Assign This, Not That: How to Strengthen Your Child’s Ability to Focus

These days, it seems like the attention spans of our kids are about 6 seconds long. Can you relate? Young people’s work ethic is down, and distractions are up. Thank you, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and SMS, right? Is there something we as parents can do about this?

No excuses
It’s not all social media’s fault. It’s probably unfair to blame our children’s focus challenges on the sources of distractions. Students of all ages struggle to focus, regardless of the shape, the appeal, or the accessibility of the distraction. Children’s brains naturally crave a distraction, and they often go to great lengths to scratch that itch. Yes, devices and apps and the refrigerator make distractions more accessible, but we can help to strengthen the self-control, self-discipline, will power, and work ethic in our kids by strengthening their focus from within.

Baby steps
What can be done to strengthen a child’s focus from within? As with any muscle-building activity, strengthening focus requires practice and exercise. Maybe you can’t do ten pullups, but maybe you can do one. Even if you can’t do one, you can follow an assisted pullup technique. Even an assisted pullup has wonderful core benefits, and the same principle applies to your brain’s ability to focus. Try challenging your student to focus just on three, four, or five questions. This Pomodoro-style Technique (intense, 25-minute work followed by 5-minute breaks) is very popular and can help students develop focus, even if it takes more than a week or two.

Challenge them on scope, not on time.
Some teachers require their students to read for 20 minutes or practice the piano for 20 minutes. This inadvertently puts the focus on the activity duration rather than on the activity itself. Help your students discover the joy of problem solving and forget they are working. This is easier with some activities than it is with others. Below are some ideas.