Wednesday, July 18, 2012

7 Ways to Help BOYS Focus and Grow Their Attention Span



As mom to five wonder boys full of limitless energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, just plain goofiness and amazingly strong-wills, it can be hard to get them to SIT STILL and FOCUS.
Individually, not all at the same time, then I would know the world's end was upon us.
{big smile}

No, it does happen regularly, all kidding aside and it takes work and commitment.
I am sure your home is much like ours {maybe minus the quadruplets part} where the full volume craziness ebbs and flows. I find myself distracted often and in hyper multi-tasking mode myself, so I can understand the level of skill it takes my boys to focus in on something and complete it. 

I was a little spoiled with my oldest, he is an intuitive learner, he had and has an awesome attention span.  It was kind of the perfect situation...my understanding him really well {because I am the same way} and of course much more was his brains' ability to fill in the gaps and grasp more difficult concepts.  We also had uninterrupted time and I chose to delay a lot of what I needed to do until he was asleep, that's no longer the case.  
While I know I just typed those words I seriously no longer know what they mean!

Now I have FOUR two-and-three-quarter year olds {who no longer regularly nap} and I am being more purposeful and intentional in increasing their attention spans as our day has increased.  While part of it comes from being a multiple, having 24/7 playdates with 3 other kids the exact same age as you lends to a lot of disruption and distraction {in this context, it is a very cool thing too}, I simply can't let that be an excuse.  More than anything it is a matter of consistency and effort.  

I digressed here intentionally as I know and have heard from many moms, my hand is raised high in the air here, who felt they had more time, energy, focus, attention, fill-in-the-blank for their first child.  It can be done for the rest of your crew though although I have found it takes more intention and planning.  I also know that boys {like girls} come in a wide variety, I have a couple who are more apt to sit and focus, a couple somewhere in between, and one who will either be a stuntman or an Olympic gymnast and is going from sunrise to sunset.  

Today instead of once again thinking my crew would run around like wild things and never for the love of all things good sit still ever, I decided to focus in myself on the things I know that work.  The tried and true.


The most important thing I can give is my uninterrupted time, which is nearly impossible, but not impossible.  Inevitably when I sit down with one, someone else is fighting, injured, or decides to lock himself in the bathroom, but seeing it through is important, even if for 20 minutes total.  As my husband says, "to get the omelet you may have to break a few eggs..."  or a few dozen here, but the boys may be best occupied by something messy or involved to clean up in order for me to work with one.  Here's the thing, it may seem counterproductive, but I promise it isn't.  


Increasing attention span too is something that gives back over time if you will.   Your time will lessen in a myriad of ways as their attention spans grow.  

{one}
Start with what they love.  
The interest will be greater with things they enjoy so if it's legos, imaginary play, books, or drawing, start there.  Over time it needs to become more diverse and even include things they aren't overjoyed about, but initially they will spend more time with something that really interests them.  Involve them in making the decision on what to do.  

{two}
Play games.
I subscribe to kids learning through play.  Memory.  Go Fish.  Cranium's Cariboo.  I SPY.  Look and Seek Books.  Things that make them sit, take turns {with you}, learn patience, and have fun at the same time.  Positive interactions with a quiet activity.   The skill to play games has translated in my home to a skill to sit and read independently, build complex lego sets,  work through puzzles and solo games, and more.  While it is interactive at first all of the mini skills to complete a game increase focus and attention.  

{three}
Don't wait.
As with all things learning, I do not think you need to wait to introduce anything to your child, as long as it is done in a fun and encouraging way.  They may surprise you with what they are capable of doing or ready for.   There is no set magical age when they sit down and a ready to "work on" their attention span, in fact it happens best organically taken in little steps over time.  Sitting through a full story is worked on by listening to a couple pages at first {and I'm talking board books here} and then a couple more and so on.  

{four}
Use technology to your advantage.
Our boys have been exposed to educational movies and television and iPAD apps that we have researched and deem appropriate for their age and content.  I actually do not think it is a bad thing to be able to sit through a movie or a show given other criteria {see #6 and #7 below}.  I believe in moderation and showing my kids how to use things that could be negative for the positive.  That is just us and of course you will do what you believe.  My point on technology would be to be in control of it's usage and enable it to help your goals.
Not allowing kids to switch between apps constantly or shows, or sit for extended periods of time, etc.  I know and have had the same fears that then whatever comes next to hold their attention needs to be that interesting, but I have not really seen that if used in moderation and if the other topics are presented in an exciting and creative manner.  

{five}
Seize their best time of day and set expectations.
As you know don't do it when they are hungry, sick, or tired.  Initially I would pick a time in the morning and in the afternoon and start there.  It's also reasonable and necessary to set expectations.  We are going to do this now....Let's finish this up.....We will move onto x when y is done, etc.  Always with praise and encouragement and in their most comfortable environment.  I find that key, seek out a place they will respond best and consistently work there if possible.  Yet don't limit yourself to that spot if you have opportunities while on the go, etc.  


{six}
Balance with plenty of physical activity and adventures.
I'll age myself, but we were told to get the wiggles out before sitting down during elementary school.  Boys HAVE TO play outdoors, play rough and tumble, play hard.  Now I have two that don't really do that per se or maybe because I have others that really go for it {smile}, but they still love the outdoors and love new adventures.  If you have a morning at home have an afternoon out, and let them know {back to #5}, we are going to do this now, but then we will head out to our favorite park.  Knowing that will make a world of difference.  



{seven}
Delay instant gratification.  
As my oldest gets older this is a big one.  I don't have to tell you so much is flying at our boys to make them happy right now.  It's not good and it's not just technology.  It's working through something and being a little uncomfortable while doing it or having to come back to it before figuring it out.  I was at a conference recently and the speaker explained that it is in the moments of achieving something on your own that REAL self-esteem is built.  I know that sometimes boys especially won't try something like sitting through or sitting down to do something new because they don't think they can.  


Under this sentiment too is I know I can work on myself, just BEING.  It is summed up nicely here...

“Boys need to learn the value of spiritual solitude. For the soul to grow, it needs those moments of no-stimulation, of wakeful peace. Because we adults don't usually practice enough solitude—because we are always 'doing' things—we often neglect to teach our boys to find solitude” 
― Michael GurianThe Wonder of Boys

Finally, the most important piece to me is recognizing who your child is, embracing their boyhood, and not wishing anything inherent about them to be different.  
Yes boys will be boys and they are awesome.    

{DISCLAIMER: We know from research and well the fact that I am a girl, that girls and boys learn differently, develop at different paces, etc. so while these could also apply to girls, they were written in the context of boys.  Feel free to apply them in the context you see fit!  In addition, I recognize there are REAL reasons for boys and girls diagnosed with REAL issues that do not package things up this simply and there are many great resources to help that I am not qualified to speak on, I'll leave that to the experts!.}

I hope this helps you as much as it did me to write it!!!

{michelle}







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I so appreciate your sweet thoughts and thank you for sharing. I always try to reply whether it be to your email or on one of your blog posts! Wishing you a wonder*filled day! Michelle

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