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How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

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    How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

    How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners by Cheryl Swope

    Give Him Clear Directions
    1. Stop his body from moving before giving a direction.
    2. Give clear, short directions -- with visual cues whenever possible.
    3. Minimize auditory distractions during work time. Be sure that background tv, radio, and music are all turned off before beginning.
    4. Minimize visual distractions during work time. Have other children seated or stopped when giving him a direction.
    5. Work in a small, contained area with clear boundaries. Avoid large, sprawling, open work spaces.
    6. Provide a visual schedule with drawings or photos.
    7. State and restate the order for the day - every day - to help him internalize order.

    Encourage Self-Control
    1. Practice inhibitory activities: walking rather than running, speaking softly, tiptoeing on a balance beam (quiet as a mouse), walking backward on a balance beam, curling up in a ball and counting to 20, playing hide-and-seek with increasingly long count-times, playing Simon Says.
    2. Encourage self-talk. For example, when walking down steps, say "Step and stop. Step and stop." Encourage slowed, controlled movements in the house. Have him "do over" going down the stairs carefully, walking rather than running in the hall, seating himself properly in the chair.
    3. Allow a few moments to rest, snuggle, look at books quietly to "recharge." No screens for leisure. Practice habits of non-screen relaxation. Allow ample time for sleep at night and schedule quiet rest during the day.
    4. Use prescribed OT ankle weights or weighted vest for stability, control, and sensory feedback.
    5. Develop a set routine of activities or lessons. Repeat these again and again in the same order each therapy or teaching session. Use lots of repetition to "over-teach" concepts and skills.
    6. Play simple turn-taking games.
    7. Extend attention span with "one more" (page, story) or with music (keep balancing on the board until the song is over).
    8. Add a dance, gymnastics, and swimming class for greater motor control.
    9. Teach him to read.
    10. Teach him to play an instrument.

    Strengthen His Social-Emotional Development: Nurture Him while Turning His Self-Focus Outward
    1. Read books about relationships, love, other people. (Don Freeman - Corduroy: Lisa and her bear; Beady and Thayer; Little Bear books; Boxcar Children)
    2. Encourage his helpfulness. Use his high activity level for family service. Teach a few new chores. Obtain smaller broom, hand-held vacuum. Schedule these new chores into his week.
    3. Enjoy him. Find the qualities you appreciate about him. List them. Remember them. Provide a loving, affectionate mother-child bond.
    4. Be patient. Don't yell. Sometimes it is better to walk away and allow a behavior to occur than to over-engage.
    5. Find activities you enjoy doing together. Do these together sometimes. Strengthen this mommy-child relationship.
    6. Encourage his friendships with polite, considerate friends. Supervise this play for success when needed.
    7. Teach as a guide or coach. Guide him to stay on task. Guide him to finish his tasks.
    8. Read books to him about good manners and self-control.
    9. Provide opportunities for manners throughout the day (waiting for food with hands in lap, waiting for others to brush teeth, patting the cat softly, reaching for an object slowly, asking for an item at the table rather than grabbing).
    10. Help him build healthy, loving relationships.

    All of this can work together for his good and for the good of the family. We include such tips, reminders, and techniques throughout our SC Curriculum levels.
    Paul Schaeffer
    Director, Schools Division
    Memoria Press

    Re: How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

    I have four children. I am crying alligator years as I write this. I love my children to the deepest depths of my soul, but I have many challenges. My eldest son(10), who is supposed to be my helper and leader to his siblings is not capable of being that. He struggles with hyperactivity and attention. He is cognitively around a mid-first grade level instead of fourth grade. He has anxiety and "Ramps up" at the smallest of things. He can get aggressive and very argumentative, especially with me. His younger brother, who is 8, also struggles. He struggles with aggression and anger, he is struggling to learn how to read and spell. He struggles some with Math Fact fluency. I think truly he is a "scared boy" inside who has low self confidence, wants to give up when anything feels hard and lashes out when he's mad. He can, at times, be a great kid who is helpful and follows directions. However, when he is angry or frustrated...I get things like stomping, shouting, crumpling up school papers, just a complete shut down of the beautiful person I know he can be. Sometimes I think he also gets that his brother is different and can sometimes take advantage of him, laughing when TJ does inappropriate things and encouraging him in the wrong ways at times. Also, sometimes he shuts him out. Then at other times they are like best friends. I have a daughter who is 5 who can also be hot or cold. She does not seem to have a learning disability, but she demonstrates anxiety at times too. She plays fairly well with her brothers, but can be manipulative too. Then, there is Daniel. He is a typical 2-yr old who gets into everything and is challenging authority at all levels at the moment. He hits and throws toys and sometimes I wonder if it is because his brother Anthony (8) tries to play aggressively with him and also his other brother TJ (10) has some sensory need to squeeze and rub on Daniels head. I have no idea how to stop this behavior and I know it drives Daniel crazy!

    I pulled my children out of school last year to try and help them. It has been very challenging at my house. I have been told by Grandparents and such that it seems like the kids, especially TJ, are doing better, but sometimes it's hard to convince myself of that. I sometimes wonder if it was the right thing to pull the kids out. I want to homeschool so badly, but some days it feels like I manage behavior far more than we get anything else done. I covered the basics this year: Reading, H/W, Math, Poetry and Religion. It was hard enough to get through those things and manage the kids! I want to ramp it up a little because we have not yet dug into Spelling, Science, History, Geography or Art. I want to make sure my kids are getting what they deserve, especially the ones who do not have a learning disability. I struggle with thoughts of "Life isn't fair" when you look at your beautiful child and watch them function at a lower level than you think they can. We have therapy on top of it all and will likely be adding therapy for my second son next year.

    When I went to visit my eldest in school last year, he was put into an ASD classroom for most of the day. Not too bad except there were some bahaviors there that I didn't want being picked up. He only got the special needs teachers time for about 40 min of the day. He worked in 15 min time slots with IPAD rewards following. He sat in that little room for lunch and stared at YouTube videos. We do not watch much TV at home, but he asks for it constantly. He told me the other day that he wants to go back to school so he can work for IPAD. I don't know how to motivate him into other things! I'm sorry for this emotional "dump", but I am having a tough day with the kids and Im struggling to keep myself positive. Hoping by unloading maybe I can get some additional tips and also just refresh myself for the rest of today!


      Re: How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

      I have/have had similar experiences with my crew. The crying, stomping, paper crumpling, chasing someone out from under the table, shutting down, etc was a daily occurrence here just a few years ago. We still experience these things to some degree, but not as much within the context of school anymore. The biggest factor for us has been time: time to mature, time to realize that we really are doing school regardless of how challenging it is.

      In addition to that, I've found that simply talking to my children about what they're struggling with has made a huge difference. Instead of being in constant defensive mode, I've tried talking to them at calm times about what their triggers are, why those are triggers, what tools we can think of together to help them next time, etc. This is very tiring in and of itself but it's so much better than the constant alert I was on before!

      I've also found that the two most challenging children, in terms of anger issues, are both FAR better when they feel confident that they are being taken care of and that that person is sure of themself. For example, my 4 year old daughter was throwing fits while sick in the middle of the night despite all my efforts to calm her and help her. I wasn't sure what exactly she was feeling (she doesn't use words well for negative emotions) and didn't know what medicine she needed. As soon as I decided what to give her, I simply put it in her mouth and she was an immediately different child. She put her head down and that was that. My level of care hadn't changed, but my own security in what I was deciding had. It made all the difference. For my older one, I had to stop assuming motives of his behavior. By assuming that he was being "same old, same old" I was actually missing instances where he really was being treated unfairly by his siblings or where we were being more strict with him than the others. This contributed to him feeling like he wasn't being cared for. As he's seen me consistently trying to ensure justice (not equality) for all, his behavior has drastically improved. I did have to explain the difference between "everyone gets the same" and "everyone gets what they need" though.

      I hope this helps and I'm sorry if it's complete rambling. I have a very antsy toddler on my lap right now!
      Blog: [url][/url]

      MP: Lit 10, VideoText Algebra
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      HSC: Spanish I, Conceptual Physics, Modern European History, and electives

      MP: Biology, Lit 10, VideoText Algebra, Greek Tragedies
      MPOA: High School Comp. II, Fourth Form Latin
      HSC: Modern European History

      7M with:
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      SC Level 4

      3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

      Still in SC Level 2

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        Re: How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

        Dear empokorski,

        Three boys with a mix of aggression, anger, and anxiety?? Are you including daily (big) doses of outdoor activity and physical exercise? This can become an important part of your homeschool. All of your children will need to release the tensions, learn healthy-for-life outlets for their anxiety, and gain good self-control. Team sports may be difficult unless led by exceptional adults OR targeted to children with special needs. If such opportunities are not available, individual sports such as running, hiking, or swimming might be helpful.

        Classical education is historically combined with great amounts of disciplined physical fitness. (We're just rather slow to mention this in the field of classical education today!) Many see classical ed as excessively bookish; however, physical strength, agility, and grace form character alongside mental disciplines. Give yourself permission to schedule whatever form of exercise you enjoy, and take your children with you.

        We just returned from our weekly swim. (Thus the delayed answer!) The bilateral movement, concentrated coordination, and anxiety-releasing cardio uniquely lift my son's moods the rest of the day. I swim laps myself and look forward to this day every week. We began doing this when my children were very small. Now they are 21, but they benefit every bit as much as they did back then. So do I!

        There is much to address in your post, but Jen did a great job. She has written for a homeschooling magazine, and it shows!

        As for this ... I love my children to the deepest depths of my soul, but I have many challenges. Most of us can heartily agree. We understand. Tough days do not indicate a lack of love for our children. If we can help in any way with specifics, let us know.

        In the meantime, remember that this was only your first year of homeschooling! In some circles, doing little more than relaxing into a family rhythm is recommended for the first year. Instead, you have accomplished some academics. Furthermore, your extended family is commenting on improvement! That is something to celebrate.

        You already know why you began homeschooling. Perhaps write these reasons down. Post them somewhere to remind you of the reasons behind your efforts.

        We would be happy to help you fill in any gaps for your summer and upcoming year. We have many moms here with more than one child whose needs take considerable time and energy. All is worth the effort in the end.

        If you begin by emphasizing physical fitness another hour or more daily, other aspects may fall into place. If not, your oldest (especially) might also benefit from an updated formal evaluation.

        Thanks for the post, tears and all.



          Re: How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

          Moral support here:

          Our first year was *rough*. Totally worth it, though. Hang in there, Mama. Give yourself lots of grace. If this were easy everyone would be doing it.

          Enrolling our kids in Taekwondo was a great solution for us. (Winston recites Korean words and practices his forms after lights out every night. It's adorable.) But there are lots and lots of sports suitable for special needs kids. Cheryl mentioned a few. But think of any sport or activity that is done together with others yet executed singly and you'll get an even longer list. Golf, track, martial arts, swimming, archery, geo-caching, hiking, tennis (perhaps) and the other raquet sports played with only a partner, rollerblading, cycling -- the list goes on.

          Horses are also great therapy, depending on your budget. And there are lots of riding centers that specifically include programs for equine therapy -- sometimes for free. (Shoveling out stalls and grooming are also great ways to help discipline, exercise and payment for riding services.) Depending on where you live, helping a local farmer with manual labor may also come into play. (We are looking at this for the future ourselves for our kids.)

          All is not lost. (Though some days it feels that way.) BIG HUGS. You can do this!
          Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
          Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
          Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
          Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

          “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
          ~Pope St John Paul II


            Re: How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners

            Thanks everyone for all your support. I completely unloaded on this forum while having a particularly bad day! I feel like we move in cycles. We'll have a good month or so and then a really rough patch for awhile. My plan for the summer is to hopefully do the Equipping Minds Cognitive Development Program and add some Character Training onto it. I also signed all the kids up for swimming - thanks Cheryl! Oh, and when the weather is nice; we get outside quite a bit! Even in the winter when it is completely snowy, we do downhill skiing and play in the snow and go sledding. So, I will continue to make sure I get them outdoors to release.

            I know I need to work at myself and my discipline as I am not always taken seriously. For example, my kids typically are allowed around 1/2 hr each day if they earn it. Sometimes that becomes closer to an hour. However, today, my Eldest was being particularly difficult and vocally told me "No" many times. I told him that if he was choosing not to listen and not to obey, he was losing his TV privileges. So, he lost TV, but I had Yoga tonight, so my second son knows where I "hide" the remotes and he found them for Grandpa. Needless, to say, son #1 got his TV time. Then, he promptly told me all about it when I got home and basically did a "Haha/Na na na boo boo" straight to my face. Was very frustrating. So, we have things to work through. He was given regular TV and IPAD when he was in school for 4 yrs, so now I'm trying to "break" the intense desire for TV, video games, computer...

            Anyway, thanks again for all the support!