A Window into Life in the Suburbs


"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Homework Blues: My Own Distractible Child

Yesterday I experienced one of those light bulb moments... an important paradigm shift in my parenting woes.  In desperation, I had googled "How to help a distractible child" as one does in such situations to find answers. It really was time for me to take the proverbial bull by the horns. I needed simple, workable strategies.

We had strong suspicions from her earliest days in school that the almost 9 year old was prone to being distracted but never got to the root of it. In Grade 1, there was a new baby to think of and to take the blame for being unable to give the school-age child the attention she needed. In Grade 2, it was the change of teachers and then in Grade 3, we still believed that it was mostly an allergy to mathematics. We had an inkling that her issues with maths came from a complete lack of confidence or an irrational fear but it never really clicked with us that distractibility was a kind temperament/personality trait and that we had to work around it. Although it was a constant uphill battle to change her/modify her behaviour, it never occurred to me that there was something deeper at work. Laziness... tiredness... whatever it was... It's just always seemed easier to revert to what one has done in the past than get out of one's comfort zone. Come to think of it, there were things about her that always mystified me -- the hysterical outbursts, the over-the-top reactions to frustration and failure as well as the hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. Just yesterday, she started hyperventilating because she couldn't do her usual thing in her favourite maths website.

It never occurred to me in the last 3 years that I had a problem or difficult child. Problem children, it seemed to me are unpleasant, unruly and uncontrollable. And the almost 9 year old is nothing like that. Verbally, she's very articulate and socially, she's an extrovert. Her literacy skills are above average... her numeracy skills... not so much. Sure, she has a tendency to be theatrical but we thought it was merely an attention grabbing tactic and her dramatic tantrums was just her quaint way of role playing and not symptomatic of something more fundamental. While I fully appreciate all the usual arguments against labelling children, I think it can be helpful to have categories just so that beleaguered parents can begin to get a handle on things and then go on from there.

I found this website tremendously helpful in helping me make sense of our battles over the last 3 years.

The distractible child notices every thing that is going on around her. Not only is she distracted by external stimuli, but she also will be distracted from a task by her own thoughts, daydreams, and internal stimuli. This is a delightful trait in many ways but definitely causes problems in a classroom with 20 other children.
Well, ain't that the truth. But there's more.

Although the stubborn child is more difficult to deal with at home, it is generally the non-persistent child who has the most trouble at school. This is the child who will stop all attempts at a task once he reaches the first stumbling block. He may elicit disapproval from the teacher because he is constantly asking her to explain things to him rather than attempting them on his own. Frequently, he will turn in an incomplete paper or fail to do his homework because he didn't understand it at first glance. The non-persistent child also finds it difficult to stay focused on a task for more than a few minutes. He needs to learn strategies for staying on task.

Hallelujah... sombody gets it!  This describes my almost 9 year old to the T and it was a relief to know that my child isn't abnormal, that I'm not paranoid or an abject failure as a parent and there are ways to parent a child of this temperament without feeling battle weary.
The article did not provide me with a lot of tips although it does suggest using a kitchen timer, which I am already doing, and teaching the child the LISTEN technique.

Learning to focus is the most important school task for this child. A good strategy for her to learn is the LISTEN technique. This technique is important to use when the teacher is giving instructions.Write the following acronym on a poster to learn and practice at home, and put it somewhere in the child's school materials where she will see it frequently at school.
L-ook at the teacher
I-dle your motor (stop thinking about other things)
S-it up straight
T-urn to the teacher
E-ngage your brain (think about what the teacher is saying)
N-ow
Sounds good.
I'll be making this chart and few others and make them available on the blog as soon as I work out how to embed files here.

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