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Teach EYFS Article - Distractions

Here is the second in this series of articles based on conversations with children, and first published in Teach Early Years magazine. In each piece, I’ll focus on one prominent theme. For this one, it’s DISTRACTIONS!

My thanks to editor Jacob Stow for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at:

  • • What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to talk to children?
  • “Not to get lost in looking at their phones and then five minutes later say, ‘What?’"         G (female)

This answer is not an isolated response, several of the children

who have taken part in the How to Speak Child interview process

have complained about struggling to get the attention of adults - 

especially when it comes to prising them away from their

technological crutches. 

This is somewhat of an irony, considering that it tends to be

youngsters who are the most regularly accused of being unable to

put down their devices and engage with people and the world


It’s also the response that has generated the greatest sense of

shame from the grown-ups. Overwhelmingly, adults have

admitted to having been found out, holding their hands up and

confessing, “Yes, that’s me, I’m so guilty of that!” 

So what’s up with us, how come we are allowing ourselves to be so

weak and so hypocritical to boot? Are we really so much more in

thrall to our online lives than we are interested in our own children?

Of course we aren’t, we are merely, like them, the victims of a huge

commercial machine whose business it is to grab our attention and

hang on to it for as long as possible. Let’s not beat ourselves up

about it - and after all, at school, it’s not a problem is it?

Because we are busy with the greater task of teaching and all that

time-eating social media and so forth is under lock and key. 

However, even in the classroom, we can still be guilty of allowing

ourselves to be distracted from what our children are trying to tell

us. Whether we’re lost in our own thoughts or internal dialogue,

trying to do too many things at once, or juggling the tech we use 

for teaching and the demands on our attention from the little ones.

We get used to dismissing their persistent calls to be noticed whilst

we grapple with constant multi-tasking, but we must beware that it

doesn’t become habitual and eventually lead to our children giving

up and feeling that their voices don’t matter.

When the boot is on the other foot, we find it incredibly frustrating,

so it’s important that we apply the old Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-

By adage. Take a deep breath and employ some empathy, no

matter how many times it’s happened before, explain that they

need to wait, and let them know why. We are role models whether

we like it or not, so if we are displaying undesirable behaviour, we

lose credibility when we later berate them for doing the same.

Even if we are not particularly paying heed to them, they are

taking in everything that we do, judging if they believe it to be

acceptable, and exercising their profound sense of injustice. The

seeds you sow now will define the nature of the fruit we’ll all get to

enjoy in the future. So let them see that they are worthy of your 

attention, and that even if they have to be patient and wait for you, 

they are secure in the knowledge that they take precedence over

any device.

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