Children who are easily distracted, disorganized and have difficulty prioritizing can drive their parents crazy. Out of frustration, you may resort to judgmental statements that start with:
“Why can’t you……?”
“Don’t you care about……?”
“If you’d only try harder you would…..”
“When are you going to learn how to be more…….? “
“If you made a list, planned ahead, put things back where they belonged, looked more carefully……..etc “(then everything would be just fine. And I wouldn’t be so stressed watching you and trying to get you to move.)
Compassionate understanding towards the highly distracted child or adult can get lost amongst time restraints, exhaustion, and unreasonable expectations. I know because I have been married 25 years to a highly creative and highly disorganized man. My story of how I create a distraction-friendly family has been a source of encouragement and wisdom to parents of distractible children.
Developing compassion requires understanding that your child is not doing “it” purposefully. Your son or daughter would love to win your praise. They know you want them to be responsible, have an organized backpack and get their homework in on time.
The first step to creating a distraction-compassionate home is to understand why you feel so critical of your child. Your judgmental thoughts and statements could be traced back to cultural beliefs such as:
“Willpower and hard work will get you through anything.”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
“Don’t start something you’re not willing to finish.”
“This is the way it’s always been done.”
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things.”
Ask yourself if you are willing to let go of beliefs that are deteriorating your relationship with your child. Can you love your child for their amazing qualities and kindly accept their challenges? Every day I appreciate what my husband brings to our relationship. Then I accept and embrace my role as the main organizer in the family.
The second step is to understand the inner confusion and disorganization in your child’s mind. Rather than a deficit of attention, your child may have difficulty putting out attention, directing it, putting it in the right place when s/he wants to at the right time. Often it means that they just can’t think of what to do. Some can’t think of an idea and act on it. They might not be able to act at all and end up experiencing a “paralysis of will” as Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo say in You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! An example is when your child won’t clean their room because they don’t know where to start.
For many, trying to find the ideas inside their head for a particular purpose can be as difficult as finding papers on a messy desk. What is difficult for many distracted creative people is to pull all their ideas together whether verbally or written. An overabundance of ideas can lead to overwhelm and a difficulty organizing their ideas. They can just freeze up and say “I don’t know” or take a long time to respond as they figure out what they are actually thinking and what to say. Great patience is needed during these times.
After you understand your emotional triggers and your child’s overabundance of ideas that makes focus challenging, then you’ll be ready for the third step. This is to create a distraction-friendly home. Try to create a home that:
- Looks for ways to simplify routines and solve problems
- Is supportive, loving and cooperative
- Doesn’t “sweat the details” or over-focus on mistakes
- Learns to laugh about distraction—emphasizing what family members do right
- Believes it’s OK to be different from each other and OK to be oneself and
- Makes sure to spend time enjoying each other, not just focusing on problems.
Creating a distraction-friendly home doesn’t mean that you make sure everything is done right. Be careful of resentment building up because you do too much to make up for their disorganization.
Teach your child that their inner turmoil can be worked with and solutions can be found. You want them to learn coping skills for a successful life. Try saying “I realize that your brain is so full of ideas that it is hard to focus. You’ll always have many thoughts in your head so let’s work together to help you manage and feel good about yourself.” Their success begins with you believing in them.
©2013 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 341.0779 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children and this article’s bibliography.