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How to Help a Child Focus in School

By Cara Batema ; Updated June 13, 2017

You might remember an instance when you daydreamed during class, and, when the teacher asked you a question, you were jarred back to reality, frozen and unable to answer. Such occasions are normal for many children. Your child might struggle with staying on task, following teacher instructions or paying attention to lectures, whether he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or not. You can take some basic steps at home to avoid these issues in the classroom.

Establishing Rules

According to Jane M. Healy, teacher and educational psychologist, in an article for the Parents League of New York, establishing expectations of behavior and sticking to them is an important step for improving attention. Healy points out that all caregivers must enforce rules, which should also have outlined consequences for infractions. If your child understands that goofing off or not listening to the teacher in school will cause a punishment, such as a privilege being taken away, he will likely focus more energy on staying calm and paying attention. In addition to clearly stating rules, remember to give your child kudos when he does something well, such as take home a good grade or positive marks from a teacher.

Releasing Energy

Kids need physical activity each day, and scheduling time during the day to release this energy can help them focus on a task after the movement is over. Encourage your child to play on a sports team, do chores around the house or take a walk after school, as suggested by Let your child have this release before he must sit down to finish homework, and praise him for completing the task. Consider taking a short walk before dropping your child off at school to remind your child of this motivation to focus.

Limiting Distractions

Some children are sensitive to distractions around the classroom -- they might drift off by staring out of the window or have trouble hearing because they sit too far back in the room or are near a noise source like an air conditioner, according to ADDitude Magazine. Talk to your child’s teacher to ensure your child’s personal irritants are not an issue inside the classroom. Also, according to Healy, you should establish routines at home and limit distractions in that environment to help properly develop your child’s brain and his internal control system. Avoid too much stimuli, like loud televisions, computer screens, phones ringing or other background noise.

Taking Breaks

According to Healy, some parents have unrealistic expectations for their children -- for example, some parents expect their young child to sit and complete homework for an hour, and the child ends up lacking focus because he needs a break. Practice taking breaks at home by allowing a 10- or 20-minute rest time to move around, get a snack, or sit and relax, suggests Remind your child he can take time like this at school, such as a bathroom break, with the teacher’s permission.

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