Why Your Child Can’t ‘Sit Still & Pay Attention’


How many times do parents and teachers tell a child to ‘sit still and pay attention’? Almost daily and yet what if the only way your child can pay attention and concentrate is if they are moving?

Have you ever noticed that it is easier to balance when you are moving at least a little? It’s the same reason that it’s easier to balance when you’re riding a bike fast than when you’re going ever so slow.

It’s tied to the vestibular system – balance – and it could be why your child can’t seem to sit still.

Why Some Kids Fidget, Can’t Focus or Learn

Since movement activates the vestibular system, kids with a weak vestibular system will seek movement to engage it. This is why so many kids have problems with being fidgety or constantly on the move.

When it’s weak, your child relies on their cortex to balance and coordinate. The cortex is where the higher order level thinking occurs but vestibular function must come first since balance is part of basic survival and those mechanisms will always get first choice as far as the brain operates.

What Looks Like ADHD Might be Weak Vestibular Function

When your child is moving constantly in class or at the dinner table – they are actually quite clever. They intuitively figured out that the best way to maintain focus and balance is to move.

Kids will move more when in class to focus.  If they are told to sit still and pay attention then it will be hard to concentrate because now their cortex has to work to balance instead of learning. When they are moving, they are activating their vestibular system which helps to free up their cortex for what it was designed for – higher level thinking.

Classic Classroom Coping Mechanisms

When these kids sit still and try to concentrate, they may fall or slide out of their seat because when they switch to deep concentration, their cortex is no longer doing the vestibular system’s job of balancing and this is when a child is more likely to lose balance. These kids are frequently labelled class clowns as they will try and ‘save face’ by pretending they are being funny.

Another trick these kids commonly do without realising why they are doing it, is wrapping their feet around the legs of a chair to stabilize themselves. This allows them to focus and do higher level thinking.

When Someone Has to do a Job They Weren’t Trained For

These kids are working much harder than the other kids because their internal system for regulating and coordinating their senses is not developed which is the basis of good learning. What this looks like in class is a child who is working too hard to learn, focus, remember, read, plan, organize and/ or write legibly.

This can all result from an underdeveloped vestibular system and why it’s so important to start with building that foundation first to improve their reading, learning and behaviour.

Improving learning, reading and focus starts by building the brain from the ground-up – not with tutoring, IEP’s and medication as a permanent solution. This is why I work with parents to unravel these root causes, layer by layer in my six month coaching program.

If you want to learn more about my coaching programs that helps children move past limitations and  rise above learning and behaviour difficulties–contact me for a free Clarity Call.

In Health & Wholeness,