Parents: enablers of child focus

Parents: enablers of child focus
Reema is one of the many mothers who is facing trouble in making her son sit down and engaging him in one activity or study. He just keeps hopping on from one thing to another and as a result, his room is a box of unfinished activities, games, books, drawings etc. Reema often wonders what it would take to make her son complete at least one task. This is not just Reema’s story. Many parents like her often struggle to build on their child’s attention span to finish a task, read a short story from beginning to end or even focus on an activity at school.

Parents like Reema don’t realise that they as parents play a crucial role in building skills that help children concentrate and persist. Most important of these skills are the executive functioning skills which include skills of task persistence, problem-solving, conflict resolution and delayed gratification. It is important to build, hone and nurture these skills in the early years of childhood when the brain’s development is at its peak. There are easy and simple ways to help your child develop these skills. Here are some of them:Set routines

Children get used to a routine if set from the beginning. Routines result in habit formation, which ultimately makes the task less daunting. It also removes the fear of the unknown, enabling a child to feel a sense of security. For example, if a child knows that s/he has to study from 6 to 7 pm everyday, s/he will be mentally prepared for it. In addition to this, a developmentally appropriate time period must be allotted for the task so that the child gets used to being able to complete this work within the stipulated time. This will also help in streamlining his or her thought process and staying focussed.

Build reading habits

However busy you may be, take time out to narrate age-appropriate stories to your child. Establish a reading routine, a specified reading time. It may be just before sleeping or after returning from school, as per the parent’s and child’s convenience. Read aloud regularly, even to older kids. Reading exposes the child to good literature, improves their vocabulary and understanding of structuring sentences.

Stay on a task

Children need to be kept motivated and the way to do this is to encourage, gently coax and urge them to complete the task in hand. If one technique isn’t working, help them with new techniques of doing the assigned task. Cheer them to take pride in their work and help them fortify their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Sometimes the reward system works to motivate children to concentrate and finish the entrusted task.

Delayed gratification

It is good to build skills of delayed gratification among children at an early age. It allows them to understand that sometimes wait is good and it is okay to go through a little difficulty or restraint in order to feel really happy or get a sense of accomplishment later or perhaps for longer.

The power of yet

Parents should help their children believe in the power of ‘yet,’ i.e. the never-ending belief in the fact that things will work out, and that giving up is not an option as a brighter future is yet to come. Often, this seems difficult to explain to children as they are restless and not determined enough.

Make learning fun
It is important to make reading and learning time fun for the child, and not just the mundane task of the teacher. So, if you are trying to teach your little one to identify numbers, then, instead of just restricting it to the textbooks, you can try reciting rhymes and songs about numbers. Floor games like hopscotch can be a fun and effective way too. While at the grocery store, you can ask your child to read out prices and quantities to you. This way while the learning outcomes are achieved, the fun factor is also maintained.

Learning beyond home

Don’t let learning be restricted to the study room in your house. Let it be a continuous process for the child, extending beyond just school and home. So, the next time you are in the park with your child, challenge him or her to identify all red-coloured objects or all objects which begin with the letter ‘O’ in a stipulated time frame. This way, while the concepts of letter and colour recognition become clearer to the child, education is also made much more fun and practical.

A child’s early years are the learning and habit building years of their lifetime. Parents are the first role models for the child. Whatever they demonstrate is what children imbibe. Whatever they say, is what the child believes.

Therefore, it is crucial to be positive role models for children. They should take an active interest in understanding their strengths and challenges. This way, they can empower their children with the required knowledge, strategies, and skills to take charge of their own educational journey.

(The author is content expert, Sesame Workshop India)

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