Concentration, or self-regulation, requires the ability to overcome distractions and focus solely on the task at hand. Children who are unable to concentrate typically struggle in school, since that requirement sums up the expectations of students: sit still, be quiet, pay attention and do your schoolwork. Students who struggle to focus do not necessarily have behavior problems, nor have diagnoses such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). If your child’s pediatrician has ruled out AD/HD, then your child may simply need some guidance and a structured plan to help him concentrate in school.
Establish a plan with your child’s teacher that includes creating a positive, understanding learning environment. A blend of authoritative instruction and constructive reinforcement will prove most conducive to your child’s increased concentration in school, according to Dr. Jane Healy, a teacher and educational psychologist .
Communicate regularly to ascertain the effectiveness of the plan and modify as necessary. Institute firm, yet reasonable, behavior standards, and define clear consequences and rewards. Discuss these with your child to ensure he understands.
Encourage your child to ask questions in school if she does not understand instructions, but to do so in the correct manner. Tell her to raise her hand and address the teacher respectfully, rather than create a disturbance by interrupting the teacher. Ask the teacher to pair your child with a student who has good study skills.
Request that teachers help improve your child’s concentration by seating him away from windows and doors, providing him with some form of physical activity when possible (such as handing out papers, or getting up and stretching) and giving clear directions for schoolwork. Ask teachers to repeat instructions as necessary to ensure that your child understands how to do both in-class work and homework. Request a one-on-one classroom assistant, if one is available, to help keep your child on task.
Discuss with your child what distractions she faces at school. Brainstorm ways that she can overcome the distractions and help her write a plan of action that she can accomplish in easy, structured steps.
Create a feasible homework plan. Dr. Laurie McNelles, a child and adolescent developmental specialist, emphasizes that your child’s ability to acquire study skills and his successful completion of his homework will increase his concentration at school as he gains a better understanding of the teacher’s classroom instruction. Assist your child with organizing his study materials and set up a homework schedule based on his preferences–either his favorite or least favorite subjects first–whichever order will help him maintain his concentration. Allow reasonable breaks, as long as your child understands that he has to complete his homework before engaging in other activities.
Strengthen your child’s concentration and retention of what she learns by discussing her schoolwork with her. Reward her for each accomplishment, as this will encourage her to continue to concentrate at school.
Tips and Warnings
- Provide a nutritional breakfast for your child or encourage him to eat at school, if circumstances prevent him from eating before going to school.
Ask your child’s teachers if, based on their experience and expertise, they have reason to believe your child may have a learning disability contributing to her inability to concentrate.
- Consult with your child’s pediatrician to rule out illnesses or disorders such as AD/HD as contributing factors to your child’s lack of ability to concentrate.
About this Author
K’Lee Banks started writing professionally in 1984 and has two poems published in Poetry.com anthologies. She has written Web content for Study2U, Remilon, ConnectEd and numerous private clients. She is also an entrepreneur who makes customized quilts and crafts. Banks has a Master of Education from American InterContinental University Online and is pursuing a doctorate in education from Northcentral University.