3 Reasons Why Your Child Does Not Stay Focused In School

School has been in full swing for a while and you probably have a good idea of how your child is performing. It’s not uncommon for parents who get the first report card to say, “she can’t stay focused in school and is easily distracted.” 

Sometimes, just being a kid can make it hard to stay focused in school.  There are so many distractions. So, if your child zones out at school or at home from time to time, it isn’t unusual.  But what if that happens a lot?

If your child has a hard time focusing, you might be wondering why – and whether they could have difficulty learning.  In many cases, the concentration issues children have in school can be caused by a number of different reasons. However, many parents and teachers assume that the problem is a lack of motivation. But forcing kid to focus only makes the problem worse!

Did you know: Since difficulty paying attention is widely associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), that tends to be the first thing teachers, parents, and clinicians suspect.

This article will help you to pinpoint the cause of your child’s inability — or refusal — to stay focused in school.

1. Signs of concentration problems you might be seeing

Signs of concentration problems you might be seeing

Having trouble with focus doesn’t mean kids have a “problem.” But it can definitely cause problems in school and in everyday life. For example, kids might be late for practice a lot. They might daydream or stare out the window at home or in class. They may be disruptive or unable to finish work in class or may struggle to finish their homework.

Having a kid with a concentration problem doesn’t mean that kid is not working hard or isn’t intelligent. It also doesn’t mean she’s not interested in something, even if it seems that way. Kids may want to focus on something but can’t manage to do it. The trouble with the focus can show up in many ways and it can change over time. There are a number of behaviors that you might notice in your child, including:

  • an inability to sit still
  • is easily distracted
  • has problems following instructions
  • has problems organizing themselves, or is constantly losing things
  • has difficulty completing schoolwork
  • has poor handwriting compared to other children of the same age
  • is experiencing learning difficulties
  • displays behavioral difficulties such as aggression, moodiness or irritability
  • experiences friendship issues, such as difficulty making and keeping friends
  • shows clumsiness or poor gross motor skills, such as running or jumping.

Since difficulty paying attention is widely associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), that tends to be the first thing teachers, parents, and clinicians suspect. But there are a number of other possibilities that can contribute to attention problems. To avoid misdiagnosis, it’s important that these other possibilities, which are not always obvious, not be overlooked.

2. 3 main reasons behind your child’s lack of attention

Reason #1 – Mismatch learning styles 

Often, the distractions are environmental or outside distractions that are unique to your child’s individual learning style.  Different students have different learning styles: some learn best by seeing, some by hearing, and others by doing.  If your child’s teacher emphasizes a learning style that doesn’t match with how your child learns, this can result in a lack of focus and understanding.  For example, if your child is a visual learner and they are reading a very boring book with no pictures, maybe they need more visual stimulation to draw their attention. Or maybe your child is an auditory learner and your house is noisy and they can’t stay focused.

According to Dr. Carly Hannaford, neuroscientist, and educator, up to 85% of students are kinesthetic.  This little fact changes everything. Dr. Hannaford states that only 15% of children can process linearly, look at the teacher when they are talking and can repeat back what they heard.  That’s why our dream of having attentive kiddos in class is not going to be realized. Not without some serious change-up.  Knowing your child’s learning style is key to finding the distractions that are unique to them so that you can help them find ways around them.  If you don’t know your child’s learning style, get them to take our free quiz here.

Reason #2 – Your child is not appropriately challenged

help kids stay focusedInattention can also be a result of feeling under, or over-challenged.  If you’re repeatedly getting calls or notes sent home that your child is disruptive or acting out, perhaps the source of their behavior is due to a lack of stimulation in a school setting.  Children who aren’t appropriately challenged by their schoolwork can quickly become disengaged. They might start to lose interest in the material, stop paying attention altogether, get lazy at school and actually have worse grades because they zone out.

When children are under-challenged, they tend to find ways to engage and stimulate themselves.  This may mean energetically disrupting the classroom, or becoming the class clown. When children are over-challenged, they may try to distract others with high energy behavior.  This is also why children having high energy level is often misdiagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Both scenarios can result in a cycle of negative behavior that hinders learning.

Reason #3 – Your child is not getting proper sleep or nutrition

Your child is not getting proper sleep or nutrition

Nutrition also can hugely impact children’s ability to focus at school.  Even we as adults find it hard to focus when we’re hungry, so do our children.  “There is pretty solid evidence that children who are hungry are not able to focus, so they have a low attention span, behavioral issues, discipline issues in the school,” says Sibylle Kranz, an associate professor of kinesiology and a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Curry School.  “Having children who are well-fed and not hungry makes a difference in their individual performance, and also how much they are contributing to or disrupting the classroom situation.”

Brain development and growth depend on nutrition and lay the foundation for learning and behavior.  According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies reveal that diets with high levels of saturated fats actually impair learning and memory.  Therefore, changing your family’s diet to a healthy, balanced diet is very important to help your child reach his or her full potential for concentration, memory, focus and mental capacity.  Avoid giving your child processed, sugary foods such as boxed breakfast cereals and snacks. Set a positive example by following a nutritious daily diet yourself. Parents can also refer to our top 7 brain foods you can offer your children to optimize their chances of having a good day at school.

Sleep is very important, as well, especially for young learners.  It helps us recharge, gives the brain a chance to exercise neuronal connections and gives our bodies time to repair muscles and replace chemicals.  So, when your child is not getting the right amount of sleep, they can be easily distracted and more likely to make errors. Children with excessive screen time, especially before going to bed, will surely have poor focus in class.  Additionally, recent studies have shown that some children diagnosed with ADHD may be sleep-deprived.

So what can parents and teachers do about this?
Like any skill, concentration can be learned and improved.  Just because your child is having a hard time focusing in school, doesn’t mean she has a learning difficulty such as ADD or ADHD.  Whatever your child’s problem is, you can bet that there’s a list of solutions totally unique to her.

In the next article, we will highlight some of the best techniques to help improve your child’s concentration quickly and easily. You can subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates delivered straight to your inbox and find more parenting coverage here.

3. What Everest Education does to help students focus

At Everest Education, we design our classes to engage students from the start to manage these potential challenges.  There are no classes where the teacher stands and lectures at the front of the class. Instead, Everest teachers lead students through fun, challenging activities, and students work through the material individually.

In our Singapore Math courses, students use learning manipulatives and engage their sense of touch while they derive formulas through play.  When students encounter new concepts, they grapple with interesting puzzles that make them think and test their hypotheses. Using tools like the bar method, students then use pictures to represent their thinking in a more organized way. Students see and memorize math formulas only once they have demonstrated understanding with their hands and pictures.  This Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CPA) method ensures that students don’t get bored and that the information is always leveled appropriately for them.

(CPA) method ensures that students don’t get boredIn our English courses, students are mastering each sub-skill of listening, speaking, reading, and writing at their own speed and with their own leveled materials.  For example in English reading, students in the same class often have a wide range of reading levels. They each know their own reading levels, and our teachers guide them to choose the books or articles at the right level in Reading A-Z or Newsela.  The key: they choose the books that interest them! One boy might choose a book on soccer, while another girl might read about space exploration. This way, instead of acting out in class, students act responsibly. Most importantly, when they see their reading skills develop quickly, they develop innate confidence and a love of learning.  Through this personalized learning approach, Everest Education students increase their English skills twice as fast as they would in school alone.


My daughter wasn’t paying attention in class. 
Understanding why kids have trouble with focus

Not All Attention Problems Are ADHD

Why can’t my child concentrate at school?

This Is the Secret to Getting Kids to Pay Attention (and We’re Doing Less and Less of It)
Help! My Child Doesn’t Pay Attention!
10 Reasons Your Child Can’t Concentrate In School


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