How Can You Promote Focus and Self Control in Children?

How Can You Promote Focus and Self Control in Children?

In Ellen Galinsky’s newly published book, Mind in the Making:  The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, she offers many suggestions of how we as parents and teachers can promote focus and self-control in children.  It starts as early as infancy when children get upset and parents discover what works best to calm them down.  For one child it might be carrying the baby to a quiet place or using words to describe your child’s feelings or turning the lights off.  A parent learns to follow his/her child’s cues and, in doing so, helps the baby learn to take the lead in managing himself/herself. 

With the help of parents supporting the child, but not imposing control on the child, a baby learns how to come back into balance after he/she has become upset.  It takes doing this over and over again with an infant, but eventually the child develops an internal feedback system and a chance to learn that he/she can develop ways to calm himself. This is the start of the child’s ability to exert self-control.

As children get older, they love to play games.  Think of games that require the child to pay attention.
Here are some you might want to try.

Guessing games.  For example, “I am thinking of an animal with a name that sounds like a rat.”
“I Spy.”  Tell your child what you spy and have your child guess what it is.

Puzzles.  Buy them or make your own out of magazine pictures.

Sorting Games.  Make up games where children have to follow directions.  Two-year-olds can be asked simple things like, “Put all the blocks in one pile.” or  “Put the leaves in the bucket.”  Three-year-olds can be asked to put all the blocks in one pile and the toy cars in another pile.  Four-year-olds can be asked to sort by color.  Then you can change the rules and ask them to sort by shape.  Most four-year-olds can sort by changing rules or dimensions.

“Simon Says.”  Children love to play Simon Says.  If you say, “Simon Says, ‘Sit’” the child is supposed to sit. If you say just “Sit” the child is supposed to remain standing.

“Simon Says, Do the Opposite.”  In this game the task is to do the opposite of what the leader says.  If you say “Simon Says ‘Sit’,” the child is supposed to stand.  If you say “Simon Says ‘Be noisy’” the child is supposed to be quiet.  This game requires a great deal of focus and challenges the child to pay attention.

Share with us your favorite games that help your child learn to focus.