Ask the expert: Should we get our overactive little boy assessed?
Clear routines explained on a visual chart can be really helpful to keep children focused and to help them manage what is happening next.
Also, active children can really benefit from including in the routine plenty of physical play and exercise as well as periods of downtime and relaxation.
It can be particularly helpful to use pictures on a chart to explain routines to children especially for flashpoint situations.
For example, if bedtime is a problem, you can break the steps of the bedtime routine into pictures that can remind and motivate your son to keep on track.
Take time to make sure your child understands what is expected
Children with attention problems can find it harder to process verbal instructions. Parents might have told the child several times to do something and the child appears not to have responded.
This is often because the child is distracted and has not processed what the parent has said.
Simple things like getting down to the child’s level, making good eye contact, using very clear instructions and making sure your son has understood can make a real difference in helping him attend to what you are saying.
Equally, reminders and warnings are also very helpful – “Three more goes on the swings, then we are going home”;“When we are in the shop, you stay with Mum.”
Provide lots of encouragement
Children who are active and impulsive frequently get into trouble and, as a result, can receive negative attention from parents and other adults who can resort to cajoling them to behave.
Such negative attention is counterproductive and can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem.
It is much more effective to take time to gently guide and show your son to behave and to recognise that he will need lots of encouragement to behave well.
The more specific you make your praise, the more you build his confidence and help give him the skills he needs. For example, you can say, “Good boy, you are sitting on your seat, now we can have a nice lunch;” “Wow, you are holding mum’s hand in the shops, what a safe boy you are.”
Work with the preschool teacher
It is very hopeful that your son is making progress in his current preschool. Indeed, a quality, structured and supportive placement in preschool is one of the most important ways to help him settle and to prepare for the demands of school in the future.
Continue to support and work closely with his preschool teacher next year. Take time to review with her his work in the preschool and what you can do to support her.
If appropriate, involve the preschool teacher in your son’s assessment and ask the relevant professional to create an individual plan for your son that can assist his progress both at home and in preschool.
Dr John Sharry is a director of the Parents Plus charity. His new book, Parenting Teenagers, is now out.