Q: Did any of your children have a hard time focusing on a task? If so, how did you handle that? A: Okay, this one is going to get me in trouble. I had two of the wiggliest, busiest boys ever created. My firstborn, John Mark (now the pastor of Solid Rock) never walked- he ran from task to task. My youngest son, Matt, was born bouncing his merry way through life. The two girls in the middle weren’t much for sitting still either, though both of them enjoyed curling up for a good talk every day. As my kids were growing up, I started hearing a lot of labels put on kids who just couldn’t seem to sit still and be quiet. I worried that my boys would be slapped with a label such as ADD or ADHD or hyperactivity, but I didn’t want that kind of stigma for them. And I certainly didn’t like the idea of medicating my sons to get them to behave the way everyone thought they should. So I chose instead to order the outside of their world so that they could order the inside of their lives.
Here are some of the strategies I used to impose a sense of order and rest on their days:
- Play outside every day. In rain or shine, cold or heat, we went outside to play. Lots of time at the park, walking around the neighborhood, playing in the sandbox and even in the mud. We even built a treehouse with a roof for rainy weather. There is just something so adventuresome about eating lunch way up high! I found it nothing short of amazing how quickly fresh air calmed down the agitation and relieved the restlessness that came from being indoors too much.
- Eat frequent, healthy meals to prevent low blood sugar, which often acts like hyperactivity in kids. And drink lots of water to keep them hydrated and fresh. (God sent ravens to Elijah when he was too hungry to think straight I Kings 19:1-8)
- Consistently carve out time for each child to be alone every single day. This is their time to dream and think and ponder and process. I kept colorful, whimsical books and crayons and creative things close by so they could be alone and be busy at the same time. Legos were always a favorite for my boys. (Jesus craved time alone with God, often slipping away up to a mountain top to pray-Luke 6:12)
- Order their environment. I mean neatness here—a place for everything and everything in its place. And get rid of stuff! Clutter is confusing and distracting and often the cause of a restless child. Take a look at their room and at your family room. Is it crammed with distractions? Start each day with a clean, orderly home and then whip through together and “do a once through” before naps, before going out, and before Dad gets home, and before bed. You’ll be astounded at what a difference it makes for your child- and for you too! (study how God ordered the world He created for us in Genesis 1)
- SLOW DOWN! Most moms are just too crazy busy for anyone’s good. All those lessons and “opportunities” are creating more chaos than anything. Just stay home- a lot. This is your time to pour into your children and to manage your home with beauty and finesse. (God studies us and notices our inner needs- Psalm 139)
- Get rid of all computer/video/electronic games. While you’re at it, stuff that t.v. into a closet. If your child is having trouble paying attention, these are the worst activities for him. Every study you’ll ever read agrees that our children’s brains are being bombarded with more than they can process. Every one of those things may be fine in very limited increments, but taken all together they spell trouble for kids. (David determined to put all vain, worthless distractions away from his eyes-Psalm 101:3)
- Make sure your children are getting a full dose of sleep. Over tired kids are cranky and restless. Make bedtime a pleasant winding down to a busy day, with stories and smiles and lots of affection. (A sense of peace and safety in which to cuddle up to sleep is essential-Psalm 4:8)
Be courageous enough to break the unhealthy tendency to medicate your children. Most children can be taught and trained to be creative problem solvers with some concentrated effort from mom. It’s a lot of work, but so well worth it when you get to watch them channel all that energy into learning and growing as God intended them to. Go for it!
From my heart,