My son has trouble concentrating. Help!

Sue Atkins is a UK-based internationally recognised parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012))

My 11-year-old son has a short attention span and cannot concentrate on any activity for more than 15 minutes. I find it hard to motivate him to finish his homework. Please help! — Lavanya Shivlikith, Bangalore

The main reason some children have trouble concentrating is because they are wired differently from adults. When a task they’re given isn’t enjoyable, they tend to get bored and quickly shift their attention to something more interesting — unlike adults who have to complete tasks whether we like them or not! Here are some ways to improve your child’s concentration: Create a distraction-free environment.

Observe and ascertain whether your child responds well in an environment that is soothing and calming or thrives in an environment with a lot of hustle and bustle. Create the study environment accordingly. Ban gadgets during homework. Ideally, all electronic gadgets need to be switched off or kept in a different room to avoid distraction when children are doing home or other school work. Be prepared. Ensure your son has everything that he needs before he settles down to study — books, pencils, erasers, water, etc. Also run through his homework with him and encourage him to complete the task briskly and efficiently. Regulate sugar intake. A fizzy drink or sugary snack may slow down your child’s energy and concentration levels. Schedule a regular study routine. Fix a time each day for study followed by playtime. Encourage and praise his diligence.

My 15-year-old son is very impulsive. He makes decisions without worrying about consequences. This has led to troublesome situations in school and at home. How do I help him slow down and think his actions through? — Anshu Sharma, Mumbai

It’s normal for teens to be impulsive. Research shows that teens, more often than people of any other age, tend to follow short-term impulses rather than pursue long-term goals. They have difficulty waiting for long-term rewards because their brains are sensitive to immediate rewards. Here are some suggestions to help your son slow down:

• Don’t place yourself in a power struggle. Impulsive behaviour is often about getting a reaction from others, so don’t intensify situations with your comments. Counsel him to hit the ‘pause button’ during emotionally charged situations and remain collected. Your role is to empower him to make better choices, not criticise and judge his actions. Read more about the Pause Button Technique on button-technique/

• Physical exercise is a great way to burn off impulsivity. Another panacea is listening to music.

• Hold your son accountable. As a teen your son should know all actions come with consequences. Create boundaries and rules that will motivate him to practice prudent behaviour.

My five-year-old son has not yet uttered a coherent word. He has no problem communicating with us through sounds but he has not spoken a proper word yet. Should I consult a speech therapist? — Vismaya Mathur, Udupi

Usually, a two-year-old child says about 50 words and can speak two and three-word sentences. By age three, her vocabulary increases to about 1,000 words, and she can utter three and four-word sentences. If your toddler hasn’t crossed these milestones, there is a speech development delay. Developmental milestones enable you to monitor your child’s progress, but however they’re just general guidelines. You may simply have a late bloomer who’ll be talking his head off in no time. Nevertheless I recommend that you consult a paediatrician for advice as speech delays are also caused by hearing loss or underlying neurological or developmental disorders. Many types of speech delay can be effectively treated through therapy and medication. Ask Your Counselor Nurturing 21st Century children My son has trouble concentrating. Help!

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