As parents we often make the assumption that distractibility is something our child can control. We may use a frustrated or angry tone of voice. We may use shame in our attempts to address the behavior. If we view the distractibility as something that requires our help instead of our discipline, we can get our emotions and actions under control in order to parent more effectively.
The goal is to reframe "distractibility" to a skill that can be taught like learning to read. Some people learn to read easily. Others, need additional help. So, choose a positive goal. For instance, "I will help my child learn to finish a specific task." Then, break it down into pieces that make success easy to see for you and your child.
I recommend starting with daily routine tasks and chores before trying to tackle more complex goals involving school.
Goal: Learn to clean his room.
1. Take a picture of the clean room. This way you both have the same visual in mind for the goal.
2. Provide individual steps toward the final product:
a. put laundry in the hamper
b. put books on the shelf
c. put toys in the toy chest
d. straighten and pull your covers up to the pillow
3. Start by only giving one instruction at a time. Prompt as needed and find things to praise along the way.
4. Over time, if you follow the same routine; he will learn the steps and become more independent.
5. Be patient and know that perfection is not the goal. No one is perfect. The goal is improvement. Breaking the task into pieces will help you both see improvement.
What works in your house? Please share
The first and most important step is to take the time to do it. Some days, it will be a short book. That's ok! Sometimes, you can just look at the pictures together. If your child wants to read the same book a thousand times, do it. Studies have demonstrated that repetitions of story books builds pre-literacy skills. Even if it feels like your child isn't listening, what you are doing matters. You are demonstrating by your presence and your actions that you are there for them. You are providing language and literacy growth opportunities just by reading to them.
If your child comments on the words or the pictures, talk about it. It helps build connections to real-life experiences.
If your child doesn't comment or has a communication disorder, notice your child's non-verbal communication. Listen for laughing or cooing and comment when appropriate, "isn't that silly? Just like -----." Your still building that connection to real life.
Most importantly, enjoy!
What is your child's favorite bedtime story? Share!
Lauren B. Norwood