ASK THE EXPERT - September 2018

Note: Dear parents, Thank you for sending in your queries. Some of the queries put up by you were not related to children's emotional and behavioural problems but about admissions and results. Please note that this page does not address such questions. Some of you have also sent incomplete queries, with one or two word sentences, such as ‘rude behaviour', ‘happiness' and ‘aggression', which are difficult to respond to, as there is no explanation or description given about how the problem has started, what you find difficult to manage as a parent etc. The more descriptive the problem is, the better we would be able to respond to it.

Thank you

1. My child says that he has difficulty in learning/memorizing topics. He thinks he is not good at all at studying. He is also a deep thinker (over thinker). Can you guide me. The doctor said he has OCPD.

Gender: Male Age: 14 to 18 Category: Lack of concentration, attention, and learning

Response: Thank you for writing. You have highlighted two issues in your query. Firstly, the difficulty your child faces in memorizing topics and secondly, that he has been diagnosed with OCPD. I will address these two issues in the same order.

It would be good to clarify if your child is having difficulty learning topics in a particular subject or this is n issue he is facing in all classes? This clarity would greatly help in addressing the problems. However, there are various ways with the help of which children can improve their learning/memorizing skills by bringing small changes in lifestyle and paying attention to important details. You can help your children explore the following ways which might help him in dealing with this difficulty he is facing:

  • He should take enough sleep, healthy food and engage in activities that are relaxing for the mind and body – for instance, any activity/sport/excise routine that suits him.
  • It could be that his mind is mostly pre-occupied. He can try and first address the issues that preoccupy him when he studies, e.g. a problem at home, issues with friends. You can encourage him to talk about these issues with you or an adult or a friend. Encourage him to allocate a time separate from his studies to ponder over these matters.
  • He can consider making a study routine that allows him breaks in between so that he can take a bit of rest. Most brains can only pay attention at a stretch for 45 minutes, so he might want to just take a small break to drink water or simply move around the room.
  • Additionally, this should be made considering his learning patterns as well as the time of the day he grasps concepts the best
  • Also, encourage him to avoid rote memorizing and try to understand the concepts (even if it's taking longer) because once he understands a concept, there are fewer chances he will forget. By adopting this methodology, he will train his mind to think a certain way and consequently he will take less time to understand concepts.
  • Taking notes in class mostly helps, even when one thinks the lesson is easy and he/she will remember everything. He can make it a habit to always take notes in class and go over these every day when he gets back home – then in case something is unclear he can clarify it the next day
  • Also, he can try and come up with code words or associations that can easily remind him about things like equations, names of the planets etc.
  • He can also try and break his tasks in smaller activities/tasks. And if there is a test coming up, he can plan the study breakup and timings in advance

Furthermore, you mentioned that your child has been diagnosed with OCPD. I would need to know more details before suggesting anything related to the disorder. Here I would strongly recommend that you seek professional help for your child from a practicing psychologist. The psychologist can work with your child in a systematic manner over a period of time to address the problems he is facing with regards to his learning skills.

2. My child is very irresponsible regarding studies. He is in grade 6 but still is not feeling the seriousness of self-study. Every time me and my husband have to give him lectures.

Gender: Male Age: 9 to 13 Category: Lack of concentration, attention, and learning

Response: It appears that your child's inability to take responsibility and pay attention to his studies is bothering you and your husband. There are many reasons why children can be non-serious towards studies and not take responsibility. Understanding these would help you and your husband work together to deal with them. Sometimes children behave this way to gain attention, show their control, feel inadequate and/or are disturbed by certain events and situations. At other times children behave this way due to lack of concentration, hyperactivity and learning difficulties that they seem to have from childhood. While in some children it could be a mix of both external situations and internal learning and concentration issues. However, it would be important to differentiate between the two so that you can deal with it accordingly. One way to differentiate between the two is that learning and concentration issues are exhibited in children since an early age with parents and teachers complaining of the child's inability to sit through the work, easily getting distracted, interrupting the class, forgetting things easily, making mistakes repeatedly, inability to grasp concepts etc. Read up on ‘Learning Disabilities' and ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder' to see if you feel that it describes your son's condition. Additionally, please share with us exact situations in which he behaves carelessly and irresponsibly so that we can guide you accordingly.

Furthermore, there are some steps that your child can take to bring more order and structure to his study routine. These steps are:

  • He can consider making a study routine that best suits his learning pattern. Most brains can only pay attention at a stretch for 45 minutes. So, he can study at a stretch for 45 mins and take small breaks to drink water or simply move around the room.
  • One of the reasons for this behaviour of his could be that his mind is mostly pre-occupied. If that's the case, he can try and first address the issues that preoccupy him when he studies, e.g. a problem at home, issues with friends. You can encourage him to talk about these issues with you or an adult or a friend. Encourage him to allocate a time separate from his studies to ponder over these matters.
  • He can also try and break his tasks in smaller activities/tasks. And if there is a test coming up, he can plan the study breakup and timings in advance.

Good luck!

3. Child is getting aggressive and careless day by day, he feels ignored in class.

Gender: Male Age: 6 to 8 Category: Lack of concentration, attention, and learning

Response: Children resort to aggression for a number of reasons and you can try determining those in your child's case and then help him deal with this aggression accordingly. Children are at times aggressive as a result of seeing aggression around them or being disciplined through physical force or physical punishment. Use of aggression and force makes children believe that it's okay to use force when they are angry and that might is right. It also makes them more stubborn and less resistant to change. Lack of any discipline, structure or routine, no clear rules related to behaviour etc. can at times confuse children about what is expected of them and thus cause them to be aggressive especially when they are used to getting their way. Other reasons for children's aggression is the result of stressful life situations that they are unable to understand and cope with. These could include the death of a loved one, family problems, and difficulty making friends, some form of trauma or abuse being experienced by them etc. How do you normally deal with his aggressive behaviour ?

To address this situation, you can also start identifying the things that make him aggressive and that he sticks to. Once you have done so, identify which issues are not worth struggling with your child, for example, clothes he wants to wear, and which are worth disciplining him, for example, eating his meal, TV viewing timings etc. Making a routine and some rules in-house , are useful ways to avoid the daily struggles about how much TV the children can watch, when they need to get ready for bed, cleaning up their mess etc.

If your child argues unnecessarily, diffuse this unnecessary power struggle by remaining silent at that time. You can express how you are feeling through facial expressions and body language, by stepping away from the situation and talking later. For example, you can say to the child, ‘I think you are angry and upset and I will talk to you about it later when you are less angry'.

You can use the technique of logical consequence, instead of using physical force. Consequences that are related to the misbehaviour , reasonable and given respectfully are called ‘logical consequences. An example of a logical consequence would be to make a child skip her playtime for the day, if she has not finished the work, make her clean the walls if they are scribbled on, etc. let the child know in advance what the consequence would be.

Whenever you feel that he has not resorted to aggression in a situation where he normally does, praise him, as that can be the most powerful way of reinforcing the positive behaviour .

Lastly, since you mentioned that the child feels ignored in class, it would be best to talk to your child and explore the situation, subject and/or instances where he feels ignored. You might be able to sort this issue by talking to him about it and giving him the confidence that you will understand. However, if you feel like there is something that needs to be addressed or clarified with the teacher, you can then discuss it further with the school and communicate your child's situation. Also, it always helps to take the teachers in confidence and share the techniques you are using at home or as a family to address your child's behavioural issues. Teachers can also be requested for their support in the class also. Good luck!