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How Can I Help a Distracted Child?

By Dr. Ron Taffel, Family Therapist

Question:

My daughter is a very bright child. However, she is easily distracted and often gets in trouble in class for not following directions, excessive talking or getting distracted and disruptive in class. When we talk to her at home, she cries easily and says she doesn't know why she gets in trouble.

She loves to read and loves to do her homework when it is her idea. She is very excited to learn something new or when she does well in school but it is sometimes very hard to get her to want to do the work she brings home. Help!

Answer:

It may be hard to accept this, but when your daughter says she doesn't know why she gets in trouble, she probably doesn't. Rather than spend time on what she is not able to do, build a communication loop with the teacher -- get a brief weekly email or some other quick communication about what she has done well in class. Your daughter obviously likes positive feedback. Since she responds better when it is her idea, sit with her and ask her for some practical suggestions about creating a routine around homework. Let her lead the process about how to get the homework done without a fight. Will it be better if she starts right away? Should she watch some TV first or later? Come up with a plan together. Between regular feedback from the teacher and the plan she has developed, you may find your daughter able to focus more easily.

Dr. Ron Taffel is a noted child and family therapist, and author of Parenting by Heart, Why Parents Disagree, Nurturing Good Children Now, The Second Family, and a guide for child professionals, Getting Through to Difficult Kids and Parents. He consults with and lectures at schools and community organizations around the country. He lives with his wife and children in New York City.

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.