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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

"On Task"

Keeping a child on task is quite the challenge, every parent can agree on that. But, tasks don't have to be school-related or learning activities. A child could be responsible for tasks such as personal chores, listening to a book, watching a movie, eating their dinner, running errands with a parent, and many other daily activities. Children can be easily distracted from any number of these things and keeping them focused on the task at hand is a skill that many parents probably wish they had. Erin Yates wrote for the website a blog post titled "Helping Kids Stay on Task" in which she hopes to give parents some tips on keeping their child focused during an activity. She starts her post by saying that each child is different in their ability to stay on task and helping them stay on task can come in different forms and for different reasons. It also worth noting that their ability to pay attention depends on their age as well how long they have been asked to stay focused in the past; some children are also just more energetic than others. All of these things are to be considered when helping a child focus. The first thing that Yates mentions to do is set appropriate expectations for your child. Factors like your child's age, energy level, overall interest, any learning disabilities or mental disorders, length of time they can focus, and how long they can be expected to stay seated are all worth considering to know what is appropriate for your child. Once you have decided what is appropriate for them, Yates suggests using something called "Preventive Teaching" to set expectations for your child and prepare them for rewards and consequences. This practice essentially helps your child learn the specific behaviors that you expect of them and allows for role-play, which will be helpful when implementing new behaviors with your child. It may also be beneficial to establish a rewards system for meeting expectations which will motivate your child to use the positive behaviors you taught them. The next thing you will want to do is create an optimal environment to encourage concentration and keep them on task. Some examples of this would be to set up a "homework station" out of a poster board that has the supplies they may need attached to it, or moving them to a room with no other people or distractions in it; a window can be a distraction for some children. Before they begin working, make sure they have gone to the bathroom or had a snack or drink before they sit down to work, so they can sit for a longer period without having an excuse to get up and get distracted. Adding on to that though, it would be helpful to provide breaks and incentives. Breaks are just opportunities for the brain to rest and reset in order to focus again. The length and frequency of breaks as well as the time they are required to focus will differ based on age and functioning. One tip is to set a timer for their "focus period" so that the child knows how long they have to work on something. Incentives are a great way to provide some motivation for your child to focus. Rewards don't have to be big and you may not even have to use a tangible reward. Simply providing a way for your child to track completion or time spent on the task will offer the same benefits toward the overall goal. Yates also lists some activities to improve attention and concentration. For example, daily exercise, specifically if it is done outside, can help to burn off energy and allow the brain to focus when it needs to. There are other activities, like those provided by BrainGym ( that engage the child's motor skills to increase concentration by increasing the blood flow and connections between both sides of the brain. Fidget tools are also helpful for children who have the tendency to become distracted because it gives their hands and mind something to do while focusing on what they need to do. However, if the task is household chores, then playing some music may serve as a substitute for a fidget toy and will still keep their mind busy while their hands are working. The last thing that Yates advises is to let your child help set up a routine. Routines and schedules can be fairly effective when keeping kids on track; if they do the same thing every day, there is no need to argue or discuss a task when it needs to get done. The day-to-day tasks are predictable and will become a natural part of your child's behaviors. It will also be beneficial to have your child set the routine or help to, at least. Allow them to choose what they are doing and in what order they are doing it, which will give them a sense of control and they will be more willing to take ownership and follow the schedule. Keeping your child on task is really a teaching opportunity as well as a chance to build your relationship with them; approach it as such. You can work together to find solutions and in turn, these practices could even help heal and elevate your family life. You and your child will hopefully feel fulfilled each day as tasks are being completed. Not only are chores being done, but your child's learning experience and skills are being enriched in the process. Yates tips and tricks prove that this can be a win-win situation for everyone in the family.

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