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Published on March 13, 2015

boy daydreaming in class

Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Distraction Level

Distractibility refers to how easily one can be drawn off task or how much concentration he can apply to the task at hand. Some children may be right in the middle of something interesting and their attention gets pulled away by something else entirely. Other children may be doing something you’d prefer they not do and you can’t get them to change their focus for anything!

A child who is highly distractible:

  • Is usually pretty easy to move from one activity to another. Typically, you can easily offer a different toy or activity. This is particularly helpful if what he is engaged in is not what you want him to be doing.
  • May move quickly from one activity to another on his own. This often results in toys being left scattered about. Take a periodic break in the action to tidy up the playspace. Otherwise, if you wait too long the task can seem overwhelming to the child and to you!
  • May tend to be somewhat forgetful. Start teaching him reminder skills like creating a sticker chart for chores, making a calendar with upcoming events, put up an hourly clock with pictures of activities for each time period (like “play time” “dinner time” “reading time” and “bed time”). Later in school life, this child might need extra practice in writing reminders for assignments, projects, tasks, etc.

A child who is not at all distractible:

  • Will usually stay with a task until it is completed. This is excellent for room tidying and he often needs little reminding to do this. What he may need is time to disengage from the task at hand. He might be reluctant to start picking up if he hasn’t finished the block castle he is building.
  • Will hardly ever forget something he wants and will continue to remind you about it. Never promise a child something you have no intention of getting him — better to just say “no” and deal with the upset at the time. But if you have a child who is not distractible, you will really learn to regret having made an idle promise!
  • Gets caught up in what he is doing and tunes out the rest of the world. This might include you and any instructions or information you might be trying to give him. He is not being purposefully rude or disrespectful; he is just preoccupied. Repeating the message over and over from another room or increasing the volume of your voice does not pass your message on to this child. When you need to convey some information, it’s a good idea to get down to his level and make eye contact. Once you have his attention, you can calmly tell him what you need him to know. This also gives you the opportunity to observe from his facial expression whether he understands or perhaps might have a question about what you have said.

If you’d like to find out what your child’s temperament scores are like, email the child’s date of birth and your mailing address to

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