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January 26, 2021

10 Ways to Teach Kids Focus & Self Control

Editor’s Note: Click this link to view upcoming Stronger Me, Stronger We Mind in the Making offerings.

In session two of Mind in the Making (MITM), Team Imaginative tapped into their imaginations to brainstorm what they do to practice focus and self-control when they need it most. Together, we created a list of what helps us hone this skill. When we learn the skill of Focus & Self-Control, we can promote it in our children.

  1. Take a deep breath. There are fun tools to teach kids to take a breath intentionally. You can put your cupped hand out as if you are holding flowers and say, “smell the flowers” as they take a big sniff, and hold your hand out and say, “blow out the candle” as they release their breath. This can be done with children as young as one to help them learn to self soothe.
  2. Listen. Sometimes minds wander, distractions intrude, and we just lose interest. Teaching a child to listen can be as easy as asking pertinent open-ended questions to the topic to keep them engaged. What might happen next? How do you think she felt? Questions such as these let them know that you’re interested in their input and helps them learn to listen so they can answer these questions.
  3. Shut off devices. When we remove distractions, we can give our full attention to where it belongs at that moment. In a season where many children are studying from home, ensure that they have an environment free from the distractions of television, traffic, or other conversations that won’t be competing for their focus.  
  4. Power of the pause. When we teach children to pause, it allows them to think before going into automatic pilot and then to answer with a thought out response. We can teach them to count to three, take a breath, or WOOP to create space for them to think things through.
  5. Consider the bigger plan. When we go into automatic pilot, we want to answer without much thought. Teaching children to take other perspectives by brainstorming and looking at the bigger picture can refocus their attention where it benefits them most in that situation.
  6. Gentle reminders. Clarifying the process, restating the goal, and sharing the purpose can bring a child’s attention back to the task at hand.
  7. Let smaller situations pass. When little interruptions call our focus away, a good visualization for children to make is the analogy of a cloud passing by and floating away so we can work on what is in front of us.
  8. Take breaks. We can all use a break now and then. Sometimes the best way to bring the focus back is to set something aside for a bit and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Being clear with children that it’s a five minute or five-hour break helps set them up for success and might be just what they need!
  9. Respond vs. React. We can teach children that tone and words matter when we’re trying to stay in control. Role-playing with them in different tones can show them how the same words can be perceived very differently. Responding vs. Reacting helps us keep our self-control in check.
  10. Role model the behavior. Model the behavior you would like to teach the children. You are planting healthy seeds for their success!

With the skill of Focus & Self Control, both children and adults are building a strong foundation for the following skills to emerge; Perspective Taking, Communication, Making Connections, Critical Thinking, Taking on Challenges, and Self-Directed, Engaged Learning!


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