17 answers

Getting 6 Year Old to Focus on a Task

We have a 6 year old boy and it is hard to get him to focus on a task from getting ready for school to playing in a soccer game. How is the best way to focus him on one task at a time without going crazy?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi Cristina,

Many kids who can't focus or have ADHD type symptoms are allergic to the color dyes in their food. My son was one of them. We took him off all sugar (and thus almost all color dyes) and he changed completely! His anger issues went away also. It was unbelieveable. We also put him on fish oil, as it helps calm the brain and mood swings.

Good luck! Feel free to email me if you have questions.
K. Loidolt
Author, Shopper's Guide to Healthy Living

Have you tried using a timer? See if he can "beat" the timer by gettind dressed for school in 5 minutes, get his hair brushed in 5 minutes, etc.

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My daughter lost focus easy in class. I met with the teacher and school counselor and we came up with what they call the smiley face method. For every subject she got smileys for doing her work on time, not bothering others and not talking. At the end of the day she took her paper down to the counselor and would get to pick out a treat at the end of the week if she had mainly all smileys. If she came home with a frowny we had to talk about what happened. She went from bringing work home all the time due to not completing it in class to having everything done at the end of the day and full of self pride!
We started that at home. Find out what is causing the lack of focus, disinterest? motivation? or could it be his brain is on overdrive with other things?
Then zero in on what motivates him to try harder and stay on task. Set a timer if you have to for chores around the house, if they are not completed in a reasonable time, then take a priviledge away.
I know my daughter having to do her homework on a pretty Saturday afternoon instead of playing was a huge motivator for her. Going to bed early was something I could use as a bargaining tool for doing what she needs to.
I give both of my kids one task to complete at a time but it is to be done or consequences. Sometimes being too vague confuses a child, be very specific in what you need done and give them a specific time to get it done in. Even making it a game.
As far as soccer, is he really intersted in it? Doee he just want to socialize? If that is the case, maybe finding another activity that he truly rather do instead.
It is hard, it is a daily battle here, but I found myself dishing out instructions then not following up with my kids and then losing my cool because they didn't do what I asked, so I lessened the list of things, go specific and stayed there until it got done. Slowly but surely I am not having to micro manage or stand over them to get it done now. Find what motivates him.

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same problem with my son. What worked for me was telling him 1 task at a time and having him do it and come back to me to tell me it was done and I would give him another task. Ex. Go get your socks on...he would do it..come and show me they were on. Then I would say...go get your shoes on. If I told him more than 1 task at a time he would get side tracked and forget what he was suppose to be doing.

HTH :)


One of our really great friends who is a teacher and a good school said that with boys who tend to have focus issues while they do tests, or tasks they have them chew gum. It helps them focus more on the task at hand. Good luck!

My son does the same thing. It works well for us to make it a game. "I bet you can't get in you PJ's in 30 seconds." Then, "Wow, you did it in 27 seconds." The next night is a challenge to see if he can do it better, of course some nights we alter his time a bit. We don't do it every night but it helps make the longer nights more bearable if it is not every day.

Have you tried using a timer? See if he can "beat" the timer by gettind dressed for school in 5 minutes, get his hair brushed in 5 minutes, etc.

have you tried using a timer? set the timer for however long you think it should take and put it somewhere he can see it counting down. if he finishes before the timer goes off he gets a sticker on a chart or something like that. when he fills up the chart or if he focuses better for a certain amount of time, he could get some kind of reward.

I think I had this problem when I was younger. My Dad would help me by telling me three things I needed to do (three is an easy number). Brush teeth, Brush hair, Get dressed. I remember reciting the three things until I did them all. Eventually it just became second nature. Now I am a list maker and I think I'm pretty organized.
Good Luck.

Could he have A.D.D.? I do, and sadly, it wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult. I would talk to his teachers and possibly have him evaluated. I wish someone had done that for me as a kid--I would have done better in school, and maybe could have learned some ways to deal with being distracted all the time.

Also, there is a product called the Time Timer that allows kids to "see" time passing so they can understand how much time is left to complete a task. You could get him one, and it may help him stay focused.

Hi Cristina,

Many kids who can't focus or have ADHD type symptoms are allergic to the color dyes in their food. My son was one of them. We took him off all sugar (and thus almost all color dyes) and he changed completely! His anger issues went away also. It was unbelieveable. We also put him on fish oil, as it helps calm the brain and mood swings.

Good luck! Feel free to email me if you have questions.
K. Loidolt
Author, Shopper's Guide to Healthy Living

I know that this has been mentioned a lot on mamsource, but the book, "how to talk so your kids will listen and how to listen so your kids will talk", not only helps with communication but also with problem solving on a parent/child level. Just so you don't have to read the whole book right now....
they suggest,
When you are calm, and unemotional, asking your child if now is a good time to talk,
Then you state how you think they are feeling about the "problem"
Then you listen to see if they respond or correct you. Restate what you think they said.
Then state how you feel about it and why it is a problem. Then you get a paper and pencil and tell them that together you are going to come up with solutions.
Have them start and you write down one idea that they say, then you have a turn, back and fourth until you are both out of ideas.
Then you say now lets go back over and pick the ones that we both like.
Then eliminate and explain why one works or doesn't work.
Then create a plan to implement the soultion, the ones that you both like, that will help the child take responsibility as much as possible, but allow yourself to aid in that process.

You will be surprised to find out the simple solutions they come up with that will really help the situations. I suggest doing this first with your #1 concern and trying it for a week and then moving to the second. It also helps to have a reward at the end of some time, when you have seen improvement. Sometimes I tell them about the reward they will get, sometimes I let them pick, and sometimes I don't do either and just surprise them with something, or just affirmation is enough. It just depends on the child and the circumstance. I can attest to this method, it really does work great. Contrary to what we think, sometimes all kids need is a little more say in their lives, a bit more autonomy. when they feel like they have no control , they may act out of control and uncooperative. I hope you try this out and I hope it brings you some relief. Good luck,

These are signs of classic power struggle - deafness, paralysis, doing the opposite. Your 6 yr old has no control or power, so he takes it when he can by ignoring you. So... what to do. The love & logic way is to share control with choices. Check out the audio from the library "avoiding powerstruggles" or "helicopter, drill sergeants, consultant parents" It will give you the proper way to give choices - You’ll be amazed with the results.
1.You want him to do his homework, give him choices on how he does his homework. "Do you want to do homework before or after your snack, at kitchen table or in bedroom, with music on or music off"
2. You want him to do the dishes, "Do you want to clear the plates or glasses first?, do you want to wipe the table or empty the garbage next?"
3. You want him to get ready for soccer say, "Do you want to put your soccer shirt on or shorts on first? Do you want to put your right shinpad or left shinpad on?

Instead of commands - give choices so he feels he has some control over how the activity gets done.

Giving choices builds up a power bank and you can make withdrawals.. "don't I usually give you choices? This time I get to make the choice..."

Give 2 choices, both happy with, give 10 seconds for him to decide and then choose for him.

If you experiment for 1 week and inundate him with choices instead of giving him commands, you'll see a difference.

More info? Take my Love & Logic Parenting class or call for a 1 on 1 coaching session. Info at www.shellymoorman.com.

You might check out www.interactivemetronome.com It can help with this, even if there aren't any learning difficulties. It just organizes the brain, in essence. We love what it has done for our family!

I have this problem w/ my 6 year old also, it even affects him at school. I haven't really found a solution I just stay on top of him at home, I know it can be frustrating, I'll be checking back myself to see what people have to say!

Hi! I hope this helps:)
For the tasks at home, I would try creating a checklist which outlines the steps he needs to take. For example, in the morning before school, if he needs to get dressed, eat breakfast then brush his teeth, you can put those things onto a checklist for him. You can use pictures instead of words if that is better. You can break the tasks down as needed and add or take away as he develops the habit after a while.
You might try the checklist for soccer too depending what the issues are there. If he's not really interested in soccer, maybe try something else:)
Good luck!

C., you have great advices here from mamas !
I would say:
try to eliminate multiple events around him
when you want him to focus:
if homework, then no TV or music on the background;
if playing with legos or cars on the carpet, then no TV (again)
if TV, then no eating in front of TV,
and also,
when you help him, try to point on some interesting things that happen:
you walk: look for birds,
you drive, ask him to count all the red cars,
and you count all the blue cars, and see whether you met more red or blue cars...

also a great game on teaching to be attentive is moving objects
you choose one room, and ask him to look VERAY ATTENTIVELY at everything aorund, what is where, and how positioned.
then ask him to go to another room for a minute,
and move something: a pillow from one side of the couch to another,
or a vase, to another surface,
or his toy to another corner:
start with larger objects, and later move to little things, like a spoon and such...
then he comes back and needs to find changes: if yes, gets points.
Play it together, and ask him to do the same task for yourself,
then he won't feel that you teach him, but you both have fun.
move out of the room after you looked at things carefully,
and then he needs to move something.
Do not start by REMOVING things completely, this will be too hard for the start, but in future, you ca n develop the game.
this is actually a very ancient Chinese game,and it really helps in becoming more focused...

It is a good time to start caring about this not very big problem,
and in the beginning it will require a lot of your patience,
but with time, it will pay off :)
you will need to constantly remind him what he (or you both) are doing, so you really need to be excited yourself, or it will be dull and boring for both of you:
seek for joy in this teaching-learning process, be creative!

It is a common problem for many kids, as the flow of new-coming information in every moment of the child's life in this developed society is so huge and overwhelming that it seems like the human system just turns off at some point, when it cannot take it any more.

It really helps when you try to make sure that not very many things happen simultaneously around him... tis is the clue, plus exercises that develop concentration abilities.

if he likes doing puzzles, that is also a great game...

I wish you all a lot of joy!

I do think many 6 year olds have this issue, partly it is just being a 6 year old. I also think there are some things we can do to help aid in some attention. Getting him on a high grade multi-vitamin and fish oil. Make sure the fish oil has been purified so there are no toxic pollutants or heavy metals in it. Omega 3's nourish the brain and can really help kids focus. Taking it early on can really help prevent being diagnosed with ADD later on. The other thing, though I don't know your lifestyle, is keeping sugar foods to a real minimum or not at all and reducing time watching television. Watching a lot of TV has been shown to reduce the ability to focus in children.
I hope this helps. If you need help finding high grade supplements for your child, feel free to contact me.
T. Sobel, Dipl.O.M.
Roots & Branches Acupuncture
'Be the change you wish to see in the world" -Ghandi

The way I keep our 6 year old focused on tasks, is to make everything a game. Ex. When I want him to get dressed for school in the morning, we play beat the clock. I give him his clothes and tell him he has until the big hand is on "blank" number. He loves it! He feels like he has won a race against the clock and it helped him work on his numbers and telling time.

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