Imagine what a great “Homework Cheat” you’d be giving your child if you gave him that elusive gift – the ability to concentrate!
Successful people in all fields have this “Homework Cheat” down to a “T” – they can “get in the flow” at will. Watch a great sportsman, artist, writer or craftsperson at work and you will soon see that this is true.
How can you help your kids learn concentration as the important skill that it is, rather than something that happens only when they are engrossed in play, computer games or worse, TV? How can we teach them the value of this skill so that they can use it to their benefit in school and in later life?

“Homework Cheat No 1” – The Skill of Concentration!

The first thing you want to do is make your child aware of what concentration is.
Before you start talking to your child about these things, spend a few days observing him. Try to answer these questions:
What is my child doing when he seems to be concentrating hard?
How long does he spend on these activities at a time?
How easy is it to distract him during these periods of concentration? If I speak quietly to him, does he hear me?
Once you have a basic understanding of your child’s patterns of concentration, you can usefully start talking to him about it. In order to explain to your child what concentration is, first help him to recognize concentration in others:
“See the cat on the lawn, what’s he looking at? Do you think he’s after mice? See how he is concentrating all of his attention on the grass under the bush? Cats are very good hunters, because they can concentrate so well.”
“Look at your baby sister eating her dinner. She is still learning to use her spoon; she is concentrating very hard on getting her food in her mouth! We learn well when we are concentrating.”
Next, help your child to recognize concentration in himself. Wait for a time when he is concentrating very hard on something. Watch him carefully, but don’t talk to him until he completes the activity and his concentration naturally breaks – you will recognize this because you will see him suddenly become aware of his surroundings as his period of concentration comes to an end. Now try comments and questions like these:
“Wow, it looked like you were concentrating really hard while you were drawing that picture!”
“How did it feel to concentrate like that?”
“It’s really useful to be able to concentrate hard whenever we want to. It’s a great “homework cheat” – by concentrating you can usually do stuff really well, and still get it finished in a lot less time.”
“You are really good at concentrating. Would you like to play a game to help you learn how you can concentrate even better?”
You will probably find that your child shows a lot of interest in this kind of conversation. After all, much of the time a child’s conversations with his parents are very trivial, telling him or asking him to do things, reminding him to tidy his room and so on. He loves it when you talk to him like an adult about things that really matter – like cool “Homework Cheats”!

How Long can You Concentrate for?

Once your child understands the concept of concentration, here’s a game to help him value and develop this great “Homework Cheat”.
Young children like competitive games, and they are very likely to be able to beat you at this one!
Get an object that you know your child will like. It could be a small toy, or better still a natural object – a feather for instance.
The object of the game is to see who can concentrate on the object longest. Put the object on the table between the players – just two of you to start with, although you can have more players once your child gets familiar with the game. Say, “Let’s see who can concentrate on the feather the longest.” You don’t need to explain the rules; your child will learn them as you go along. If possible, have a “referee” who is not participating in the game to watch the players and call time out when one of them stops concentrating – the other player being the winner. If you are playing with more than two players, the referee should touch a player that loses concentration, and he or she steps out of the game leaving the remaining players to compete for winning place.

Loss of concentration can be recognized by:

  • Looking away from the object for more than a second or two
  • Closing your eyes for more than a second or two
  • Talking
  • Giggling
  • Falling asleep!

Conclusion

Once your child understands concentration and how it works, and enjoys playing concentration games, you will want to encourage him to use it as a “Homework Cheat”. After all, it is very easy for your child to concentrate on his favorite toys and hobbies, but he needs to learn that he can concentrate deliberately on less favored but still important activities.
So now that he possesses, understands and appreciates this “Homework Cheat”, remember to praise him when he uses it for study or revision. Point out the benefits of concentrating on these things, and show him encouragement – and he will be able to grasp this skill and make it his own throughout his childhood and put it to good use as an adult.