6 Year Old Trouble Concentrating at School

Updated on March 05, 2010
M.K. asks from Santa Clara, CA
8 answers

I have a beautiful daughter who is six years old in first grade. Her birthday is in November, so she is one of the youngest kids in her class. She is a very smart girl and she can easily get new math concepts and write at grade level. She loves to read and she spends hours at home with the same book until she can read and understand every single word in the book so that she can read the book fluently. However at school is a total different story. She spends her time away from her school work. She talks with her friends, gets up and walk around, and daydream(I know that because I volunteer in the class once a week) As a result of that she ends up bringing a lot of school work home which she finishes in no time because there is no interruptions. I've been telling her to ignore the kids who talk to her and try to get all the school materials before she starts doing her work. The teacher also told us that that she needs to do her work at school. But I don’t know how to help her.

Have you experienced anything like this? Any suggestions will be appreciated.

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answers from San Francisco on

I am a child psychiatrist, and I can't diagnose a child I have not done an evaluation on, but she is showing the classic symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Inattentive Type, the most common type diagnosed in girls. There is almost no hyperactivity. They are never a behavior problem in the classroom. They daydream, can't start or finish work, are too social and are interested in what everyone else is doing. They can focus on what they love to do, like her at home reading. In a quiet, non-distracting environment, they can focus better and get work done. Get an evaluation from a child psychiatrist or psychologist. There are more things you can do besides medication, but medication is the most effective intervention for most kids.

A little about me: Married 21years to a supportive husband and great father, two kids with ADHD, a 19yo boy and 13yo girl, both doing well in school (my son didn't do well until college, where he is doing what he wants to be doing.)

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm surprised at the responses "blaming" the teacher. I work part time in two first grade classrooms and I can say that both of the very dedicated and talented teachers I work with have challenges with certain kids, and it is a lot of work to keep everyone on task at all times (and these are classes that only have 20 kids, your daughter's class may have even more.) At this age there is a very wide range of maturity and ability, and not all kids are ready to sit and focus for extended periods of time.
Having said that, my daughter was the same way, chatty and distracted while working at school, focused and quiet when doing schoolwork at home. She's now in fifth grade and was recently diagnosed ADHD. While this came as somewhat of a surprise (she doesn't have the typical anti-social signs of the disorder) it explains her high distractibility and need to constantly move around. I'm not saying your daughter has this, just be aware of the signs, especially if she's still having trouble in the 3rd grade and beyond. I wish that my daughter had been diagnosed sooner, so that I had more opportunity to work with her earlier on. She's not on medication, but she does have an IEP and is getting extra support at school and at home. Just keep this possibility in mind and insist on testing if you think her behavior is getting in the way of her learning. Good luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I don't know how to solve this problem, but is your daughter an only child? As a teacher I have had kids in my class tell me outright that they would rather socialize at school and do their work at home when they are by themselves. I'm sure my only son will be in the same situation in a few years too. I guess she may have to spend recess time working on her work instead of socializing and maybe be moved to a corner by herself while working in the classroom.



answers from Richmond on

sounds to me like your daughters intellect is being purposely side tracked
at school. and the teacher, instead of encouraging her to concentrate on
her school work, is allowing her to be distracted. then having the nerve to tell
you that she needs to do her work at school.ask yourself, and the teacher,
this question, if the child were a boy, and this intelligent, would you allow the
child to be distracted by their friends?if the teacher starts looking uncomfortable, you have your answer.
K. h.


answers from Jacksonville on

I agree with all that Kate said about the teacher needing to be the biggest distraction in the room, etc.
In addition, have you considered that your daughter may be gifted? Being distracted from her work, daydreaming, walking around.... maybe she is BORED? Yes, the teacher needs to be engaging... but no matter how engaging and distracting the teacher is, if your daughter has intellectually mastered the concept the teacher is teaching, then she is going to get bored with the assignment. Often times, a child who is a distraction or disruption to other students will turn out to be gifted. Since your daughter has no problems with the concepts, "gets" them quickly, loves to read and finishes her school work at home with no problems at all... I would at least give it some consideration. She may not be being challenged sufficiently, and so she is working on her relationship/social skills at school instead of her academics, which she can do at home easily enough.



answers from San Francisco on

My sister, who is a teacher, would have a harsh word or two, saying that it's the teacher's job to make sure she's doing the work at school, and the parent's job to make sure the homework gets done. If that were true, then the issue is not with you or your daughter, but the teacher! I myself was trained as a reading teacher, and they always said "You have to be the biggest distraction in the room." Every kid is going to be tempted to visit with friends, or daydream, or wander, UNLESS the work is engaging, challenging and interesting, right? Sadly it sounds like that's not there (I can sympathize, I see similar stuff in my kids' school, especially with the older teachers), so how to deal with it? My son's classroom has this problem with a gaggle of boys, and one mom has been talking with her son about raising his hand when he is tempted to laugh out loud. There are a few cut-ups who are always on stage, and we all know that laughing at them makes it worse, so we're trying to nip it. But it's REALLY hard, especially in 1st grade, when they are still maturing and getting down the whole school thing. So my first thought is to relax and realize that she is on track and doing well, so keep an eye on the big picture. It may help to have another conversation with the teacher about HER concern: is it that "school" work isn't happening at school but at home, or is it that your daughter is distracting others. Because that's two totally different things. If she's distracting others, you can talk with your daughter about that and try to come up with tactics and ideas for staying on task and letting others do their work. But if it's just the school work at school thing, then it might be OK for you and the teacher to agree that she is on course for being where she needs to be at the end of the year, and that you're confident she'll continue to improve her focus at school.



answers from San Francisco on

I, too was surprised at the blame on the teacher and glad that someone finally suggested ADD. The earlier you catch it the better. Read up on it--Ned Hallowell's books are wonderful--and see if you see your daughter. The getting up and walking around, daydreaming and distractibility are all very symptomatic, as is--believe it or not--the intense focus at home. The great thing about Hallowell is that he is one of those 'unmedicable' ADD's like my son, so he has lots of good suggestions. His newest one is "Parenting ADD" which I wish we had had when our now-23 yr old was 6. What a world of difference that could have made!

Good luck! If you have questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com

Been there, done that, too late.



answers from San Francisco on

Is your daughter an only child? My 7 year old 2nd grader is the same way, and with her I think it is that she so enjoys being around other kids at school that it's very hard to concentrate. She would rather socialize than eat lunch and often brings most of it home, only to gobble it down as soon as she gets home. I wasn't too concerned until she started getting on the Bad Behavior list for doing her own thing while the teacher was talking (such as reading a book in her lap while the teacher tried to teach the math lesson). I sat down with her and talked about how she was there to learn and asked her to commit to listening to the teacher and paying attn for one full week and asked her what she thought should be the consequence if she didn't. She chose no computer or TV for 30 days (a much longer punishment than I would have selected!). We wrote it out and both signed it as our pact, which I posted on the wall in her room. Then I gave her a ring (I had an adult's adjustable toe ring that fit her finger) to wear to school the next day because it would remind her of our pact. I also told her her that 30 days with no TV was a really long time, but the good news was it was entirely up to her to keep that from happening, all she had to do was honor the pact. It worked! Whenever she started to get distracted in class, she would see the ring and remember that if she didn't pay attention she would get no electronic privileges for a month. After the week was up, paying attention had become a habit, but if it starts happening again we'll make a new pact.

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