Does your child complain and resist going to extracurricular activities only to have fun once you get them there? Once they are at a fun activity, does your child resist leaving? As a martial arts school owner, I talk to parents about this common problem all the time. They say that their child is difficult to get to class but love it once they are there. As parents, we worry that our child may be losing interest in the activity. The good news is that this behavior does not necessarily mean that the child doesn’t like the activity. Instead, the child is demonstrating a behavior known as “present focus.”
What is present focus? Present focus is a child becoming focused on current activity and not wanting to stop to start another activity even if they enjoy it. Younger children have difficulty thinking about the future and tend to seek instant gratification. For example, if you offer them a piece of their favorite candy now or an entire bag of candy the following week, the child will most likely choose the piece now. Children lack the impulse control of adults; therefore, an essential part of parenting is becoming the child’s impulse control until they create good habits and make the right decisions. Remember that the child may love their extracurricular activity but still display the present focused behavior. Over my years of teaching, I discovered many valuable techniques to help parents refocus children to get them into class.
Tips to Combat Present Focus
1. Remind them. Remind them about their extracurricular activity early in the day. Children easily forget their activity schedule and resist activities that they are not mentally prepared for.
2. Talk positively. Talk to them confidently about the extracurricular activity. Build an image in their minds about how much fun they have at the activity.
3. Build excitement. Practice before leaving for the activity at home (play catch with a baseball, dribble a basketball, or kick around a soccer ball). This helps get your child excited about going and puts them in the right mindset.
4. Limit highly stimulating activities. Don’t let your child play their favorite video game or other activities that cause resistance to leaving right before the extracurricular activity. Have your child perform less stimulating activities like eating dinner or finishing homework instead.
5. Change at the extracurricular activity. For kids, getting ready for extracurricular activity becomes a major sticking point. If possible, make the barrier low to get into the car by grabbing their uniform and changing at the extracurricular activity.
6. Get a Friend involved. Children love hanging out with friends. If their friends are in the same activities, they are more likely to stay committed too.
7. Be involved yourself. Volunteer time by coaching or, in the case of martial arts, join the classes also and lead by example. Children model their parent’s behavior. We always say, “Families who kick together, stick together.”
8. Take Earlier Classes. Look for an extracurricular activity that has classes right after school. Instead of settling in at home and attempting to uproot your child, opt for an earlier class or activity, if available.