Factors Affecting Behaviour and
A child’s attention span depends
upon his age and increases over time. Hence, you
cannot be sure of your child’s attention span until
he/she is about three to four years old. For
example, your two year old could most likely remain
focused for about three to five minutes, whilst your
pre-schooler should be able to focus on what he is
doing for about fifteen minutes. A child’s ability
to concentrate will naturally increase with age;
however there are certain exceptions to the rule.
The most common being ADHD, however there are some
environmental factors that could be affecting your
child’s ability to concentrate and his/her behaviour.
Firstly, children get bored
quickly. The more stimulating and interesting the
activities that are planned, the less chance there
is of behavioural problems. Fatigue is another
factor that may affect your child’s attention span.
Children have plenty of energy and are prone to be
active all through the day, and have no idea of how
much they should sleep in a day. It is for you to
decide and schedule their sleep time based on an
understanding of the amount of time that a child
needs to sleep based on his/her age.
Very importantly, the familial
environment also affects children’s ability to
remain focused. Setting a general schedule for
waking, meal, snack, fun and bedtimes will provide
an environment that allows children to think and
remain focused. Disruptions in routine, or
unpredictable routine often leads to unpredictable
behavioural difficulties and outbursts.
Also, be observant of various
foods and snacks that could be triggering negative
behaviours. Children develop various sensitivities
that can be unexpected and influence their ability
As you can see, many things can
affect your child’s behaviour and ability to
concentrate. By taking note of the above mentioned
influences you will be able to help your child feel
happier. His/her self-esteem will increase because
he won’t be shouted at so often and he will be able
to concentrate better at school, thus improving his
performance. He/she should also get into a better
sleep pattern which will benefit everyone in the
Unfortunately, ADHD is a genetic
disorder that can wreak havoc within a family, and
some extra care may be required. The children with
hyperactivity themselves, (especially those who are
anxious) have a particular need for a peaceful
environment and calm handling. As they are bundles
of kinetic-energy-about-to-explode, they will set
the whole family alight unless their turbulence is
contained. The trouble is, because hyperactivity
seems to be a genetic disorder, at least one of the
parent’s probably have as flammable a temperament as
the child. A hyperactive individual, whether a
child or adult, is naturally high-strung, irritable,
impatient, short-tempered and intolerant – often
anxious and prone to panic. Hopefully, as they grow
up, they learn to control and inhibit these traits,
but it takes lots of effort and self-discipline. If
we adults struggle to keep our cool, how can we
expect our offspring to manage? We have to show
them how! We have to teach them by example.
Here are a few tips which have
been found to be helpful:
Deliberately keep the pitch of your voice low.
Listen to the way other people speak. A high
pitched voice expresses and generates tension.
Low pitched tones are more soothing to anybody’s
Speak slowly. Rapid speech seems to raise the
pulse and rate of breathing in the listener,
resulting in a generally increased tempo in the
Remember that your child is very sensitive to
the tone of your voice. A simple statement like
“Don’t do that” can be said in a dozen different
ways, depending on the tone. Keep it as bland
and unemotional as possible.
Think BEFORE you answer a child. So often one
speaks and then immediately thinks, “I should
not have said that” or maybe one should just
have phrased it differently. Try and develop
the habit of pausing for a second or two, to
give yourself a chance to think. This IS
usually very difficult but you WILL improve with
Try and see the humour of the situation! If it
were someone else’s child, you’d probably find
his escapade funny. Maybe in the future you’ll
look back and laugh. Lighten up a bit and laugh
NOW! If you can’t laugh yet, try a smile.
Wherever possible, avoid explosive or conflict
situations. Learn to recognize the signs of
escalating excitement or conflict and COOL IT!
Use techniques of distraction or “time-out”.
Fights, tantrums, unbridled excitement etc are
far easier to curb in the earlier stages. Do
not waive your authority as a parent, but try
not to get trapped in conflicts. No-one REALLY
wins in such situations, just try and maintain
Playing restful, slow-beat music often calms the
frazzled nerves (not just yours!). Play a
soothing tape/CD in the late afternoon when
everyone’s tired and stressed, you’re trying to
get supper done and see to the children’s
homework and you JUST DON’T NEED any tantrums
Install and try to stick to (within reason) a
routine. ADD children need the structure and
security of a daily routine. Temperamental
behaviour often happens when normal routine is
We need regular exercise. Regular, rigorous
exercise is essential for hyperactive children.
It regulates bodily functions and releases
natural calming chemicals, which help them to
Try to keep a little detached. Don’t allow
yourself to be dragged down to kiddie-level.
After all, someone has to be cool-headed and in
charge – it might as well be you!
The appropriate eating pattern which ADHASA
advises does wonders to keep the family on an
even keel. Members have often said that the
eating programme changed their family dynamics
for the better.
Last but not least don’t get discouraged. If
you’ve had a bad day and really “blown your
stack”, put it firmly behind you. Try to
analyse why things got out of control and how
you can avoid it happening again. Then start
By: Raquel Ferreira
083 637 0442