Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"My 5 1/2 year-old son has a hard time listening. We need to repeat ourselves often and really stay on top of him in order to get him to do anything we ask. He's also known to be very unfocused at school as well. Are we expecting too much of him for his age? Will this pass or could he have some kind of problem?"

A. It's pretty normal to get frustrated when you find yourself continually asking your child to complete a simple task. However, for his age, your son's behavior isn't that unusual. Here are some ways to determine if your child does have a problem:

Have his hearing tested. Before you do anything else, it's important that you rule out any physical problems that might be making it hard for your son to understand you.

Assess and reduce the level of stimulation in your home. It's possible that your home is buzzing with lots of stimulation: phones ringing, people coming and going, a television that's often on, other children. These are all things that can overwhelm your son and distract him from focusing on your requests. You can lower the distractibility level by playing quiet music and turning off the TV.

Make simple, respectful requests. For kids younger than 5, it helps if you stop what you're doing and get down to their eye level before making your request. Make sure you have his attention by gently placing a hand on his arm or shoulder. At first, this may appear time-consuming and feel like too much effort on your part. But in reality, it will take less time and use less energy than the much-repeated, call-across-the-house requests you're having to use now. It's also important to make only one request at a time. "Please go get your shoes" is much easier to follow than "Please go get your shoes, put them on, and meet me by the car."

Check in often. Watch your child and provide lots of verbal praise when he follows your directions.

Keep an eye on it. If you try all these things and he still doesn't improve, have him assessed for learning or attention problems by a psychologist.