HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My Child Doesn't Pay Attention

By Dr. Michelle Alvarez, Consulting Educator


I have a 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten. She attended home daycare for about two years before kindergarten. Her teacher is having problems with her not listening or paying attention.

When the class is quiet she is up and about doing other things. Then she eventually comes together with the class. When the teacher spends one-on-one time with her, she is calmer and does what she needs to do. I must admit she is a very active child. She knows most things that the other children who attended preschool know, but she is still behind in some areas.

Could her problem be that she has to get used to a more structured environment or should we be concerned?


I think you are right on target. At this point it appears she needs to get used to a more structured environment and what is expected of her in a school setting.

Teachers have students who come to kindergarten from many different settings and are adept at creating learning environments that take these differences into account. It is encouraging that your daughter will join the class eventually. Looking for strategies to decrease the time it takes her to join the class might be a first step. You could create a reward system that targets behaviors you want to encourage at school and create a simple chart the teacher could fill out and send home every day.

Here is a behavior chart that would be age appropriate for your daughter. Once your daughter has earned an agreed-upon number of points, you can give her a reward that is an incentive for her to work on the goals. The rewards might be staying up 15 minutes later one night or helping you make something in the kitchen.

Academically, all children learn on different timetables. The teacher is prepared for this and will work to help each student learn. Unless the teacher is concerned about either behavior or academics, you do not need to worry at this point. Being active is very normal at this age. Encourage your daughter through the use of a behavior chart. If you continue to be concerned about her activity level, consult your pediatrician and ask for assistance in ruling out any medical issues that could be contributing factors.

Dr. Michelle Alvarez is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Indiana and project director of Safe Schools/Healthy Students for the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. A former school social worker in Pinellas County, Florida, she is co-editor of School Social Work: Theory to Practice and chair of the National Association of Social Workers, School Social Work Section. She is also the parent of a special needs child.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"My daughter is now 3 years and 4 months old. She don;t pay attention when we ask anything now we got complaint message from her play school as well. She play with kids but not doing normal activity that norlmally kids does at this stage. Her words are also not clear. Please help us what we should do. She always want to watch TV. Thanks a lot in advance."