So many children today are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or variations of this theme. This disorder is tied with a difficulty in the child to focus and concentrate. Drugs and a change of diet are usually prescribed. Perhaps what is being missed is that focus and concentration are actually skills which must be developed. According to Montessori philosophy, the best way to do so is to set up the correct environment (and experiences) which provide the child with the opportunity to develop concentration him/herself.
The first step toward building concentration is to find what attracts and interests the child and introduce him/her to some kind of activity that contains a goal in it. For parents, this isn’t difficult since children are naturally drawn to what they most need to learn. The adult should model any steps (and use of tools) and present the goal that is desired. Then the adult must STEP BACK and allow the child the space and time to deeply engage with the activity. It is critical at this stage for the adult to not interrupt, even with praise and encouragement, because this disturbs the child’s inner development. (Acknowledgment of a child’s accomplishments can be saved until after the child has completed the task.) Of course, if a task is too difficult, then the adult can give hints or suggestions, but the goal is to let the child work on his/her own. In our hurried, scheduled world, it can be difficult to give children the full amount of time they need to develop this essential skill. As parents and teachers, we must observe for budding signs of focus and then work to protect those delicate (and fleeting) moments.
Marla Nargundkar, AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta.