The Easily Distracted Child or the ADHD Child

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Question: We just started Home Schooling. How can I deal with “easily distractable” child? Should I allow him to use headphones all day so he can tune us out?

I think the answer to your question is three-fold. I also have one very easily distracted child, and one that could plug through school work with a tornado in the room, so I know the struggle you are facing. Here are the two things that came to mind immediately:

First you must build up your distractable child’s ability to accept the noise around him. I am certain at his traditional school he never had complete silence. Even the muted quiet noises of children can be a distraction if you allow it
to be. Your first home school class may have nothing to do with math and 100% to do with learning to work well with others of your household around you. Use 1 Corinthians 13 as a springboard for many discussions with your child. Explain to him acceptable and unacceptable behavior related to how he behaves when others are around him. Love is patient and kind, not easily angered, etc. Go one by one through that chapter with him. Show him examples of when he was able to work with noise around (can he play a video game and tune out the rest of the world?). Praise him for those times whenever you can. Show him how holding his body erect and ready for work and keeping his eyes on his paper can help him when there are distractions around. Soft music MAY be a help, but it may be another distraction or become a crutch he can use as an excuse later to be unable to do school work on any terms except his own. I do use soft music with my oldest daughter when I think it is a benefit, but never so loud that she cannot respond to the sound of my voice. It helps keep her from being tempted to join in all the conversations around her, but is not meant to be a complete sound block.

Break his work into 15 or 10 minute segments of time when you are not needed. For example, go over your part of his math lesson with him. Set a timer for 15 minutes and tell him to work at his best pace until the timer beeps. Praise him for the work he has done. Peek in and smile at him while he is working well. Train him to work quickly and to pass over problems he needs your help with UNTIL the timer beeps. Then, if you are distracted with another child he can find you when the timer beeps with all his questions. Over time build up his independent time to about 30 minutes or more. Teach him to have all necessary supplies on the table in front of him before he begins(in a box or some neat way so that the things are not a distraction).

The second part of your answer is to work on training the others to be considerate also of others working in the house. Very young children can be taught to keep their voices low. Babies can be trained to sign or ask quietly for things rather than screaming or crying. Train feet to walk quietly. Eliminate noise making toys (I despise them anyway). Save them for times when they can take those awful noisemakers outside and hope secretly they get left out in the rain (just kidding). Demonstrate in a funny way loud and soft feet and let the kids practice this with you. Praise them for remembering to use their inside voices.

To help burn off energy for ALL the kids plan lots of physical chores for the kids. Sweeping, vacuuming, running things up and down stairs for you, cleaning baseboards, folding and hauling laundry, picking up toys). Plan outside running and playing time (or if you have a basement, a little more activity down there during designated times)

During school hours, eliminate the TV, Computer games that make noise, talk radio, etc. Basically make your house close to a “Little House” scenario. The noises and distractions of people being considerate of one another must be acceptable to him while he works, but it is not fair to expect him to ignore the TV, Radio, screaming kids, stomping and running, loud noisy toys and interesting conversations.

**REVISION:  The third part, (updated after ten more years of experience), ADHD children, and those with ADD or Autism, and other difficulties may find that using headphones is a useful tool. My (now adult) daughter described it to me like this: If I am in a room, all the little sounds- people breathing, the clock ticking, a sound in another room- all enter my awareness, unfiltered. By using headphones, I can eventually begin to ignore the sound variances, or embrace them and carry on with my other work. But having to continually reprocess every little sound makes it really hard to work effectively on things that require intense concentration or that require me to be relatively still. So, as a mom, I have relaxed somewhat and allow certain children to use headphones as they work, so long as they are not using them as a toy, but rather as a tool.**

I hope some of these ideas help you. Sometimes you must just go before the Lord when you have a particularly trying day and be reminded that God gave you these little people with all their “special needs” not as a test to you but because he LOVES them. They are precious in his sight. Check out a audio talk called: Teaching the Difficult Child. Send me a question if you have trouble finding those or if you have other questions that arise as you begin this adventure together!

Teaching the Difficult Child.

Want to learn more on how to handle a difficult child?

The Difficult Child Part 1


  1. Daniel

    I read similar article also named asily Distracted Child, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

  2. Dawn

    This was full of good tips that I plan to implement immediately. Thank you!

  3. anon

    I do NOT agree with this. An “easily distracted” child means the child is NOT READY for the information being provided. Interest in the subject at hand will completely eliminate “distraction”. Make the info being provided more relevant or interesting, base it off of the child’s learning style or wait until their older.

    I highly suggest you read the Moore’s “Better Late Than Early”. It discusses the reprecussions of starting kids on academic pursuits too early. Then maybe read some John Holt “How Children Learn”.

  4. Malia

    I have read those books. What part of my advice is counter to the books you recommend? I do not think that anything recommended above goes against those authors’ perspective. (Though I am not recommending or not recommend those books.) My article is just practical how-to advice for a mom who has one of these children, not a whole philosophy on when to begin learning.

  5. Cyndi

    My 2nd boy is easily distracted. He loves math and is very good at it, but still gets distracted while doing it. I, too, have to break it down into smaller segments to accomplish and give lots of praise when he stays on task. It sure helps to keep the other 3 boys out of the room when he’s having a hard time staying focused. Your advice is wonderful!

  6. Lynne

    Great advice in my book. I have a child who was diagnosed with ADHD while younger, but it turned out to be so much more! Anyway, you can also try sensory integration techniques. Some of the ones I have learned, sucking a sour candy while working on a difficult task. Also, crunchy carrots, pretzels, etc. The sensory stimuli helps to create more focus. Another idea we used was instead of sitting on a chair, he would sit on a large exercise ball and bounce. Obviously, this was while reading or studying and not writing! Again, your advice for the distracted child is great!

  7. Jacqueline woodward

    I’m trying to help the slow readers in my grandchildren’s Christian school (2ndgrade). My current student is already age 9 in 2nd grade and average in math, etc but extremely slow reading. He is distracted even by a sound his own toe might make touching a table leg incidently or similar transient noise. Your ideas are helpful and I thank you for them. Do you think I should try sight word speed drills and try to build up purposeful focus? Otherwise I’m trying the “Teach Your Child to Read” book and CD-Rom. The computer focuses him better than book…he has no computer at home.

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