she completes x # of math problems.  Then use the doodle/art project as a springboard for her writing.  By incorporating what she likes to do with what she needs to do wil help her to stay on task.

On a side note, some of it will also be her age. Maybe you could have a list of the assignments and allow her to choose which one to work on? I've found that by giving my kids a choice instead of saying "do this next" does wonders for their attention spans. 

However, if you feel it's just a rebellion thing, then definitely don't give way to the crying. Be strong mama!

celtic77dragon
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Is your daughter a high energy sort of person -or no?

I have always been a person of high energy. The teachers always told my foster parents that I had trouble concentrating. I actually was fine with concentrating - I just distracted everyone else in the process. = )  

I can have amazingly good focus if allowed to do it in my own way. So maybe allow her to experiment with what helps her find the sweet spot for max concentration. I know that awhile back I was given a quiz where they asked about preferred learning environments (natural light vs artificial, outdoors vs indoors, sitting at a desk vs a sofa, moving vs sitting still, etc). I will try to find the quiz for you.  

Jilectan
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:09 PM

It gives the sounds, not the letter names. Sometimes she's fine with working with this program, other times, she doesn't want to do it at all. She does seem to be making progress, albeit slowly, but I'm not sure if she's actually learning or just memorizing. This is so frustrating!

I haven't had her evaluated, but I did just find out that our insurance will cover evaluation. I just need to send in the paperwork. I haven't had it long and will be sending it in soon. The local school district won't help us with this, we're going through Kaiser.

Thanks for your thoughts, you've given me a lot to think about.

Quoting DyslexiaParent:


I haven't heard of that app at all.  It sounds like a decent app in the description, but without seeing it, it'd be difficult to give an opinion.  When teaching, does the app teach the letter names at all, or is it solely focused on the associated sounds for the letters?  It makes a difference to a child with dyslexia -- for example, the letter "b" is called "bee", but the sound it represents is more of a "buh" (very short).  Teaching the names of letters intermingled with the sounds of letters often complicates the issue for children with true dyslexia.

The biggest question I would want to answer for myself was, WHY is she fighting so hard against doing the reading work?  Seldom is it outright stubbornness or defiance.  Most kids WANT to know how to read and they want to please their parents, so when a child starts refusing to do the work, has tantrums, says it's "boring", etc., the child is usually indicating that the lessons are not working for her.  A child doesn't know how to evaluate a lesson or her own learning abilities (neurologically speaking), so a child has no words for telling you the reason she's having issues with the particular program.

Also, nobody can look at a child and tell for sure if she has dyslexia, doesn't have it, has a perception or neurological processing problem, or what is going on between her ears as she's trying to learn.  Therefore, it's really difficult to say what you "should" do or what I would do based  upon your DD's outward difficulties with the reading lessons. 

How much evaluation has your DD had?  Has she been assessed for difficulties with perception, processing speed, developmental vision issues, phonemic awareness, short-term working memory, etc.?  There is just so much that can be a cause for difficulties that it is really difficult to figure out what to do without knowing the underlying problems or issues.

Truly, when you are feeling frustrated and your child is feeling frustrated, sometimes the best thing to do is to get a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to find out what the issues actually are.  Then, if you KNOW your child has issues with working memory, you can work on building that up.  If you know your child has issues with visual perception, you can work on correcting that.  IF she has true dyslexia, including the lack of phonemic awareness, processing issues, possible executive function deficits, etc., then you can work on that using the proper programs and be confident that "forcing" your child to work on her lessons will actually bring about the outcome you're looking for.

A few things to consider:

What data specific to your DD's needs are you working from to pick your DD's programs?

What will the long-term look like if you force your DD to work on the reading lessons and she makes no progress because it's the wrong program for her needs?

What would your school days look like if you had programs you knew were exact matches for your DD's needs?

It's HARD to figure out how to meet a child's needs when learning doesn't come easy!  I've been on that road and it took a lot of searching, and a couple of wrong turns before finding our fabulous neuropsychologist.  He pinpointed the actual issues my DS was facing, and that knowledge let me create a highly tailored program to meet my DS' needs.  He soared educationally from there forward! 


Jilectan
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:17 PM

For the last week or so, I've been just giving her the work and telling her she can work on it in whatever order she wants. She's been doing really well with her math, lately, and writing, and hasn't wanted me to hang around her while she works. She still doesn't want to work on the phonics programs much, so I cut way down on the time I was asking her to spend on it, which made her very happy. All told, she's probably spending maybe an hour, combined, on her schoolwork, now. I'm trying to make sure she has a break between subjects, preferably something active away from her desk, although sometimes she wants to stay there and draw. She's really gotten into drawing the characters from My Little Pony, lately.

I just found out today that our insurance will cover evaluation through Kaiser. They have  something called the John Richards Developmental Clinic. I'll be sending in the paperwork and trying to get her seen asap. I really hope they can help us get a handle on this. I think she's uncomfortable with her 4 year old sister catching up with her on reading. We haven't really started working with her younger sister yet, she's just picking it up on her own, so I can understand Kaley's reaction to that.

Quoting KickButtMama:

I completely agree with this. 

Quoting ElaineJenkins:

Try breaking her activities into shorter chunks of time.  Younger children have a very short attention span, especially when learning something new.  When she starts to doodle/art tell her that she can work on it after she completes x # of math problems.  Then use the doodle/art project as a springboard for her writing.  By incorporating what she likes to do with what she needs to do wil help her to stay on task.

On a side note, some of it will also be her age. Maybe you could have a list of the assignments and allow her to choose which one to work on? I've found that by giving my kids a choice instead of saying "do this next" does wonders for their attention spans. 

However, if you feel it's just a rebellion thing, then definitely don't give way to the crying. Be strong mama!


Jilectan
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:24 PM

Yes, she is high energy, but she also has a hard time concentrating. The only things she reliably has good concentration on is her drawing and playing Minecraft. The only thing that has worked most often in helping her concentrate is sitting at her desk and having a few distractions as possible. Even that doesn't work all the time, though, because she regularly will just jump up and run out of the room to pet the cat or play legos with her younger sister.

I would be interested in seeing that quiz, though, if you can find it. Thanks!

Quoting celtic77dragon:

Is your daughter a high energy sort of person -or no?

I have always been a person of high energy. The teachers always told my foster parents that I had trouble concentrating. I actually was fine with concentrating - I just distracted everyone else in the process. = )  

I can have amazingly good focus if allowed to do it in my own way. So maybe allow her to experiment with what helps her find the sweet spot for max concentration. I know that awhile back I was given a quiz where they asked about preferred learning environments (natural light vs artificial, outdoors vs indoors, sitting at a desk vs a sofa, moving vs sitting still, etc). I will try to find the quiz for you.  


KickButtMama
by Shannon on Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:50 PM

 Honestly it sounds like she is doing great! My eldest is on the autism spectrum, so he moves at a different pace from his neuro-typical brother. I was pulling my hair out trying to get him to do a writing/grammar program. I ended up pulling back and letting it go. Once he got to be about 8/9 he ended up flourishing all on his own. One day he started writing fan fiction - using his favorite cartoon or video game characters. THen we would edit it for spelling, grammar, etc. It worked great. But I had to wait much longer to introduce those things with him vs my youngest. He was just such a visual learner that those kind of concepts didn't absorb. He had great comprehension when he was read to, but trying to do it himself, or working through a grammar program was impossible.

Great on the insurance approval, hopefully they will give you some extra tips!

Quoting Jilectan:

For the last week or so, I've been just giving her the work and telling her she can work on it in whatever order she wants. She's been doing really well with her math, lately, and writing, and hasn't wanted me to hang around her while she works. She still doesn't want to work on the phonics programs much, so I cut way down on the time I was asking her to spend on it, which made her very happy. All told, she's probably spending maybe an hour, combined, on her schoolwork, now. I'm trying to make sure she has a break between subjects, preferably something active away from her desk, although sometimes she wants to stay there and draw. She's really gotten into drawing the characters from My Little Pony, lately.

I just found out today that our insurance will cover evaluation through Kaiser. They have  something called the John Richards Developmental Clinic. I'll be sending in the paperwork and trying to get her seen asap. I really hope they can help us get a handle on this. I think she's uncomfortable with her 4 year old sister catching up with her on reading. We haven't really started working with her younger sister yet, she's just picking it up on her own, so I can understand Kaley's reaction to that.

Quoting KickButtMama:

I completely agree with this. 

Quoting ElaineJenkins:

Try breaking her activities into shorter chunks of time.  Younger children have a very short attention span, especially when learning something new.  When she starts to doodle/art tell her that she can work on it after she completes x # of math problems.  Then use the doodle/art project as a springboard for her writing.  By incorporating what she likes to do with what she needs to do wil help her to stay on task.

On a side note, some of it will also be her age. Maybe you could have a list of the assignments and allow her to choose which one to work on? I've found that by giving my kids a choice instead of saying "do this next" does wonders for their attention spans. 

However, if you feel it's just a rebellion thing, then definitely don't give way to the crying. Be strong mama!

 

 

Jilectan
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 11:11 PM

She's only recenly started to make slow progress, and it might be just be because we're going over the same material every day. She still guesses a lot on things we've gone over multiple times. We're using  McGuffey's Eclectic Primer for reading practice and we've only just gotten to lesson 3 and we've been using the book for over a month.

It is great that we can get our insurance to cover evaluation for her. I'm going to send in the paperwork tomorrow, then I'm supposed to call in a week and set up an appointment. I hope they can get us in quickly.

Quoting KickButtMama:

 Honestly it sounds like she is doing great! My eldest is on the autism spectrum, so he moves at a different pace from his neuro-typical brother. I was pulling my hair out trying to get him to do a writing/grammar program. I ended up pulling back and letting it go. Once he got to be about 8/9 he ended up flourishing all on his own. One day he started writing fan fiction - using his favorite cartoon or video game characters. THen we would edit it for spelling, grammar, etc. It worked great. But I had to wait much longer to introduce those things with him vs my youngest. He was just such a visual learner that those kind of concepts didn't absorb. He had great comprehension when he was read to, but trying to do it himself, or working through a grammar program was impossible.

Great on the insurance approval, hopefully they will give you some extra tips!

Quoting Jilectan:

For the last week or so, I've been just giving her the work and telling her she can work on it in whatever order she wants. She's been doing really well with her math, lately, and writing, and hasn't wanted me to hang around her while she works. She still doesn't want to work on the phonics programs much, so I cut way down on the time I was asking her to spend on it, which made her very happy. All told, she's probably spending maybe an hour, combined, on her schoolwork, now. I'm trying to make sure she has a break between subjects, preferably something active away from her desk, although sometimes she wants to stay there and draw. She's really gotten into drawing the characters from My Little Pony, lately.

I just found out today that our insurance will cover evaluation through Kaiser. They have  something called the John Richards Developmental Clinic. I'll be sending in the paperwork and trying to get her seen asap. I really hope they can help us get a handle on this. I think she's uncomfortable with her 4 year old sister catching up with her on reading. We haven't really started working with her younger sister yet, she's just picking it up on her own, so I can understand Kaley's reaction to that.

Quoting KickButtMama:

I completely agree with this. 

Quoting ElaineJenkins:

Try breaking her activities into shorter chunks of time.  Younger children have a very short attention span, especially when learning something new.  When she starts to doodle/art tell her that she can work on it after she completes x # of math problems.  Then use the doodle/art project as a springboard for her writing.  By incorporating what she likes to do with what she needs to do wil help her to stay on task.

On a side note, some of it will also be her age. Maybe you could have a list of the assignments and allow her to choose which one to work on? I've found that by giving my kids a choice instead of saying "do this next" does wonders for their attention spans. 

However, if you feel it's just a rebellion thing, then definitely don't give way to the crying. Be strong mama!


 


celtic77dragon
by Member on Feb. 14, 2014 at 11:37 PM

This link has the questions on it (on pgs 2-3 of the pdf). I haven't yet found an actual online quiz for it. I know they exist though.

 

Your daughter is young yet so her energy level and ability to focus may just need more time and practice to mature. Charlotte Mason writes about children who struggle to focus and I think she had some wise words on the matter. Certainly, I think starting for a small chunk of time and expanding on that little by little is an excellent strategy. 

However, IF she is anything like me, then understanding how the child is different, is important as well - and the above strategy won't be enough (but still important). 

Regular school felt like torture for me. When I was in elementary school, I was made to sit in the hallway or have a cubicle thing put around my desk. They thought doing things like this would help me focus. However, it was when they did things like that, that I felt like I couldnt focus the most. 

By middle school they realized that if I wasnt challenged mentally - I would end up walking out of class or disrupt them terribly. The teachers had to allow me to do things like sit on the window ledge to keep me from distracting the class. I was allowed to bounce my pencil up and down off its eraser when thinking. I was allowed to pace around the back of the classroom when talking. I was allowed to make oragami when listening. Hell, one year, I remember tye dying during a class! I also was given some freedom about how to demonstrate what I was learning through projects (visual representations that I creatively came up with - I always wanted to create and build things). 

Thank God that someone realized that I needed a vocational school for high school or else I NEVER would have graduated (quite seriously). I thrived in the vocational school. My behavior and everything turned around during those years. 

Some would say I am a hands on learner. I STRONGLY disagree!!! I find different methods to work depending on what it is that I need to learn. I don't believe in learning styles and there has never been significant proof to support the theory. 

My kids complain that I distract them by always messing with something or am moving all around when I speak or read. A lot people see me like this and describe it as my lack of focus and yet it is when I am most focused. My theory is that because most people think because for THEM it would mean they couldnt focus, that it must mean that for me too. However, it is the complete opposite for me. It has to be a mindless activity for me though. I actually can't multi task worth a damn. When I problem solve ANYTHING though, I have to go do something.


Trust your instincts on this though. You will know your child better than any of us. Listen to her and pay attention to her - give her a bit of freedom to try and find what works for her. If you think it is the materials, too much review... then that could be it. You will know best = ) 

Yes, she is high energy, but she also has a hard time concentrating. The only things she reliably has good concentration on is her drawing and playing Minecraft. The only thing that has worked most often in helping her concentrate is sitting at her desk and having a few distractions as possible. Even that doesn't work all the time, though, because she regularly will just jump up and run out of the room to pet the cat or play legos with her younger sister.

I would be interested in seeing that quiz, though, if you can find it. Thanks!

Quoting celtic77dragon:

Is your daughter a high energy sort of person -or no?

I have always been a person of high energy. The teachers always told my foster parents that I had trouble concentrating. I actually was fine with concentrating - I just distracted everyone else in the process. = )  

I can have amazingly good focus if allowed to do it in my own way. So maybe allow her to experiment with what helps her find the sweet spot for max concentration. I know that awhile back I was given a quiz where they asked about preferred learning environments (natural light vs artificial, outdoors vs indoors, sitting at a desk vs a sofa, moving vs sitting still, etc). I will try to find the quiz for you.  



Jilectan
by Member on Feb. 15, 2014 at 12:37 AM

Thanks, I'll take a look at that link.

I've been working to find ways to help her concentrate on her work. We're using Math Mammoth with her, which has her working the subject to death and bores her like crazy, so I've been having her vary between sections of the worktext. One day she'll do addition, the next subtraction. If she wants to stick with addition for a few days in a row, then we go with that. I'm also having her do only one page a day, so not that many problems. She's been doing really well. The only consistent problem she's been having with math is mirror numbers. So this is working, she's just having problems writing the numbers correctly.

We really didn't do much today. I had a dental appt this morning and that threw our whole day off. I really only asked her to do five minutes of phonics work on the tablet and let her choose which program she wanted to use. I think I'll just let her choose from now on, because she didn't fight me at all.

I am so ready for this day to be over. I had to get up earlier than normal after maybe 4 hours of sleep and this kid has been driving me nuts today! We went to the park and she had a meltdown when it was time to go home, at sunset after I'd been literally chasing her around the park. She's been talking a mile a minute at me for the past 10 minutes, at least. I completely lost track of what she was saying, she was talking so fast. She left the room for a few minutes and just kept talking! I'm starting to understand why my parents called me the babbling brook, if this is how I was when I was 2. She's 7, though, not 2!


Quoting celtic77dragon:

This link has the questions on it (on pgs 2-3 of the pdf). I haven't yet found an actual online quiz for it. I know they exist though.

 

Your daughter is young yet so her energy level and ability to focus may just need more time and practice to mature. Charlotte Mason writes about children who struggle to focus and I think she had some wise words on the matter. Certainly, I think starting for a small chunk of time and expanding on that little by little is an excellent strategy. 

However, IF she is anything like me, then understanding how the child is different, is important as well - and the above strategy won't be enough (but still important). 

Regular school felt like torture for me. When I was in elementary school, I was made to sit in the hallway or have a cubicle thing put around my desk. They thought doing things like this would help me focus. However, it was when they did things like that, that I felt like I couldnt focus the most. 

By middle school they realized that if I wasnt challenged mentally - I would end up walking out of class or disrupt them terribly. The teachers had to allow me to do things like sit on the window ledge to keep me from distracting the class. I was allowed to bounce my pencil up and down off its eraser when thinking. I was allowed to pace around the back of the classroom when talking. I was allowed to make oragami when listening. Hell, one year, I remember tye dying during a class! I also was given some freedom about how to demonstrate what I was learning through projects (visual representations that I creatively came up with - I always wanted to create and build things). 

Thank God that someone realized that I needed a vocational school for high school or else I NEVER would have graduated (quite seriously). I thrived in the vocational school. My behavior and everything turned around during those years. 

Some would say I am a hands on learner. I STRONGLY disagree!!! I find different methods to work depending on what it is that I need to learn. I don't believe in learning styles and there has never been significant proof to support the theory. 

My kids complain that I distract them by always messing with something or am moving all around when I speak or read. A lot people see me like this and describe it as my lack of focus and yet it is when I am most focused. My theory is that because most people think because for THEM it would mean they couldnt focus, that it must mean that for me too. However, it is the complete opposite for me. It has to be a mindless activity for me though. I actually can't multi task worth a damn. When I problem solve ANYTHING though, I have to go do something.


Trust your instincts on this though. You will know your child better than any of us. Listen to her and pay attention to her - give her a bit of freedom to try and find what works for her. If you think it is the materials, too much review... then that could be it. You will know best = ) 

Yes, she is high energy, but she also has a hard time concentrating. The only things she reliably has good concentration on is her drawing and playing Minecraft. The only thing that has worked most often in helping her concentrate is sitting at her desk and having a few distractions as possible. Even that doesn't work all the time, though, because she regularly will just jump up and run out of the room to pet the cat or play legos with her younger sister.

I would be interested in seeing that quiz, though, if you can find it. Thanks!

Quoting celtic77dragon:

Is your daughter a high energy sort of person -or no?

I have always been a person of high energy. The teachers always told my foster parents that I had trouble concentrating. I actually was fine with concentrating - I just distracted everyone else in the process. = )  

I can have amazingly good focus if allowed to do it in my own way. So maybe allow her to experiment with what helps her find the sweet spot for max concentration. I know that awhile back I was given a quiz where they asked about preferred learning environments (natural light vs artificial, outdoors vs indoors, sitting at a desk vs a sofa, moving vs sitting still, etc). I will try to find the quiz for you.  




Beniegenie
by Member on Feb. 16, 2014 at 11:43 PM
My son is 6, he's like your daughter. He does really good some days and not so much other days. He earns iPad time or Wii time for doing his work. I give him 30 min unless he does exceptionally well that day, you know, he's focused and determined to do well and tries. If he does his school work well and just gets it done without me struggling with him I let him have 45 min of game time. If it's a struggle it automatically becomes 30 min. At that point I then tell him he's going to be timed. I look over each worksheet before he starts decide how long it usually takes him to do that much, then I tell him how much time he has and set the timer. If he finishes it in that time he loses nothing. If not he loses 5 min of game time. It takes a lot for him to lose all his game time and he's never lost more than 10 min. But he hates losing any of that time because he knows he only has 30 min. This method works so well for him that some days he'll ask me to time him because he feels like he does better when he's trying to beat the clock. I don't make his time 30 that day, I still base that on his behavior and whether or not he's focused. It really works well for him. I tried taking game time away for those hard days, but once I did that I had nothing else to motivate him so taking away time has been a better motivator for him. Another thing you may want to do is break up the subjects by playing a phonics game before sending her off to do worksheets. Then after phonics then maybe do oral math equations, maybe have her jump to a destination for each right answer. This way she burns some energy before having to sit and focus on papers. And it breaks it up so she's not just sitting and writing for an hour or so. I do this with my son and he loves it. Hope it gets better for you :) you're not alone
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