Do you expect your children to multitask?
And by that I mean, something seemingly simple like responding to your request for their clothes to go in the hamper while they're busy organizing their bookshelf.
Does it seem like they ignore you - like they're not listening at all?
I know this feeling.
I also know that various stages of children's development can include generous amounts of attentional challenges, inflexibility, and one-track thinking.
I once asked my nine-year-old to talk about her birthday party details while she was getting ready for school and almost immediately she stopped brushing her hair and stared off into space.
One might assume that a nine-year-old should be able to talk and brush her hair at the same time, but I immediately recognized that her pattern of staring off was her brain shutting down.
I took the cue and said -
"I'm sorry, go ahead and finish brushing your hair. We can talk about it later."
"Thank you" she sighed, relieved to return to the task at hand.
Yes, it would have been ideal - and efficient - if I could have confirmed the party details while she was finishing her morning routine (something we worked diligently to get her to manage on her own).
But, when she is focused on something, she can hardly stand hearing the murmur of nearby conversations, let alone be able to have a conversation.
Focusing, paying attention, filtering out distraction and executing more than one task at a time are skills that are located in the executive center of the brain and are not well-developed in children.
This area of the brain is the last to mature and needs years of practice to function effectively.
We shape the developing brain and influence skill development by how we respond to immaturity.
Skill-building is not about giving directions and waiting for kids to act. It's a process of patiently practicing alongside our children as they make mistakes and build the confidence to try again.
Skills develop when we adapt our responses to meet the needs of our children rather than forcing actions for the sake of obedience.
I've learned that I have to wait and give my child information in small doses.
Tempted as I am to lay out a week's worth of chores and responsibilities in one mini-lecture, I realize she needs mini-bits of instruction. Skill development is unique for all kids. If your child is struggling now, have patience.
Here are 3 ways you can promote skill-building in your children:
1. One thing at a time. If you catch yourself giving more than one directive or making more than one request at a time - stop and pick one.
Likewise, if your child is in the middle of something, first connect and take an interest in what they're doing before you share your thoughts.
2. Give space. When children become overstimulated because of too much information at once, it's best to give them some space and have them reconnect with their body through breathing exercises.
They will feel a better sense of control if you can reduce the input and give space to allow them the time to regulate.
3. Reflecting instead of directing. Telling children what needs to be done is helpful - once. After that, directing becomes nagging which becomes annoying which leads to defiance.
"Why haven't you cleaned your room?"
"You better pick up those clothes before you go out to play!"
"You need to pay attention."
This kind of language - especially if said with an impatient or sharp tone - stimulates a child's survival brain and encourages defensiveness.
PLAN B? Reflecting.
"I noticed the clothes on your bedroom floor this afternoon. What do you think stopped you from getting your room in order?"
This stimulates a child's thinking brain and encourages reflection.
If you want to strengthen the skills - you have to activate the part of the brain that controls those skills. Practice makes us conscious!
What do you think?
Share your stories and thoughts in the comments below and until next time, please remember it's about consciousness - not perfection!
LIKE what you see? SHARE it with someone you LOVE!
If you don't see the comments, try switching from mobile to desktop view.