From the Desk of Keith Hafner


Karate Stories: Focus.

Our brains hate focus. The human brain resists limiting itself to specific topics. It wants to be free to roam. When I was writing ‘How to Build Rock Solid Kids,’ my brain would operate like this: KEITH: “OK, Chapter 3, ‘Focus.’ Let’s begin!” After writing for a few minutes… BRAIN: “Hey, wasn’t that some cookout yesterday?” KEITH: “Yeah, it was, but leave me alone. I’m writing.”

BRAIN: “No problem. By the way, did you put the charcoal away? It might rain.” KEITH: “Chapter Three — staying focused. Hmm, I wonder if I did put the charcoal away?”  BRAIN: “You would hate to ruin that charcoal.” KEITH: “Leave me alone, I’m working!” BRAIN: “OK. Yes sir! You’re the boss. Boy, that was some cookout yesterday….”

Martin was four years old when his mother, Bethany, decided to work on his focus. Martin didn’t seem to have much focus when it came to conversation, or looking at books. But Bethany did observe that when playing with LEGO’s Martin would become totally absorbed. He would often stay focused on that activity for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Bethany reasoned, “Martin has focus — we just need to work on applying it to other areas.” Bethany bought a couple of workbooks, “Math for Pre-Schoolers,” and “Phonics for Pre-Schoolers.” She then conducted a test. She found that Martin would pay attention for about seven minutes before he got bored.

Bethany continued to work in the study books with Martin each day. When he began to lose focus, she would gently try to direct him back to the books. She would say things like, “Let’s stay focused for a couple more minutes, then we’ll do something else.” Or, “Let’s see what’s on the next page.” Bethany was smart. She knew not to try to force focus on Martin. When Martin did reach his focus limit, she would let him end the session. Bethany kept track of how much time they spent in each session. She marked the number of minutes they spent on the family calendar. She did this each day, never forcing Martin — just letting his natural “LEGO & cartoon” focus move into the workbook study. Soon, the “7’s” and “8’s” she was putting on the calendar began turning into “12’s” and “13’s.” After a few weeks, Martin could pay attention for up to 30 minutes at a time.