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Tips for Parents: Helping your Child Pay Attention | PDF

Español/Spanish: Consejos para padres - La evaluación objectiva

Does your child tend to daydream when doing homework?  This same lack of attention may be a problem at school as well.  By teaching a few simple methods, you can help your child pay better attention.

What Parents Can Do

Teach positive self-talk.  This technique involves using certain words or phrases to help maintain concentration.  Examples of positive self-talk:

  • “When I complete three more math problems I can take a break.”
  •  “I could understand the teacher in class today, so I know I can answer these social studies questions.”
  • “Coach said my tennis game will improve if I serve and volley.  I’ll serve 15 balls and practice running for the net every day.”

Teach positive mental images.  In addition to positive self-talk, students can improve their attention span by controlling the images they see in their mind.  For example, gymnasts who visualize the entire process of completing a perfect vault or floor exercise increase their attention and motivation.

Teach kids how to formulate questions.  By asking themselves questions, students can bring wandering minds back to the task at hand and also keep focused.  Formulating questions will also help your child read and listen with a purpose.  For example:

  •  “Who did what and why?”
  •  “Is this statement true or false?”
  • “What is the author really trying to tell me?”
  • “If I were the person in this article, would I be for or against recycling?”
  • “If there were no telephones during the Civil War, how did they communicate?”

Teach kids to set specific study goals.  Children can improve attention by setting specific goals to work toward as they study.  Ask your child to read a short paragraph to locate the main idea or to recall specific information.  Although each goal will be different, the purpose is to encourage concentration. Keep in mind the importance of setting many smaller, easier to obtain goals, than a single large one.  Discuss each goal with your child, getting his/her input.  Make sure the goals are reasonable and easy to understand.

If your child chooses a broad, abstract goal “to do better in math”, show him/her how this goal can be accomplished by setting a series of smaller concrete goals, such as “spend ten additional minutes each night reviewing previous math work, do three extra homework problems each week, and study at least two nights for the next math test.”

Taking Responsibility

To be successful learners, students need to take some responsibility for their own learning.  Teachers are there to instruct, but ultimately it is through the student’s own effort that success is achieved.  Many students are handicapped by the idea that teachers, luck, or basic intelligence are the only factors that control their successes and failures.

Use Praise

Praising good work is a successful technique.  It is important that they realize that their efforts do make a difference.  Stress the benefits of doing well at school such as winning a scholarship or getting an interesting job.  Sometimes just a reminder to try harder will help.

Good Study Habits

Developing a study system can also be a great advantage.  Here are five Tips for Parents to implementing a successful study system:

  1. Find a place and time for studying
  2. Preview the material
  3. Read and generate thoughts
  4. Take notes
  5. Self-test

For more information:

U.S. Department of Education's Helping Your Child Succeed in School

“What Helps Us Learn: Hear It from the Kids”

IOX Assessment Associates

28170 SW Boberg Rd, Suite 1

Wilsonville, OR 97070-9205

(800) 330-3382

You may also find these tips for Parents helpful:

Tips for Parents: Learning Styles

Tips for Parents: Homework

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