Every now and then, we hear complaints about inadequacies of the schooling system and curriculum that not always align with the demands of the fast-changing world. Parents trying their best to provide kids with future-proof education yet not everybody can afford coding classes or private tutoring.
Without regarding for school, some essential skills can (or should) be taught by the parents primarily. We parents have a huge role to play when it comes to educating our kids and we shouldn’t expect the school to do everything for us. With this text, I am launching a series of articles on essential skills we parents can teach our kids without a need of spending a dollar on afterschool clubs and courses. These competencies are accessible to anyone – all you need is your commitment to helping your kids with training the brain.
How to know how?
‘Concentrate on eating’! ‘Focus on your homework’! Teachers at school, parents at home – everybody expects kids to focus and concentrate. You heard the same from your parents and teachers when you were younger yet I bet, nobody ever told you how to concentrate. Did anybody explain to you what does it mean for the brain to focus? Were you taught how not to be distracted?
We have never been taught the skill of concentration so no surprise, we have no idea (neither teachers nor parents) how to teach our kids to concentrate. ‘Focusing classes’ won’t become a part of the curriculum any time soon, so let’s take things into our own hands!
We live in times where millions of messages bombard our brain every second and training the brain to stay focus amidst all these distractions is definitely among the most critical skills we should teach our kids. In the digitalized lifestyle, with smartphones, led screens, and other electronic devices being everywhere, our ability to stay focused and concentrated on the task at hand has been affected enormously. The situation is really bad; we used to joke about a goldfish and its nine-seconds ability to focus but guess what – a human attention span today is eight seconds on average, according to a Microsoft study.
In these circumstances, people who will know how to focus will get a competitive advantage in any discipline.
Let’s get into the brain
When we stay focused on the task at hand, without being distracted by other people and background noises, the brain’s prefrontal cortex slows down, allowing us to enter an optimal state of consciousness, commonly known as ‘flow’(the neuroscientific term is ‘transient hypofrontality’). This is a state where we get so focused on the task that everything else disappears, we literally lose track of time. Tapping into transient hypofrontality allows us to accelerate performance and productivity, to unlock reserves of creativity and innovation. Being in this state also helps plan logically, think rationally, and essentially avoid wrong decisions.
The question is, how to tap into this state? It’s actually very simple: we practice concentration by doing one thing at a time. Whatever you do, focus fully on this one activity, and nothing else. Be fully present in whatever you’re doing – and teach your kids to do the same. Use any occasion to stay focus on a task at hand, make it your family’s new habit. You’ll be surprised how many occasions to practice focus life will give you every day.
Focus in practice
Let’s say your son is doing homework, yet suddenly he starts telling you about the funny situation that happened at school today, or a field trip that his class is going for the next month. At this very moment, his attention goes from a present moment (doing homework) to the past (funny situation at school) or to the future (field trip). This is a great opportunity for your kid to train focus: tell him you’d love to hear his story but not right now. Ask him to finish the task first and make him aware of the process that is happening in his brain. Educate him on how his awareness wander when he goes from one thought to another one. When he eventually starts sharing the story, after the homework is done, give him your full attention, don’t check your emails while he speaks, don’t do dishes, don’t think about any to-do list. Just listen. Your own example of being present in the conversation gives him the best lesson of what being focused means in practice (plus, at the same time you training your brain in focusing).
Only the benefits
By teaching your children to focus at one thing at a time you help them perform better at school, in sports, and any other activity they choose to practice. But first and foremost, you equip them with a skill that is critical to succeeding in adult life: with the ability to focus not only they’ll be highly productive and engaged employees, or creative and visionary entrepreneurs, but they’ll also know how to truly listen and be authentically present with their partners and kids.
Teach your children this simple daily practice, and you’ll see how meaningful and fulfilled their life will be.Photo by Pexels-Pixabay-256414
Written by: Dr Anna Kaminska