I’ve received many comments and questions as to how my busy body son C sits though crafts and activities. I have also received many requests for specific activities for children who are more active and enthusiastic with life. In my opinion, there are many angles to approach the subject from and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to break the topic into several posts. Often as parents of ‘busy’ children, we are left feeling that our children are frowned upon based on public perception and that we are being judged. As I quote a conversation that I had with a friend who uses the term “warp speed” to describe our sons’ paces, “warp speed is often confused with behaviour issues,” when in fact I think that “warp speed” is something to be celebrated!
Had it not been for my experience teaching Junior High School, I wouldn’t have many of the tools that I have today to engage and understand my own children, more notably C who is an intense ball of energy. At the junior high age, I was able to classify the “busy”, “hyperactive”, or what seemed like inattentive students into categories.
- Those students who appear to not be listening but can repeat verbatim what you just said. These are the ones that drive everyone crazy! We all remember those students from our own school age who were constantly talking, moving around, and appearing to be completely oblivious to what was happening in class but when asked by the teacher what was just said, could repeat everything word for word. Often these were the students who got excellent marks, never studied, and bragged about it. I always found that these students were often “gifted and talented” and instead of punishing them for their distracting behaviour needed to be understood and redirected.
- Those students who are a distraction, can’t sit still, and unlike type 1, have to try hard to achieve the marks that they strive for. Just as for type #1, these students need to be assisted in finding a way that helps them to focus and stay engaged.
- Those students who are a distraction, can’t sit still, are often rude or act out, and demonstrate poor performance in light of it. These students aren’t the ‘natural learners’ as type 1 are. These are the students who need to experience success to be proven that the hard work to stay focused is worthwhile. By hard work, I mean hard work. These students are up against a mind that is working against them to stay engaged and focused. Often they end up lost, fall through the cracks, and possibly dislike school all together if a strong base of support isn’t established early on. This category can be divided into 2 sub-categories as well. There are students in this category who can stay afloat in ‘regular classes’ with perseverance and there are others in this category who require extra assistance whether it be from a smaller class with modified or adapted curriculum or extra behaviour management.
- Those students who are just so behind with the basics of any given subject that the only way for them to survive is to act out. The distracting behaviour can be a cry for help and a coping mechanism. Often, like type 3, they end up misunderstood, lost, fall through the cracks, and possibly dislike school all together if a strong base of support isn’t established early on.
So how do these categories help us figure out what our extra active children need whether 2 or 15 years old? They help us to identify how to understand them, how to assist them in managing behaviours, and how to help offer them success at life in general. I find that there are many similarities between toddlers and teenagers. Among many other reasons, both are at stages where they are learning to communicate at a new level and both are continuously developing new skills. Just as we can for a school-aged child, we can begin to identify how our busy body toddlers learn best and how to approach engagement with them. It may be too early to categorize younger children as well, however as a parent, I think it’s important that we be aware of the different routes that our children could take in regards to their learning. We play such a huge role in establishing life long learning in our children that the last thing we want is to feel we are to blame when struggles occur.
As a side note, when dealing with “busy” toddlers, we need to remember that they’re toddlers…they’re not mature adults…they’re toddlers. We get so wrapped up in wanting perfectly behaved children that we forget that they’re 2, or 3, or 4, and that certain behaviours are just part of the developmental process.
In my next post, I will break down different ways that I assisted my students and currently use with my own children to manage distraction and a lack of focus which can be applied to all ages, as well as offer some specific activity ideas to foster engagement.