One of my boy’s is in the middle of telling me how difficult it is to be in charge of the lunch time cricket game and my phone beeps, letting me know a text has come in. Do I look or not? That is the question.
My daughter is telling me about her maths test when the phone tone rings. Do I look and answer? That is the question.
Another of my boys is dragging his feet getting ready for school as he had missed the early morning cuddle in bed and ‘please can I sit on your lap for awhile?’ But the clock is ticking, there are school times to be met and I haven’t checked my emails. Do I just check quickly? That is the question.
Arghhhh! What to do and I have only been out of bed for 1 hour!
“Attentional skills are fundamentally under siege today. Never before in human history have there been so many seductive distractions in a person’s day, in a given hour, or in 10 minutes.” Daniel Goleman
It seems, that to focus on the person or task in front of us is getting harder and harder. Research and science is finding that there is the need to actually make the effort to ‘cultivate more strength to detach our attention from that thing that is so tempting over there and bring it back to the person in front of us.’
As time goes on and technology is becoming even more a part of our lives it seems that our connection with others is being damaged to some extent , threatened by the fact that ‘we’re together but we’re not together. We’re alone together.’
Daniel Goleman is actually ‘worried about us as a species, particularly the young as they have never had to summon up the effort it takes to focus.’
‘Focus: the hidden driver or excellence’ is his new book and from an interview I followed, it is certainly thought provoking. The link for the interview is here.
This lack of focus has many implications. Focus it seems is the key to a fulfilling life. It attunes us to the goodness that we experience every day, so that those experiences can contribute to a deeper sense of fulfillment or happiness.
Focus or the term ‘cognitive control’ is the ability to keep your mind on one thing and ignore distractions. Cognitive control in childhood has been shown to predict life success, life earnings and savings, home ownership and even elements of health.
This ‘muscle of attention’ ie. focus actually speeds up the ability to develop all other emotional skills, it is that important.
So, if focus is so important Goleman asks the question, ‘Why are we not teaching it explicitly in schools?’ I then add to that, as a parent ‘what am I doing to teach my children to focus?’
Focus is something we can control. We need to be helping our children to focus on feelings and focus on the task at hand. It was found that just counting our breathing can make a difference. It was found in a year 2 class that when they did this daily, they became better learners and were more alert and calm.
As adults we need to be helping to remove distractions so kids can focus. But then, we need to not just remove them, but help kids to learn how to have the control to ignore, because many of these distractions are not going to go away. It is a daily challenge for adults and children to ‘resist the pull of electronics and stay with the human world.’
I have found this information challenging. As a parent and teacher how can I help kids to learn this cognitive control/focus? The concerning aspect is that lack of focus seems to have many negative implications. But the encouraging aspect is that it can be taught.
How do you go resisting the pull for yourself and your kids? I would love to hear from you.