How to Help a Distracted Child

Dear Sharon,

How can a parent know the difference between a child who has a learning difficulty and a child who is just distracted? It seems that we hear so much now about kids having various “issues”. If my 6 1/2 year old son isn’t concentrating on his schoolwork does that mean he might have an issue we should be addressing? Should he be tested? He doesn’t seem at all interested in the learning process and is “video game” addicted.

Your question is on the minds of many parents today. Unfortunately I can’t answer your individual question but I can share some general ideas that I hope will be helpful.

When a parent is worried about their child it is often best to share those concerns with people they trust and respect.

Teachers and other school professionals who have worked with or observed children in their care can be very reassuring and/or make useful recommendations. They might offer suggestions of things to try at home, explain that they are not concerned, or give examples of successes or progress that a parent might appreciate hearing. They can also let parents know if tests or an evaluation might be helpful in determining what educational tools or settings could be most supportive to individual children. If school personnel are considering an evaluation I often suggest that parents ask questions about the information testing might provide, i.e. the services a child would be eligible to receive or specific teaching methods and/or resources that might be made available in or outside of school. Knowing more about the entire evaluation process can help parents feel more at ease.

Pediatricians or other trusted health care professionals who have known a child over time can also be helpful in answering a parent’s questions and/or making similar recommendations.

Reaching out to other parents who have had school age children can be invaluable. When parents talk to each other they usually hear stories about children who have confronted similar challenges. It is often helpful to feel less alone when thinking about difficult topics such as being distracted in school, but there also might be a wealth of information about things that other parents have found helpful in this and many other situations. Parents can talk to others informally or look for workshops or support groups that meet in their neighborhood. Www.achiildgrowsinbrooklyn.com is just one of many internet sites that list parent resources.

I believe that lots children go through phases of being distracted and/or disinterested in school. It is important to remember that a child’s relationship to schoolwork can change from one grade to the next. Sometimes children become more confident or focused as they grow older, sometimes a new teacher can make a big difference. The beginning of a school year might produce a teacher who enjoys the challenge of engaging distracted little ones or simply gets “a kick” out a particular kind of student. This can make a world of difference in a child’s ability to concentrate on even difficult or “boring” material.
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Interest in video games is also common. A sheet of math problems or a book that is challenging to read often feels overwhelming when compared to the excitement and success easily attainable in a video game. I often suggest that parents spend some time watching or playing video games with their children. It can help young ones feel less alone and more engaged. Distraction in school can be a sign of disengagement.

Many Moms and Dads also successfully limit video game time. When doing so I recommend that they replace video screens with interactive games that parents and children can play together. Ball, board, card, craft, and even cooking activities often expose children to forms of involvement and focus that can then show up in school. Laughing, being physically active and/or enjoying each other’s company can also help lighten a child’s mood. It is usually easier for children (and adults) to focus on challenging things after they have enjoyed the company of people they love.

Children who are distracted in school sometimes feel discouraged or unsuccessful in the academic arena. Helping a child with homework in an easy and supportive manner or getting a tutor or teenage homework helper to stop by and talk about schoolwork can also make a difference.

Parents I know have also found it helpful to visit or volunteer in their child’s classroom. It has given them a better understanding of the different factors involved in their child’s relationship to school. It can also generate ideas to broaden the teacher’s and/or child’s understanding of what might be helpful.

Thanks for asking this important question and good luck with the school year ahead!



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73 Responses to “How to Help a Distracted Child”


  1. My child Jordan studying in VII std is very distractive from his childhood. He also behaves childish most of the time. I thought he shall change as year grows. He is good at studies but all his teachers complain he does not concentrate on what is being taught or told, they have to repeatively call him for his attention . They say he is most of the time in his own world. At home also it is the same. Otherwise he is a very loving and mannerred child.


  2. Sangita, Thanks for writing in about Jordan, I am sorry to hear he is distracted at home and at school. I believe that a parent’s calm and consistent presence can make a difference, sometimes engaging a child in interesting and interactive tasks gradually over time can help increase a young one’s ability to focus. I have often seen patient and persistent efforts from parents make a big difference. Best wishes.

  3. Mohsin Raza

    My son Muhammad, is studying in Grade 3 now. Till last class, esp. in Grade 2, I kept on receiving complain that he does not complete his class work. He also shows resistance at home in completing his homework, but with some help he does it.

    My concern is his class work. I told him to bring his science notebook and a class mate note book to check how much he has completed and I found that he has not completed 40% of what was written on white board. He in class gets busy with other things rather than focusing on what teacher is saying, in copying what is written on white board. Initially I thought he might be having issues with his English as it is not our first language. We told him to read 1 page of story and write it. We brought him to write almost a single page of notebook in 15 mints and we are consistently working with him to increase his speed, but what to do with not focusing in class. Can you advise how can we help him to focus on his work in class?


  4. Thanks for your comments. I wish for him and you that his ability to focus would move quickly but I find that patience, persistence and small steps bring gradual improvements that add up to success over time. It sounds like you have found some good steps that have been helpful. It is important to stay kind and praise even his slight accomplishments while you are encouraging him and finding ways to gradually improve his focus. You might ask the teacher for suggestions as well. Sometimes “playing school” at home where he is the teacher and you are student can also help ease the tension he might feel and help him see why it is a good idea to pay attention in class. Thanks for all of your efforts in his direction.

  5. Mohsin Raza

    Thanks a lot for you quick comments.

  6. geeta

    Hi
    I need help “how to help a distracted child”. My daughter is in 5 th grade and i hear almost everytime from her teacher that during classroom discussion she talking and distracting other or fussing around. She’s good in study and always finish all assignments no complaint but why this behavior at school. she knows her teacher very well since 2nd grade. please help


  7. I am glad to hear that your daughter is doing well in school on many levels. Unfortunately it is common for some children to get “fussy” during group discussions. If possible I would recommend that you talk to her about what she is thinking during these times. In order to have your talk with her go well it will be important to listen to what she says and not get upset or disappointed in her. If you can accomplish this very difficult parental task you both then might be able to figure out ways to “settle down” during group discussions that would be less disruptive to the class. Good luck with a common but difficult challenge.

  8. geeta

    thanks Sharon.

  9. Maritza

    My daughter which is 4 gets easily distracted. I’ve tried teaching her the colors and numbers but she seems not concentrating and that’s the reason she still doesn’t know her colors or #s. If not she mixes up the colors,etc I’m worried and don’t know what to do. If I try correcting her she gets mad. I need some good advice. Also in school she does that.


  10. Hi Maritza, It is much easier for four year olds (and almost everyone else) to learn when they are having fun. If a child is resisting academic help from Mom or Dad then I recommend that parents have fun at home with their child and let the teachers fill in the educational gaps for now. If young people can concentrate on games they playing with other people then they often learn skills that will help them be less distracted with other tasks such as learning numbers and colors. Enjoy!

  11. donna

    my 11 yr old daughther does have dysexica and is getting help in school but is not turning to classes or is not trying to do the work and is distacing most of her classes and answering teachers back with attitude. i have been called in to she her head of year and we have come up with some new ideas for alana in classes. ive asked for extra homework but just need some advice to see if there anything else i can do at home to help her.


  12. Hi Donna, it sounds like you are doing a lot for your daughter and that it would also be good for you to spend some time with her that is relaxed and fun. At the end of that time you could also listen to her talk about what school is like. 11 year olds are often feeling pressured by peers, hormonal changes and of course academic stress. It is often an age when parents need to increase their “quality time” with their pre-adolescent. It can help “calm” things down for everyone.

  13. Shivani

    Dear Sharon,

    My son is 6 years old. He writes well at home. His teacher say that he is intelligent and answers correctly. The problem is he does not concentrate. He gets distracted, talks with other fellows, sharpens pencil and does not complete his writing work. I can see his class work is incomplete and shabby also. But homework is done correctly.Please help with a solution.
    Thanks


  14. Dear Shivani, I am glad that your son is doing his work at home without too many problems. I think it might be helpful to remember that your son is still very young. Young children, boys in particular, can be easily distracted by the “social life” that school provides. It is easy to see how it is more fun for children to talk with their friends than it is to concentrate on hard writing. I often suggest that parents make sure that their six year olds have an active social life and have plenty of fun when they are at home. It can help them be less “hungry” for “friend time” at school. The concept of “fun” at home and “work” at school sometimes helps straighten things out.

    It also can help children to “”play school” with the child being the teacher and Mom or Dad being the student. This simple game sometimes helps young ones understand teachers’ directions and expectations.

    For now it seems that your son responds well to one on one attention, many children do. Eventually all of the help you are giving him is likely transfer to the classroom environment. It is wonderful when a parent can support their child’s learning but I encourage parents to make sure that their relationships include lots of relaxing and loving contact that needs to happen between parent and child.

  15. farah

    Hello , my son is 8 years old. He used to be amongst the first but now he
    Is losing interest n he is sinking day by day , he is not paying attention on the class he is distracted.

  16. Cruz

    I have a three yr old boy, he is real smart, he knows his shapes colors numbers and alphabet. But I call him
    or have to tell him twice to do something he seems distracted or in his own world. Any comments on this?

  17. ameenat

    I have a 12 yrs old bother who is easily distracted in everything; this attitude has caused a negative impact in his results.He is a below average student in school but teachers believe that he can do better. The school teacher says that he needs to be more orderly in the presentation of work.However,he’s in a boarding house and physical contact with family members are constrained.What kind of interesting; interactive task can we engage him in during holidays; what method can be employed to improve this child’s performance? Otherwise,he’s a loving and well mannered child. Do you think he needs a change of school?


  18. Hi I am glad your son is doing so well. It is good to remember that a 3 year old is still very young. Young children learn many things including cooperation, interaction and focus through play, especially with people they love. I often notice that if parents have regular, even daily, fun with their child the little one’s eye contact and ability to respond appropriately to their Moms and Dads improve.


  19. I am so happy to hear how loving your son is, that will be very important for the rest of his life.

    I am not sure if he needs a new school as I don’t know enough details, but it might help him to be in an environment where you can be with him more. The amount of contact a child has with his parents can be very important even for a 12 year old. If you decide to keep him where he is I would recommend that you remember that every interaction you have with him means a lot. If you are patient and loving in his direction, helping him tell you as much information as possible about how things are going each day can really help. After listening A LOT you can then make some suggestions that could help him more effectively organize his work.


  20. It sounds like something might have gotten harder for your son at home or at school. If you could identify any underlying issues that have contributed to his distraction that could help. Ideally parents can remove stresses and strains from their child’s life but if that is not possible (it often isn’t) then it is important to set aside plenty of time to spend with your child, playing and helping him talk about what is on his mind about school and home. With support and care children often increase their abilities to focus.

  21. Nichole

    My son is 5 years old, he doesn’t talk well for his age, he can’t write, he is easily distracted, and is hyper at school. He keeps getting bad marks in school because he talks, or, messes around when the teacher is trying to talk. He is in developmental kindergarten, which is a grade below kindergarten. I don’t know what to do, or, how to keep him from getting distracted. I tell him to calm down, or, pay attention, he will for a while, but then he gets distracted again. I don’t know what to do anymore, and I don’t know how to help him in school. We took sugar out of his diet, and I take him for walks before school to try and wear him out, but, nothing is working. When it’s just him and I, I can sometimes get him to sit and do an activity, but, if there is another child, or, something else going on, he gets distracted.


  22. Hi, It always recommend that parents in your situation talk to their child’s teacher for specific ideas that might be helpful to try at home.

    It usually takes a great deal of patience and persistence to help a child who is easily distracted in the ways that you described. One possibility is that you could join him in an activity or game that he enjoys understanding that he will probably get distracted at some point. (If parents admit ahead of time that upsetting behaviors will occur it is often easier to sort through how to handle them). As you play together you could patiently and lovingly encourage him to stay focused a little bit more each time you join him in the fun. Praise him every time he concentrates for even a little while longer. In a few weeks he might be able to pay attention for longer periods of time during this particular activity and that ability can transfer to other areas as well.

  23. Sheriffa

    Hi, my five year old daughter is having problems doing her classroom work. She always seems distracted in school, according to her teacher and i noticed it at home as well. She cannot complete written work in school; and she takes very long to complete it at home. It is really frustrating. She seems fascinated by everything else. When asked why she has not completed her work; she replies ” i was talking in class and miss erased the board.” Sometimes she would say the work is too much. She often tends to daydream even while doing work and this often prolongs her studies. She would eventually get frustrated and cry. At this time, i would close the book. Is there any advice that you can give me? Thanks.


  24. Hi Sherifa, I think it might help to remember that your daughter is very young. Every child develops at their own pace and your daughter’s ability to focus could change over time. A patient and caring reaction from you might help as she tells you how she feels when doing her work. Sometimes having a good cry about something that does not come easily can ease stress as well. It is always hard for a parent to encourage success while being loving but when we can do both it can make a difference.

  25. Leanne

    Hi, my daughter is 7 years old. She has never had any problems at school, teachers have always said she was a model pupil, but in the last few weeks her teacher has said she is losing concentration in class. No talking or distractions, just simply drifting off into her own world. I have tried talking to her and there doesnt seem to be any problems or anything obvious I can put my finger on. The teacher has suggested I take her to see a doctor but im not sure about this yet. Like I say it has only been a few weeks. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks


  26. I am sorry to hear about your daughter’s sudden change in behavior. It is hard to say without more details but sometimes even minor changes can increase a child’s distraction. If there is a new teacher, a new set of friends, a different academic challenge or even slight changes at home children can react. I would suggest getting more details from the teacher and spending lots of fun, relaxed time with your daughter to see if you find out more about what is happening. Of course consulting outside professionals can also help if and when you think that is needed.

  27. Victoria

    Hi,my son is 6 years old,he was always a bit energetic.He loves going to school the problem is he is very distracted child.When it comes to writing at school,he hardly writes anything. Sometimes they have to write some easy words as a spelling game. He knows them, we practice them at home, but he doesn’t write them. At home now he knows he have to do his HW and now he is doing it with no trouble at all. We tried everything. We have promised him things when he writes at school but no luck. Then we had to turn to a punishment, he is in his third day of punishment but it seems he doesn’t care. Any advice would be much appreciated.Thanks


  28. I am sorry your son is having such a hard time with writing at school but glad to hear he is slowly making real progress at home. Many boys I know take a while before they are comfortable with writing and it is not common for rewards or punishments to be ineffective.

    If a little one hates doing something it can be hard to make him do it. I would work closely with the teachers and see if they have suggestions. If possible maybe he could do his school writing at home for a while and see if that helps. You could also share with the teacher how you made improvement with your son.

    You could also hire a tutor for a while. Sometimes one on one talks with an outsider, possibly an older boy who your son would want to impress, can help encourage a child and be very pleased and appreciative when success is achieved. I have heard your story before with 6 year old boys. Some of them have grown up to be incredible writers!

  29. Teja

    Dear Sharon,
    I am trying to find out reasons why my son is getting distracted in school. He is 7 and 1/2 years old and is in 2nd grade. Recently we were called by his class teacher who told us that he is not completing his class work on time. He is kind of slow and loses focus easily. When a teacher is talking, he is distracted easily and his name has to be called out to get his attention back. Otherwise he does well in his studies, always gets A grades and completes his homework. But he is forgetful too. After he completes his homework, he leaves it on the table. He doesn’t understand that it has to be submitted by its due date. Please help. Thanks!
    Teja

  30. Ashish

    Hi Sharon,
    I read the trail of messages and seem to be having a similar problem.

    We have a 12 year old son, he is very friendly, an extrovert and active. As a matter of fact he has been regularly participating in school athletics and has won prizes. He has a good command of spoken English.

    We as parents also encourage him to participate is extra curricular activities regularly and he enjoys that too. As parents we ensure that we take time out from work to be there to watch even his smallest activity like a poetry recitation etc. We even accompany him for his interschool events to cheer him on.

    However on the academic front it is not such a good scene. Until 2 yrs ago, we were happy that he was managing his academics well on his own. But gradually his performance has been dropping. He gets easily distracted during his study time, he tries to avoid homework, does not complete his work in class and is regularly disciplined for talking or disturbing the class (the teachers remarks page in the school diary is almost full). We tried talking to his teachers but did not get the support we expected. We are noticing that irrespective of his good overall performance the teachers seem to have slotted him as a talkative child.

    We are now left wondering how can we help him get focused and on top of his academics.


  31. Thanks for writing such a full description of a complicated problem. Your son sounds wonderful! That of course is the most important thing to remember as you sort this challenge through.

    It is not uncommon for social and active children to get distracted in school. (The things they do well can be much more interesting than academics). He probably wants to succeed in school but can’t “slow down” enough to figure out what he needs to do to accomplish his goals. It is not uncommon for adult “lectures” to be ignored by adolescent children. It works better for them to get support so that they can talk through their own understanding or what is happening and come up with possible solutions. Unfortunately this can require time and patience.

    Sometimes asking for care and guidance from others can also help. As he is athletic it is possible that a coach could play a good role. He might also be able to listen to a slightly older young adult or teen he respects. I think if you get everyone around him to help him in a loving tone it could make the difference.


  32. Dear Teja, It seems like your son is doing well in many ways. Although he is in 2nd grade he is still young and sometimes focus and organization skills improve with age. Even so you might try going over the challenges he faces in school patiently at home reviewing where he struggles and helping him think through specific strategies that could help. Playing enjoyable card or board games that require focus can improve skills as well. Athletic activities might also help as some sports require participants to focus in order to succeed.

  33. Dawn

    My son is 7 and started 2nd grade in a new school at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. It’s a private school at which he also attended summer camp. I’ve never had complaints about him in school before, but this year has been a struggle. The teacher says he is not only distracted in the classroom but he distracts the entire class. She has to push him to do things, asking him more than once but with results that are not acceptable. He tends to literally put his head in the book when he doesn’t feel like doing the work, or he makes noises. I was also told that he will sometimes call out answers if he isn’t called on when his hand is raised. At home, there are times I have to ask him to do things more than once, but he seems to straighten out quickly. There are plenty of times when he does things without me asking, and he loves helping. My ex wants our son to see a child psychologist but I’m not sure that I like that idea…certainly not this early on. We are supposed to meet with the teacher, so I’d like to get ideas from her and give this some time. What are your thoughts?


  34. I am sorry to hear about your son’s difficulties in school. I have heard from other parents who have described similar challenges. I don’t think I can answer the question fully until I heard more about your son, you are welcome to call or e mail if you would like to.

    Without more information I would suggest that you get as many details as possible when you talk to the teacher and see if she has suggestions that might be helpful. You could also talk to your son about specific behaviors, addressing only ONE issue at a time. You and he could patiently and calmly talk about how and why to alter that specific reaction and then offer him a reward every time he is successful. Once one behavior gets easier it becomes simpler to tackle others. The ultimate reward comes when he realizes that interacting cooperatively can make his days much easier.

  35. Nicole

    My daughter is 6 and has just started grade 1. She is a very bright student but seems to be distracted and very slow to complete her classwork; if it gets completed at all. Her teacher last year also commented about this so i have been trying to help. It is very difficult for her to do homework as she gets distracted easily by siblings, tv etc. I’ve tried being calm and collected but it doesn’t seem to help. Being strict or just plain losing it doesn’t seem to phase her one bit. I am at my wits end. I just don’t know what to try next. I don’t want her to fall behind at school. Can you please help?


  36. Hi Sharon,
    I have a 8 year old son. He gets easily distracted in his classroom with his friends. He does well when he studies alone and completes his him work independently,but the problems happen in class when his desk is not organized, he becomes distracted by his friends and does not complete his work.
    Please let me know how can I make him an organized person and more attentive in class.
    Thank s
    Nighat


  37. Hi Nicole, If there is any way you could help her with her homework away from TV or siblings that could help. Sometimes finding an older child with patience to sit with a distracted little one can help a young one attend to tasks. Finding someone to help might also ease tensions in your relationship. It sounds like your daughter might need some consistent support for now, taking one step and one small improvement at a time, even if that means she is behind her peers right now. If you praise her accomplishments, even if they seem minor, the confidence she gains can improve her ability to focus. Remember that your daughter is still young and her attention could improve over time I have seen countless examples of patient and consistent support making a big difference.


  38. Dear Nighat, I think I would like your son; he sounds like he is a good student who enjoys his friends. There are many wonderful things about having a social child although parents such as yourself have understandable concerns.It might help if you found a way to spend some relaxed time with your son doing something you both enjoy. At the end of this time you could talk about class work in a calm and supportive way. Children often can help think of ways to improve their classwork if they are involved in the discussion. Worried lectures rarely improve the situation. Given your son’s personality I would guess that you will be having such discussions in the future as well but if you consistently find ways to enjoy your son it will be easier to help him with his distractions.

  39. Stacy

    I have a 5 year old kindergartener who is very smart, learns easily, is energetic, loves to be social, and is an only child. His teacher complains about him speaking out, singing or making noises during class when he should be quiet. She says he isn’t trying to improve his behavior any more and sometimes has to be reprimanded. He is focused more when he is one on one, though sometimes you do have to say things over and over before he actually listens Granted our days are hustle and bustle as we usually don’t get home until around 6pm and I try to cook and have dinner done and then him in bed by 8 or 8:30, which does not leave much time for us having fun quality time together. And then we start the day over again at 6:30am. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks

  40. MomH1H2

    Hi Sharon,

    My 6 year old son easily gets distracted in home/school. He often comes home with incomplete assignments. If coloring is required to be don he cannot follow the rules in class. He does remember all the rules if asked but when it comes to following them he forgets to do so. His teacher has to repeat the instructions many times. Generally he is the last one to complete the task. He has good attention when he is doing his favorite activities, but cannot keep his mind on homework/schoolwork. I have to keep prompting him at home while he is doing his homework. If I leave him on his own he sits with homework in his hand for hours.

    How do I help him to cope with distractions and start responding to teachers when called?


  41. I am glad to hear that your son has good attention for the things that he enjoys doing. I would suggest giving him as much time as possible to do those things, they actually increase his ability to attend to tasks. From what you have said it looks like he is going to need relaxed support when he is doing his school work for now. It will probably take some time for him to understand why it is important to do things that are not fun and to realize that accomplishing challenging activities can be rewarding. While he is learning this he may need positive reinforcement and praise for every task completed. This will require patience and perseverance from you and others but will gradually increase his confidence and ability to focus on the less interesting parts of his life.


  42. Your son sounds like a wonderful child. I think your comments about schedule are very important. I would begin by paying more attention to him in the evening, cooking simple meals or eating something that is already prepared could help. During that time have fun with your son, something that sounds pretty easy to do. When you settle down for the night after lots of good contact try talking calmly about school. One of the best rewards for children is fun with Mom and Dad. You could reward him with YOU after school to help him attend to his work during the day. One of the short stories on this site is titled “Toast for dinner”, http://www.phponline.org/2186/toast-for-dinner/, it might be helpful to read as you think things through.

  43. shqipe

    Hi,my son is 10 years old and is very distracted at school. I have tried many things – talked to him etc, but he doesn’t say what he has on his mind. He has his own world. I don’t know what to do,can you please give me some advice?


  44. I think your comment about your son not communicating with you and being in his own world is important and probably the place to begin to offer help. Many children are reluctant to talk but they communicate in different ways. I would suggest spending regular quiet, relaxed time with him as often as possible and see if it is easier for him to eventually open up about his life in an away from school. If he can it will make it easier for both of you to sort through next steps that might help his school work. Here is a story I wrote about one of my sons that explains how I helped him open up. http://www.phponline.org/1345/helping-children-open-up/

  45. Caroline

    My 6 1/2-year-old daughter seems to be easily distracted in school. Although she is getting excellent grades, I’m getting lots of complaints from teachers that she doesn’t complete all her work (albeit not every day…just sometimes) and that she doesn’t pay attention in class. I think she’s bored but one teacher doesn’t agree. Her doctor says she does not have ADHD. He thinks she is also bored, since she is getting good grades and she learns very quickly. Her doctor told me that ADHD is not an occasional problem and that she needs to learn more self-discipline. I agree and am trying to adjust her behavior with punishments (no video games, no TV, etc). However, the notes and complaints come home weekly. (Sometimes, I think the teachers just pick on her.) What can I do to help her understand that she can’t let herself get so distracted, even if she is bored?


  46. I think it is hard for anyone to be bored. I am very sympathetic to your daughter’s predicament, especially if the teachers are picking on her. It sounds like she is doing well in many ways. Ideally you would talk to the school and teacher to sort through work or activities that would keep her engaged throughout the day. If that is not possible then you could talk to her about somethings she might do that would be interesting without causing disruption. In the future if possible it would be good to find schools and teachers that could provide interesting and interactive curriculum and activities.

  47. Jackie

    Hello,

    My 7 year old is in second grade and doesn’t complete any assignments in the classroom. His teacher says that he never pays attention and she has to call on him several times before she gets him to start on his work. I also have to constantly remind him to do things at home, which is annoying. Even without doing all his work he manages to get straight A’s. I’ve talked to him about his work many times. I have punished him by taking away all his electronics and have gotten very angry as well. The problem continues. He says that he needs me to help him stay focussed as he gets distracted in his class. Any suggestions?


  48. It is impressive that your son is managing to get straight As and is asking you for help, he sounds like a great person.

    As it seems that he wants to focus more I doubt that punishments or anger will help. I suggest that you spend some relaxed time with him having fun together and then talk to him about ideas that might help. Sometimes patiently listening to a child as he explains what goes on for him in class can make a difference. If you can manage to listen and not get upset it will probably be easier for both of you to figure out ideas that could help. You might also think through a reward if he managed to pay attention for a week. The reward would acknowledge how hard it is for him to focus and appreciate his efforts. A positive response from parents can often help more than a negative one. Once he has some experience successfully paying attention it will be easier for him to do so consistently.

  49. patricia gumede

    hi Sharon please help me my 10 year old son doing grade four is so distracted at shool he can’t even finish any of his asignment at school and and his homework at home unless when you push him to do so and the teacher is complaining bitterly me and his dad we have tried to speak and help him but no changes yet. pliz help I am worried.

  50. patricia gumede

    Dear Sharon My 10 year old son is easily distracted in his class. He never does anything by himself, he needs to be pushed very hard to finish his work at school or at home. His teacher is complaining bitterly. We have tried all we can to talk to him but nothing changes, please help me I am so worried I don’t know what to do.


  51. I know it is very worrisome to watch your child having a hard time with his schoolwork. When parents talk to their child when they are upset children often can’t hear what they are saying. I think if you were able to keep that worry away from your time with him that would probably help. (I know that is much easier said than done).

    I suggest that you spend some relaxed time with him, having fun together and remembering what a wonderful child he is. Then I would talk to him again, this time listening to what he has to say about his schoolwork and trying to figure out a plan to improve together.

  52. Seema

    Hi Sharon
    I was just googling around when I saw this blog.it shows m not the only one.I have got 7 year old boy who is doing excellent in his studies and with friends. .My problem is that he is always distracted; lost in his own world. That’s why he takes ages to finish routine jobs like eating, homework, brushing teeth etc..even if someone is waiting for him still he can’t help it. He can’t finish his lunch in school because he doesn’t finish in time; then his friends(who have obviously finished) will not wait for him..he needs a constant reminder to hurry up…I have talked with him a lot(since he likes talking)..I have even punished him.. But nothing has helped..please guide….

  53. Kartik

    Dear Sharon My 10 year old son is easily distracted in his class. He his distrbuting the class using some bad words and biting children also. He never does anything by himself, he needs to be pushed very hard to finish his work at school or at home. His teacher is complaining bitterly. We have tried all we can to talk to him but nothing changes, please help me I am so worried I don’t know what to do.


  54. Hi, I am sorry to hear things have been so challenging. Unfortunately I don’t think that talking will be enough to make a difference right now. It is difficult to suggest helpful ideas without meeting your son or knowing more details but it sounds like he needs some extra attention to find out what specifically is upsetting him. If your school has a counselor I would suggest asking for a meeting to talk through the problems you describe. If you can get help to discover the issues at home or school that increase his reactions it can help you sort through possible solutions.


  55. Hi, I think it is great that your son is doing well academically and socially. It is also good that he likes to talk to you, that can help you sort out solutions much more easily. I suggest that you pick one activity that he has trouble finishing on time, his lunch routine sounds like a good possible place to begin. You and he could talk about ideas that could help him focus and finish his lunch, you could even agree on a reward for doing so for a few days in a row. Getting his input for solutions will probably be helpful. If he accomplishes one task well, the skills he applied can be used again on a different task.

    Most parents are understandably in a hurry to have problems completely resolved. Unfortunately more often than not things take some time and planning. Taking one small step at a time can help.

  56. Yoli

    Hi, my son is an active 5 years old who just started Kindergarten this year. I haven’t gotten complaints unless I ask the teachers. I spoke to both of them yesterday in separate conversations and they explained how he is getting distracted and wanders sometimes. He looks at other children that are talking, or he just seems off. He does not get out of his seat, and he behaves great.

    His first language is Spanish, therefore he is beginning to learn English. He speaks a little bit, and understands more. But I know he does not understand everything. Yesterday, the teacher gave instructions and then she noticed that he was doing something else, so she went and explained it to him in Spanish, and he was able to do the activity. The teacher explained how when he is given an activity, he sometimes does not start at #1, but jumps to start #3, it seems like he wants to finish fast. He also does this at home whenever we are doing homework. The teacher has noticed that he does better one-one.

    I know it is very early to diagnose, and he needs time to adjust and learn the language. But I am concerned about ADHD. He is very active at home, and impulsive. But at school he behaves good, but if he is getting distracted. I don’t know. Please advise. Thank you.


  57. The transition to kindergarten can be difficult especially for active children. There is a lot to learn in the first few months of a new setting and your son also has to get used to a second language. It is good to hear that he responds well to one on one attention and that his behavior at school is good. Many children are more impulsive at home than they are in school. They feel comfortable to be themselves at home which is wonderful even though it can be hard to handle.

    I am glad you are in good touch with the teachers, that hopefully will ease your worries and help them give him what he needs to succeed. It will probably help if you can give him lots of love, patience and support while he learns to juggle his new school situation. Lots of children are much more able to cope with the expectations of school as they get closer to 1st grade. Parents often have to give their little ones time to do so.

  58. Jim

    First of all I want to thank you for taking time to answer people’s questions and worries. This summer my son, who is 9 and in 4th grade, and I took a long trip for 2 and 1/2 months to Europe and north Africa. While we were on vacation the new magnet school that I have put my son on a waiting list called to say that he was admitted. He started 2 weeks later.

    The first day I had the teacher complained that my son was misbehaving and talking in class as well as distracting other kids. The second day was a little better but by the 4th day he was at the principal’s office.

    I was completely shocked at the teacher pointed her finger at my face and basically explanined that my son was a really bad kid.

    I tried to explain to her that I have never had any complaint before and that he’s disturbed from a long trip. We are now in the 3rd week of school and his behavior is better, but his teacher is telling me what a challenge he is. He’s very talkative, day dreams, easily distracted and almost never finishes his class work. It’s very hard for him to focus even with me at home, please help. Thank you


  59. Thanks for being such a strong advocate for your son at school.

    I agree that the transition from your trip was probably challenging but am glad to hear that some of your son’s behaviors have improved. I suggest doing whatever you can to spend time with your boy identifying specific trouble spots one at a time to tackle. Once you have chosen a very specific place to begin, ie talking too much in one class, then patiently sort through different ways to improve in that area. It can help to ask for his input whenever possible and to check in with his teacher regularly to see if things have improved. Helping a child can be a lot like planning a trip. If you tackle all the complicated parts of traveling all at once nothing gets done but if you take one thing at a time the trip goes well.

  60. Jim

    Thanks for responding, it looks like there is another problem that has evolved, my son is in fourth grade this year in public school, as opposed to private school last year, He’s always been a good student, but he lacks focus and organization. This year, he is at a new school with a large number of students, and they don’t remind him to do things or jolt him back into reality when he’s daydreaming. He’s gone from being an A/B student to a D student, he told me that he feels overwhelmed, I tried to notify his teacher, unfortunately she does not seem to understand and his self-esteem has already dropped, I also noticed that she takes a lots of points for small mistakes, for instance, he forgot to write a test #, she took away points for that. When he does a math problem correctly but doesn’t show his complete work, she marks it wrong. The school seems to ask “what is wrong with him” even though I try to explain that he needs time to adjust. What should I do? Thanks.


  61. When a child begins attending a new school it often require a great deal of time and support from parents. In your case there are obviously a lot of rules and routines that are unfamiliar to your son. You will probably have to listen to him complain a lot and then help him identify the key points he needs to learn to succeed in this new environment. It sounds like you have been doing a good job advocating for him with the school, that will probably have to continue until he gets his “feel on the ground.” Good luck!

  62. Jie

    Hi, my son, Eli, who is a 4.5-year-old, was born to be a distracted kid. When he’s a baby, he’s not able to be concentrated to drink milk in a public environment since there’re always people walking around and talking, and he just watched them and listened. Now he’s in pre-k and can not finish his lunch in half an hour as other kids do. He talked to others across the table even though no one respond and the teacher has to sit with him and remind him all the time. He talked a lot in the circle time, too. I’m so concerned about his school time in the near future because it only leaves us half an year to train him. Could you please give us some advices?

  63. Debbie

    Hi Ihave a eight year old son in third grade.His teacher told me he is distracted while doing his class work and not finishing all of it. I am very worried about him. He told me that he has a hard time with copying somethings from the board onto his own paper on his desk. In reading he also skips or adds words and guesses at words instead of sounding them out, I have him in Kumon, a reading program, and he is improving but is not at third grade level.How can I help my son being distracted in class and not finishing it?

  64. Ashley

    Hi Sharon,

    my 9 year old 4th grader has always done relatively well I’m school, always a little talkative but that’s characteristic of my family so I’m not too hard on her for that. however, she started a new school for fourth grade, says she loves the school, but does not try to do well at all. there are certain things that she’s always been good at and now it seems as if all she cared about is making friends and is easily distracted. she’s very smart, however I’m not sure she understands that it’s not okay to not ask questions in class, she feels as if she doesn’t have to then comes home and does her homework wrong. she makes it seem as if school is unimportant and I’m shocked for many reasons, but the two most concerning things are that she was an excellent A/B student up until this point, and two I am a nurse still in school so she sees my studies constantly and could care less..I just don’t know how to drive it home to her how important school really is and it breaks my heart

  65. Vanessa

    Hi, my son is just about to turn 6 and is at his first year at school. I have read through the problems other parents are having here and I can totally relate to most of them. My son is distracted and disconnected at school and it is getting worse. He has lost confidence and won’t try things anymore. He doesn’t complete anything in class and his teacher is completely frustrated with him and seems to be giving up and putting him in time out most of the day because he doesn’t do as she asks. He is not a naughty child but he procrastinates and needs to be asked over and over to do things and seldom gets anything done unless someone helps him or stands over him. He yawns a lot and says he is tired when she asks him what the problem is, but he sleeps 8pm to 7am and eats healthily.
    I don’t understand what the problem is either. He started off liking school and is a bright kid; he loves people, and is helpful, kind and very curious. He loves to understand how things work, makes up lots of science experiments at home, asks fantastic questions and loves us to read all sorts of books. He just doesn’t want to be at school, he says it’s hard, boring and he can’t do it. He is falling behind badly, and I will admit he has a very stubborn personality, so now that he has negative feelings about the school work he refuses to try for me as well. He is starting to get emotional both at school and at home and really does seem tired and at times gets angry. I try to stay calm and make things fun, but I’m a single Mum and sometimes the whole thing is exhausting, I’m starting to dread seeing and talking to the teacher so I can appreciate how he feels when he doesn’t want to go to school. How can I turn this around before it gets any worse?

  66. Sherry

    My son is 8 years old. He’s smart, and has no problem understanding in class or while doing his homework, but he gets distracted easily. He always brings home his unfinished class work; math sheets, drawings, reading etc…and he always tells me that there is not enough time for him to finish. His teacher says he does not concentrate in the class. I tried to let him play more, stayed away from video games, played more family games together etc. but he is still distracted a lot in class or when he’s doing his homework.


  67. I am glad to hear that your son is smart and understanding everything going on in school. I am also happy to hear that you have tried many things to make things go well for him. You might have to sit with him while he is doing his homework and gradually help him concentrate for longer periods of time. Sometimes I suggest that parents help their child concentrate for a short period or time and when they accomplish the goal they get to play with their mom or dad for a few minutes before trying again. School work can be boring but gradually lengthening the amounts of time can help a child get used to the idea of focusing on one thing at a time.


  68. I am glad to hear that you are getting your son some individual help that is making a difference. Children learn to read at very different paces, some children take a while to sort out all the skills involved. People who begin reading later than others can still catch up as “they get the hang of it”. When he is more comfortable reading it will be less frustrating in school and may help with his distraction. In the meantime I would suggest that you find interesting books to read to him at home. If he is surrounded by books that he likes, even he doesn’t read them himself, it will keep his love of learning alive and ready for when he can take charge himself. One of my sons didn’t read until he began 4th grade and as an adult he reads books all the time that I find “over my head.”


  69. It sounds like your son is having a hard time coping with this particular school. As I am not sure of all of the details I would have to hear more specifics. If you would like to call me to talk more feel free to do so. 718-638-9444.

  70. Brij

    I have 7 year old son. He is a great kid – very intelligent with alot of knowledge for someone his age. He loves non-fiction books, Lego blocks, funny stories, and jokes. His teachers always admire his imagination that shows in his work. He is always active in group discussions and never afraid of giving his opinion. He is shy but not afraid to speak up in discussions or games.

    His report card repeatedly stated that ‘he gets easily distracted’. His teachers believe that he has great potential if we can get him to focus. However, he can be easily distracted. Every night I read to him at bedtime and play legos and other things regularly. It is very difficult to distract him from an interesting book and Lego project. His mother helps him with his homework, which takes a lot of effort. Even though he is 7 we still have to get him ready every morning.

    He remembers scientific concepts, geographic locations, long songs and strange facts but he often forgets simple instructions of submitting his homework, carrying his water bottle or returning his library books in school. Please let me know if you can help me.


  71. Thanks for a good description of your son. He sounds like a wonderful intellectually oriented boy. I think that physically active games or sports might be helpful to him. Focusing on the unexpected details that invariably surface when playing active sports with other children could help him handle the challenges you describe. You will probably have to patiently practice with him before he joins a team but that too could be beneficial.

  72. Edith Akanya

    Good day,my son is 12 yrs old and is distracted in class, failing almost all his subjects. What is the best way to help him be more serious about his studies, he dooesn’t copy notes, or answer questions in the class. Thanks


  73. Hi Edith, 12 year olds are usually juggling a lot as increased academic and social pressures add up over time. Most 12 years olds need caring time and attention from their parents as they sort through the many questions and challenges that can surface at this age.

    As your son seems to be having a particularly difficult time with his school work this is even more true for him. I would begin by seeking extra resource at school and if there is none available trying to find people to help him when he is outside of school.

    Helping a 12 year old who is struggling to this extent takes time, care and patience but I have seen parents work things through gradually over time.

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