Seeking Advice for an "Active" Child

Updated on July 25, 2008
S.B. asks from Washington, DC
7 answers

I would like some advise on how to handle my "active" 5 years old son. He is a very sweet boy but he does not follow instructions well. When he is told to do something, he sometimes refuses to do it or does not do it completely. I currently have him working out with my 10 years old son's football team, which have child as young as 6. I was told by the head coach that he can see that my 5 years old really wants to participate, but does not follow directions. This can endanger him and others. I had this same issue with him at the camp he was attending this year. It get so bad that he was not allowed to come back because they did not want it to be a safety issue.

How do I positively reinforce this to him so he understands? I don't want him to think that he is a bad child because he does not follow instructions. Can I get help to make him understand?

Thank you

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answers from Washington DC on

Could it be that they are/were giving him clear instructions?There is a difference in what a kid that age hears. Ex. pickup the toys, pause, put them in their box, pause and then go sit down on the rug is different then put your toys away and go sit down. It has also been proven that many kids have to be looking at a person in order to really hear them. Is it possible that they were giving instructions while he was working on something else? If that's the case then he was probably focused on what he was doing and didn't hear all of what they said. I have learned that girls seem more capable of multi-tasking then boys. For the teachers, I would ask them to ask him to look at them when they talk to him. For him, I would tell him that when he hears his teacher talking, to stop what he's doing and look at them. If he didn't understand what they said, its ok to ask them to repeat it.
Good luck.

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answers from Washington DC on

S., before you decide that he is not following instructions purposefully, please check to see if he has a hearing loss. When someone with a hearing loss is one-on-one, they can do a little lip reading, but where there is a crowd they don't always see that someone is speaking, so they don't even hear the instructions.

After that, I would consider if your son has some form of ADD/ADHD. You called him "active", so maybe he has some of that, which makes a person distractable. These children hear the instruction, but are do easily diverted from what they are doing that they never complete the task.

To test if your son is hearing the instruction, have him repeat it once you complete giving it. That will also help reinforce the instruction, and might be all that is needed to keep him on task. If he still has problems following instructions, I would have him evaluated for his hearing and then for ADD.

I also agree with what Megan said, another excellent thought.



answers from Richmond on

Hi S.! This is N.. My son is now 12 (13 in Nov) and this sounds just like what we have been through over the yrs. He was sooooo VERY active and had difficulty following even simple directions. In daycare we were told we could find another place to take him and the other place called me at work so many times each week. He would forget the directions, not do it at all or maybe do some of it from time to time. We had him "tested" for anything that could help us to help him better.

After 2yrs of public school, they finally tested him and said it was ADHD. WAIT! That's NOT what it was at all! No, it was Dyslexia which mimics ADHD in many ways. No medication will change dyslexia.

Still to this day, we give him one step simple directions. The bottom line is that you find what you have to do to make it work for them and you do it. We now homeschool and most of my day is spent telling him to get back to work, eyes back on his paper, one step directions on assignments, etc.

My son also has a big heart and loves to help and encourage others. He truly wants to be the best at everything. Lots and lots of praise for all that he does do every day. We have learned to focus on what he can and does do and not so much on what he cannot do. I know it's a lot of work for me but I see it as my job right now. It's my job to help him until he gets old enough to do it on his own.

There is a light at the end for you. Our son is now doing so much better. We still give simple directions and try to give him only one thing to do at a time. His over-active activity level has really decreased in many ways over the years. He still loves to help and enocurage others and he's learning to see his dyslexia as a "gift" more than before.

We choose to see his difficulties as God's way of preparing him to complete his purpose here. He will need to be strong and able to fight and press through to do what it is that God will have him do.

Never stop praying for your son. It is hard for them to feel like they can't fit in anywhere. They tend to get frustrated too. But just keep on loving him and encouraging him. Nothing is too big for our God!

You have me wondering, what business are you starting this year?

Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have. I will answer the best I can.

Take Care,
N. :) SAHM homeschooling 3 boys 12, 7 & 2 yrs old. Married to Mr. Wonderful for almost 15 yrs. How about the cost of groceries now days? Check out for a way to shop for good food for less money. Email me with questions at [email protected]



answers from Richmond on

Girl, I will be looking to read the advice you receive. I have one 4.5 who is the same way.

There is a book called Raising Your Spirited Child which I am considering buying.



answers from Washington DC on

Do a little research on fish oil suppliments in kids. sounds strange but a friend of mine just told me about a medical article (online)about the subject in relation to children and 'focus'. She was having issues w/her 5yo daughter not listening/high reactions-ie:frustrated crying & semi aggressive responses, unable to follow direction. Anyway, she started her on the childrens fish oil suppliments(chewable & flavored) and was really impressed with the results. After about 3 weeks of taking the suppliments, MUCH better focus in concentration, following direction and more even-keeled in her reactions to many situations. The results were signifigant enough that another friend of mine who has trouble w/her 3 1/2yo is ready to start a regiment.
Remember back in the day when they used to give kids cod liver oil?! yuck!,but they say fish oil is brain food and it's why they push salmon and such for good health. Worth looking into for a natural way. Good luck!


answers from Washington DC on

My son was kicked out of Sunday School for not listening... I have been where you are.

We put our #1 in karate. It took a year for him to be able to sit still and focus for the whole class, but it worked! He ended up getting a black belt at age 11. He is now a responsible, helpful, sweet attentive 4.0 average child.

Martial arts are the best activity for an "active" non-listening child.

Do it Today!




answers from Richmond on


I have a 4 year old that does this. She is very active, but does not follow instructions well. I would have his hearing checked, but I would also like to say that some children need a little extra patience when following directions. They have to be taught, so kids just don't get it. My daughter will purposefully disobey me and act autistic so she can get out of what I have told her to do. I don't put up with it and with a calm voice I have to walk her through the instruction. Believe me, after we're finished, I go somewhere and let out my frustration because it's hard. Also, using simple statements like "Put on your shoes", "Put your plate in the sink". Even these short sentences can be a bit much. My husband has ADD and at times I have to keep my requests short or they go in one ear and out the other. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that your son may have one of these disabilities. This is an age where they are testing their limits, so let him be hyper, but show him where and how he can be hyper. Hope this helps. God Bless.

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