TO GET AND KEEP YOUR KID'S ATTENTION
Debbie Glasser, Special to The Miami Herald
it sounds like there's an echo in our house.
"Please put your backpack away.''
put your backpack away.''
forget to make your bed.''
forget to make your bed.''
truth is, there are times when the best way to get my young children's
attention and help them learn a new routine is to repeat myself
- day after day.
there's good news. According to researchers at McMaster and McGill
universities in Canada, repeating may not be a last resort for harried
parents but a useful and appropriate strategy to help children focus
regularly asking the same thing over and over is not an effective
(or recommended) way to communicate with kids, occasionally repeating
a request - and introducing the same lesson more than once - may
be just what young children need in order to learn new responsibilities
a study published this month in Developmental Science, researchers
found that the attention skills of children ages 6 to 10 are not
yet at their peak proficiency.
children often miss things that older children and adults more easily
notice,'' said David Shore, co-author of the study and associate
professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior at McMaster University
in Hamilton, Ontario. "Their ability to attend to important
details is still progressing.
adults, we attend to objects and information because we've had a
lifetime of experience doing this,'' he said. "But young children
need more time - and practice - to learn.''
busy parents, though, it's easy to call out a hurried request to
a child without taking the time to explain it. In fact, we may be
in such a rush that we fail to notice whether we even have their
attention. As a result, we may be inadvertently pushing our children
to follow our pace, rather than allowing them to learn and progress
at their own speed.
may expect that our kids `get it' as quickly as we do,'' Shore said.
"But when we force them to keep up with an adult pace, chances
are they're going to miss things.
key,'' he said, "is to slow down, be patient, and find opportunities
to repeat important details.''
to Sondra Pestcoe, third-grade reading teacher at Imagine Charter
School in Weston, there are a number of things we can do to help
our young children focus their attention and cue in to details.
are some suggestions:
Get their attention. "With young children, it's important to
make eye contact and ensure you have their full attention before
asking them something important or teaching a new skill,'' Pestcoe
Say it again. Don't get into the habit of repeating everything you
say. But if you ask your child something that requires multiple
steps - or you're not sure if your child fully understands what's
expected of her - then repeat the request if you think it will be
helpful, Pestcoe said.
Offer prompts. "Because each child has a unique learning style,
it may be helpful to introduce a request or lesson in a variety
of ways,'' Pestcoe said. For example, when you ask your child to
put away her backpack after school, you might accompany this request
with a visual cue - like a photo of her backpack posted over a hook
where she can hang it.
Break it down. "Not all kids are multi-taskers,'' Pestcoe said.
"Young children may benefit when you break down tasks into
smaller steps.'' Instead of saying, "Clean your room,'' you
might say, "Please put your clothes in the hamper.'' Then wait
and say, "Great. Now, please put your shoes in the closet.''
In time, your child will be able to clump tasks together on her
own. In the meantime, suggested Pestcoe, start slowly and help your
young child gradually build on these skills as she grows.
Clarify. "Young children can be literal,'' Pestcoe said. "Don't
assume that they understand exactly what you're asking. Be clear
Be positive. "When children follow through with a task - and
when they master a new skill - give plenty of positive reinforcement,''
Give them time. Experts agree that each child develops at his or
her own pace. "Sometimes the best approach is to slow down
and take a pause,'' Shore said. "Wait a minute - or even a
few seconds - and give your child time to process information. Sometimes,
that's all they need.''
Glasser, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder
an online newsletter for parents.
can be reached at debbie@NewsForParents.org.
August 27, 2006
Copyright (c) 2006 The Miami Herald