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How the hell do you get them to concentrate ?!

(15 Posts)
throckenholt Tue 26-Jul-11 14:02:26

<rant alert >

I have just gone through the all too familiar cycle of giving them something that should be simple and quick to do, repeatedly reminding them to get on with it, getting annoyed that it is taking so long and they are not concentrating, and then getting angry with them.

They are 8 and 10, and it applies to just about anything I ask them to do on their own. If I sit with them and do it with them - fine, although not much of it goes in. I have found they only really get it if it they have to work it out themselves (me saying just doesn't stick). But the thing is if I don't keep guard over them all the time then they don't stick to it - they drift away mentally, ping each others ears or something equally annoying.

It doesn't matter what the subject is, whether it is easy or hard, they will rarely concentrate long enough to actually get stuck into it.

Don't get me wrong they are learning lots but I just get really frustrated that they waste so much time and can't be left for even a few minutes to get on with it. They can be left for ages to get on with other stuff (cooking, DIY etc) just nothing remotely academic.

That's it really - I don't really expect any magic solution, just needed to rant.

I love HE most of the time but I get really bugged by this cycle of me trying to get them to do anything academic on their own.

TooJung Tue 26-Jul-11 19:42:30

If it is any consolation I am having sleep cycle issues with ds2. Ranted at him today and complained about him to ds1, neither of which are the right approach. I should have ranted here instead.

mumette Tue 26-Jul-11 21:16:27

my 14 ds is just the same, i leave him on the laptop doing maths or java, then i come back to him to see how hes doing and find him on you tube

LastSummer Tue 26-Jul-11 21:30:15

Kids love to compete. Put yours in front of BBC KS2 Bitesize (, Mathletics ( or Spellodrome ( and they'll learn while having fun.

throckenholt Wed 27-Jul-11 07:41:42

Thank for the empathy and the suggestions. I think ranting here is better than ranting at them <although I admit I did lose it and rant at them too blush>.
Mine are totally uninterested in computers games and interactive websites (I don't think they have realised they are supposed to be 21st century kids) so that idea won't work very well with mine.

Thinking about it a bit more when I calmed down yesterday I realise a few things - they don't like to work independently and they don't like working as a team. Both things I think they should be able to do so I try and push it - hence the repetative cycle. They all like me interacting with them - but there are two reasons I don't want to do it all the time - there is only one of me and 3 of them and I don't have enough mental energy for that, and also because it ends up with me doing most of the thinking and not them - and they only really take it in properly when they do the thinking. I find myself repeating what I have said far too often becuase they didn't really listen or take it in the first ten time--s--.

I want them to feel the buzz of mental achievement - trying something new and a bit challenging. They don't often seem to get the positive feedback of pushing themselves. They are really wary of stepping out of their comfort zone (don't want to do anything perceived as hard). They seem to lack faith in their own ability. I wonder if that is personality or a legacy of being in the school system for the first 3-5 years.

I think maybe they don't knuckle down and get on with whatever the task is partly because they start with the idea that it is too hard. And honestly it rarely is - I usually try to start with something well within their capabilities to try and boost confidence and give them a good feeling.

Don't get me wrong - it isn't always like this - but often enough to frustrate me.

One other thing I have noticed - the younger 2 (8 years old) can easily manage the mechanical process of reading but don't seem to tie it together to make sense. Their understanding of what they are reading is limited. I have been trying to do lots of small comprehension exercises - and I have lost count of the number of times I have said the answers to the questions are all in the text you have just read !

Ah well - time to get out of HE mode - DH is on duty today and I am supposed to be working !

FionaJNicholson Wed 27-Jul-11 08:11:29


I have found the ideas of someone like Carol Dweck (mastery oriented thinking) to be very useful. If children think that their intelligence is a fixed quantity, then they will avoid stuff at which they might not succeed or which might prove them to be quote stupid unquote. More info here

As an aside, my son only started reading independently at 8. Actually I've just re-read what you've written and am I right in thinking that you have 8 yr old twins? That sounds a bit tiring!

throckenholt Wed 27-Jul-11 09:10:23

8.5 year old twins and a 10 year old (18 months between them) !

Yes tiring - although since they are all at roughly the same stage it makes HE easier because we can do much the same thing with them all (most of the time).

The twins actually (at school) took to reading much more easily than their brother. But I think they haven't got past the learning stage yet - it is not a tool yet for them - more of a task (if you get what I mean). Their older brother really struggled to get reading but thankfully now it is ingrained for him and it is a tool, and also a pleasure - he reads because he likes it. They read because we make them - they haven't quite got to the wanting to do it for their own benefit yet.

I'll have a look at your link - thanks.

ZZZenAgain Wed 27-Jul-11 09:18:11

maybe different materials for reading comprehension? What are they interested in? Could you find reading comprehension books around a topic they might like?

throckenholt Wed 27-Jul-11 09:42:06

I have been downloading a variety of short comprehensions from the net (everything from camels to Dr Suess) - all stuff they are interested in. They are fine if I do it with them - but they just won't stick to it on their own (and the 10 year old is as bad as the others !).

They would love to read stuff about forage harvesters and tractors all the time but that bores me rigid. Have to find a middle ground somewhere.

FionaJNicholson Wed 27-Jul-11 10:40:35

sooo glad that's not me...however, combine harvesters are quite interesting

throckenholt Wed 27-Jul-11 10:51:23

thanks for that link - they will love that.

Farm machinery is interesting - the first time or two - but after the first hundred times it fades a bit grin <for me at least>

throckenholt Wed 27-Jul-11 11:14:38

just been browsing that link - it looks great - just the kind of thing they will like. I might even manage to get them to read bits of it on their own now and again !

FionaJNicholson Wed 27-Jul-11 11:25:31

perhaps you could be "too busy" to read a really gripping machiney part?

Tinuviel Thu 28-Jul-11 10:56:09

Have you tried a timer with a planned 'fun' activity that they want to do if they finish by a certain time. (Doesn't always work but might be worth a try!)

ZZZenAgain Thu 28-Jul-11 11:02:01

well ha ving had a look at the link, I would say that actually combine harvesters are mildly interesting but no, I couldn't be reading and talking about farm machinery day-in, day-out.

How about famous inventors and their inventions - probably something for free online on the Baldwin Project but will not be right up to the modern age - early steam engines onwards I suppose. Have a look? If you wanted to do comprehension questions, you'd have to write your own.

or generally what about "Read and Understand Science" (will be a mixture of different sciences and these Am science books tend to jump all over the place from volcanoes to light to physics), still might interest them?

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