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#31: How to teach an inattentive child

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The elements taught on Smarter Parenting helps parents how to teach an inattentive child how to be successful.

While many parents focus on the hyperactivity part of ADHD, it can be easy for the inattentive symptoms to be overlooked. ADHD inattentive type symptoms include becoming distracted, trouble concentrating, becoming bored quickly, difficulty learning or organizing new information, frequently daydreaming, difficulty following instructions, seems not to listen when spoken to directly, and creating more mistakes.

Understanding inattentive ADHD symptoms allow you to keep your cool and to apply inattentive strategies.

Children who have inattentiveness ADHD have difficulty focusing because they are focusing on everything at once. They have no idea how to filter out all the information they are receiving. As such, they have difficulty paying attention or Following Instructions even when directly talked to. It can be frustrating if you’re talking to them, and it feels like they are ignoring you.

Parents can help guide their children to focus on what they need to focus on by being specific is what you want them to do. For example, you can tell them to focus on the tone of your voice or to make a particular breathing pattern.

Doing those things allows your child to see that they have the ability to focus on one thing instead of being bombarded by multiple items at once.

Inattentive children also have a harder time following verbal commands, so giving them visual cue or lists are more effective. 

On the Smarter Parenting website, you’ll find visual chore charts that can be modified to help walk your child through multiple tasks. 

Move-along chore chart: knight

Move-along chore chart: princess

Build a knight chore chart

Build a fairy chore chart

For full show notes and transcript visit: https://www.smarterparenting.com/adhd-parenting-podcast/

Episode Transcript

Did you know that Smarter Parenting offers coaching. And to begin coaching, we offer a free 15-minute mini-session where we can discuss what needs you may have with your child. When you sign-up for coaching, I’ll send you a questionnaire so we can maximize our time together. So go ahead, log into the Smarter Parenting website and sign-up for coaching and receive your 15-minute free mini-session. I hope to see you there.

Hi, this is episode 31, How to teach an inattentive child. Let’s begin.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Well hello, everybody. I hope everybody’s doing well out there. Super excited, actually to talk about this part of ADHD. Which is a topic I think a lot of people overlook or don’t really discuss very much, because they focus on the hyperactivity side of ADHD. But, there is a flip side to it. I tend to think of it a lot like Two-Face, from Batman. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that comic strip, but there’s this character, he’s a villain in Batman, Two-Face, and so he flips a coin when he makes a decision. One side is one way, and then he could flip. It’s kind of this weird connection. It’s all in one body. It’s one person, but there’s … he can flip back and forth.

Now in ADHD, it doesn’t flip so much, but there are two sides to ADHD and one side is the hyperactivity side. And then there is another side, which is the inattentive side. A lot of focus is actually spent on the hyperactivity side of it. But, your child can be diagnosed as inattentive ADHD, which is interesting to think about. If your child has been inattentive, it is exactly what it sounds like. Your child has problems staying focused and being able to be attentive to the things that are happening around them.

Now, a lot of times parents feel like, they ask the question, “Maybe my kid’s just being defiant towards me. Maybe they’re just not getting me. Maybe they’re just pushing my buttons and making me more angry.” In reality, the inattentive, because the hyperactivity’s not there, then the inattentive actually looks like they don’t care. That nothing matters. Or that they can’t keep track of conversations. Or things that are happening.

Now, I like the way that one doctor had put it, in that inattentiveness actually isn’t the idea that they can’t focus in on that. It’s just that, they’re focused on everything, all at once. When you think about that, most people have a filter, where they can filter out things that are important and not important. But, for a child with inattentiveness, what happens is, is everything is bombarding them, and they have no idea how to filter that out. What is important, what’s not important. A lot of times they can pay attention to very specific things if they are very interested in that topic. And they can focus all of that attention in that area.

However, for some kids, it’s just overwhelming. I mean, if you were to turn on all your senses to level 10, which is the highest, let’s say, and you were able to absorb every color, every sound, every touch, every temperature change on your skin, every breeze, all at the same time, it could be overwhelming. Our brain selectively chooses what to focus on, and it tells us, “Okay, this is something we want to focus on and we’re going to forget that.” I’ll give you an example. 

While I’ve been talking, you’ve been listening, which has been fantastic. Thank you for listening. But how many of you have even thought about your, let’s say, your little pinky toe. Hopefully you have one, but if you don’t imagine that you do. You probably didn’t think about it. You probably weren’t thinking about your little pinky toe at all, during this whole conversation, until I brought it up. That’s because I brought attention to it.

Now, if we were to sit and just evaluate our whole, what’s happening with us, our body, the sensations that we’re feeling. How heavy we feel in the chair that we’re sitting in. Or where we’re standing, or the pressure that we feel, gravity pulling us down on our, if we are standing, on our knees or. I mean, all these things that I am mentioning right now are actually drawing attention to those things. But your brain, before I mentioned it, had actually filtered all of those out. They weren’t even part of the conversation. They weren’t even part of what we were talking about at all. But, I made them part of what you were aware of.

For a child in the inattentive state, a lot of times what is happening around them is everything, all at once, and it’s too much. It’s so much that it’s very difficult for them to pinpoint and focus on the things that are most important and that are most relative. Now, some parents have actually tried to use things that will desensitize or limit the senses, so they can focus. 

Now, one thing that I have noticed one parent do, is actually have the child close their eyes and just focus on the sound of their voice, right. And kind of walk them through being able to make some very specific progress in focusing on voice tone. They’re actually guiding them along the process, by helping them realize what to pay attention to. So, that’s one method that parents can use, actually, in working with an inattentive child or a child that struggles with inattentiveness is to help them learn how to focus.

You can find some additional ideas on the Smarter Parenting website, and I highly recommend you jump over there, because there are a ton of parenting skills out there that will be super helpful for you. That you can use in addition to what we’re talking about with ADHD.

Let’s walk through one of these processes together, okay. Let’s say that we were all sitting in a room. All of this was happening. I wanted to limit your senses, and so I would have you close your eyes and then I would have you focus on your breath. How you’re breathing. It wouldn’t have to be a long thing, but I would just say, “Okay, I want you to take a deep breath in and hold it for three: one, two, three and then let it go, through your mouth.” 

I would actually guide them to through the thing. Okay, so I would say, “Okay, when you take your breath out, you’re going feel your chest deflate or go lower, because the air is being pushed out. I want you to pay attention to how deep that goes, and then we’re going to breathe again. Hold it for three: one, two, three, take a breath out.”

As I’m guiding them through this, I am specifically telling them what to focus on. This actually helps them realize, “Okay, I can focus on very specific things, and I can be guided through this process.” Rather than having everything bombard them all at one time.

Now, that is just one suggestion of things that you can try for your inattentive child. But, one thing that I really want to tell parents who are struggling with children with the inattentiveness is that it does require a lot of patience on your part, because you will probably give that child the same instruction a million times. There are ways to not do that, and that is to establish something like a board where you write things down and they have to pay attention to the board. Verbal commands and verbal discussions is harder for them to follow than something that’s tangible or that’s physical. 

So, having something that they can follow, a list, would be ideal for an inattentive child. And a list that wouldn’t have things that were vague, but were very specific. And if they were to do tasks on the list, that it would be something that they could do fairly quickly.

You wouldn’t want to say, “Clean the whole house,” and then have them check the box. No, you’d say, “Okay, I want you to pick up the toys in the living room and put them in the box, in the corner.” Very, very specific. After that, they could check it and then move down the list. You could do this with a bunch of things, so, homework, for example or whatever. You could decide. Chores that include doing things around the home are super helpful. In doing something that’s more visual, so that they can pay attention to and look at and follow through.

Again, for parents who are working with children who are inattentive type, be very cautious about long lectures and trying to explain it to them, because this actually is even more difficult for them to do. It will increase your frustration, and it may increase theirs as well, because they’re trying, but it’s just not working for them. Just be aware of those things with the inattentive type.

Those are a couple of suggestions, actually, that I wanted to share with you on here. But, I want to invite any parents out there who have children who are struggling with inattentiveness to reach out to us. I would love to do a coaching session with you. Let’s talk about what’s happening and the things that you are trying to accomplish with your child. And let’s work through what it is we can do to help you and your child move on to a point where they can be productive in your home.

Again, you can sign-up for it or you can send us a message at [email protected]. Let us know. Let me know. Let’s do a coaching session. 

We can do a couple of those, and then we can see. I would love to follow up, and just see how things are going with you, as well. I urge you, please, sign-up for the coaching, because I think coaching, doing it one-on-one, is super helpful. 

Actually what we want to do is, we want to be able to share this coaching session with other parents who may be struggling with something similar. Now, it’s nice to get coached by somebody, right? But people who watch a coaching session, they learn just as much by watching it, seriously. So, this could be helpful for a lot of different parents.

Again, if you have a child with inattentiveness, and has been diagnosed with ADHD, please reach out to us, and I would love to do a coaching session or a couple of coaching sessions with you, so we could work through this issue. You can sign-up on the Smarter Parenting website.

Now, that’s it for me with the inattentiveness. I hope everything is going well for you. I want to wish you the best day ever, today. Until I talk to you again, peace.

Resources discussed in this episode

Sign-up for free a 15-minute ADHD Coaching mini-session

Episode 15: 5 ways to help ADHD kids refocus

Getting ADHD child to follow instructions

Move-along chore chart: knight

Move-along chore chart: princess

Build a knight chore chart

Build a fairy chore chart

Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.