(Inside: Why can’t my child just sit still?! Have you tried everything and nothing seems to help your child sit still for five minutes? This will change your life!)
Do you feel like you are constantly repeating yourself with your kid?
“Sit up, don’t touch that, get off the couch, put that down, quit wiggling.”
I could go on and on, I am sure.
Does this sounds familiar? You are not alone!
In fact, this was my story until three years ago when I discovered the real reason my kid can’t sit still.
Today, I’ll share a secret you might not know about why your kid can’t sit still either!
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see disclosure for details.
Why Your Kid Can’t Just Sit Still | The Real Reason You Should Know
Let me start by saying, in case you are new here…
I am a national board certified teacher with over 12 years of classroom experience in an early childhood classroom. I know about child developmental stages.
I understand a child’s need to have play in their day.
I definitely understand how children learn through different modalities.
However, there always seemed to be “those kids“ that seemed to never stop moving!
When I was in the classroom, I always had at least 3 or 4 students in every class.
One year, I had a child who literally climbed the cubbies and the walls. No matter what I did, he could not sit down.
Carpet time was a nightmare!
I did my best. I did what I could, used classroom management strategies that I had been taught in my teacher training and implemented new ones.. over and over again.
Nothing seemed to work. Each year, these children would wear me out.
I loved them, but wow…. they exhausted me.
Then I had my own child.
I am a strong believer that having your own child can only make you a stronger teacher.
Wow! I really learned the truth behind “an active child”.
In preschool it wasn’t so bad. In kindergarten, it was still age appropriate.
In first grade, we all turned our heads a little when his choice way of getting around the classroom was to crawl on the floor and bury his head on the ground.
Then in second grade, it became increasingly obvious, my son COULD NOT sit still.
I had tried every parenting strategy out there.
I had been gentle, I had been firm. I had been inventive, I had been consistant.
Nothing was working.
No matter what we did, my son was now one of “those kids“.
The chats with the teacher at pick up turned to notes home.
The notes home turned to parent teacher conferences.
The parent teacher conferences turned to detentions.
Finally the detentions turned to suspensions.
We were at a loss. Pure and utter loss.
… enter a child in my own classroom with extreme sensory needs and a prescribed sensory diet…..
I had no clue why this child was bouncing on me.
I couldn’t figure out why he jumped on ALL our furniture and I definitely didn’t understand this new “sensory diet” that I was handed by his mom to implement in the classroom.
No one had ever told me about this before.
However, there I was faced with a child much like my own, but he had a special “diet” of exercises and strategies that seemed to actually calm his fidgets, soothe his wiggles and allow him to participate in the classroom.
I wanted this solution for my own son.
That’s when I decided then and there that I would do anything it took to find the solution! What I found, surprised me!
Sensory Processing | Why Your Wiggly Kid Can’t Sit Still
Remember how I said that this kid had a special “diet” and a special diagnosis?
Turns out he struggled with something called sensory processing disorder, which I had never ever heard of before.
In fact, I was pretty sure it was fake.
I remember thinking “really, a disorder that says its okay for this kid to just climb on everything and jump on everything?”
I am embarrassed to say that now, but I wanted to be honest with you where I came from.
That summer I read the book “Out of Sync Child” and”The Out of Sync Child Has Fun” by Carol Kranowitz.
Everything started to make sense.
You see, its not about a disorder.
I mean, it is! That little boy, like my son, has a disorder that makes it difficult for his brain to process incoming messages for the world around them.
I go into more details about that in my book, Sensory Processing 101, but right now I want to focus on what I learned because of this severe need to wiggle and not sit still.
I learned that all children have these needs.
Did you read that? I was floored!
In fact, all of us (even you) have these needs that no one has ever told us about.
All of us have these sensory systems that help us process the information we are around daily.
Right now, I am in a coffee shop writing this and my brain is trying to processes the smell of my pumpkin spice latte, the sun shining through the window, the hard seat I’ve been sitting in for over an hour, the two college students talking across the coffee shop and the overwhelming desire to get up and move!
All of my senses are trying to integrate and process at the same time, and something has to give!
That is why your kid can’t sit still!
That is why my kid jumps on the furniture.
You see, your child’s proprioceptive system is asking for pressure, asking for input, asking for MORE to counter the other input their body is receiving.
Your child’s vestibular system is seeking out movement in the form of spinning, wiggling, and possibly even turning upside down as a way to regulate everything around them.
We have been taught that children should sit still, listen and only jump on the playground.
Running is for outside and wiggling is not paying attention.
I challenge you to stretch your thinking.
I challenge you to try giving your child some sensory input when they start to wiggle.
So the next time your child starts to wiggle and you are tempted to say “stop, sit still“, I challenge you to say “lets get up and move! Let’s give your body some sensory input!”
But your story doesn’t end here… Sensory Processing is only one piece of a very large puzzle of behavior…
Because your child’s behaviors are much like an iceberg. On the surface you see…
* a child that is clingy and doesn’t like to be alone,
* a child that crosses his arms and shuts down
* a child that is scared of ever getting a wrong answer
* a child that doesn’t like to go new places
Or a child that becomes “hyper” when new guests arrive at your house.
It’s easy to look at these behaviors as just what we see. It’s easy to make assumptions about why our children are acting out or doing inexplicable things.
However, I challenge you to look for the other 85%. Look deeper.
By just answering a few short questions you can determine your child’s dominant behavior type!
✅Your child’s Behavior Type (there are FIVE of them by the way..)
✅How to handle this behavior IN THE MOMENT so that you can feel confident when behaviors take over
✅What your child’s dominant struggles and superpowers are based on their unique skills, likes and dislikes…
Click here to take the quiz so you too can have the clarity and confidence to parent your unique child that benefits both you and them ➡️https://behaviorquiz.com
If you are still concerned, still worried and you are thinking… “Yeah, but my child……xyz.” “Is it normal for my kid to…..xyz?” You can check out the next post in the series where I’ll talk about whether your child’s behaviors are “normal” or not!
More Resources For Dealing with Sensory “Issues”
To help you remember some of these strategies and understand sensory behavior and what to do in the moment, I’ve put together this amazing poster set on how to understand your child’s sensory struggles and discipline sensory meltdowns.
These posters give you tips on how to help your child regulate their sensory needs, and identify what your child’s behavior is really telling you!
There’s also a list of 7 common myths about sensory behavior. I dispel these misconceptions so you can gain a deeper understanding of what sensory really is.
Ok, you might be thinking…
This all sounds great but…
- What should I do when my child is having a meltdown?
- How do I create sensory strategies that are going to help my unique child?
- How exactly do I get them to use those strategies in the moment?
In my next blog post, I’ll share how to create sensory tools that are going to help your specific child. I’ll also tell you what to do in the moment when your child is in sensory overload and having a meltdown!
But right now, download your FREE Handle Any Sensory Challenge posters so you can get a deeper understanding of sensory and start implementing some sensory activities and routines with your family!
31 thoughts on “Why Your Kid Can’t Just Sit Still | The Real Reason You Should Know”
I cannot thank you enough for posts like this – information explained in a straight-forward way. This is my daughter – always getting in trouble in school for fidgeting, touching everything and not SITTING STILL! I’m printing this one out to share with her teacher. THANK YOU!
As always Dayna, Thank you! Thank you for your blog, your words of explanation and your own personal stories. I have shared several of your posts with my daughter’s 4th grade teacher. I would like to get him (the teacher) on your list for the Sensory Backpacks for the classroom.
Anxiously awaiting September 15th… For your book and it’s also my anniversary 🙂
As always you are so sweet! Thank you so much for all the support you show! We are excited as well and now I’ll have to shoot you a smile on your anniversary!
This stirs emotions in me!
1. Do you think that sensory stuff can be related to picking on your brother, physically as some sort of seeking behavior?? Wrestling with him even though he’s 2x as small?
2. Is it possible to hold in SP stuff during your entire school day and have the teacher say he had great behavior but at home be off the wall?
Although I agree with you that some children have trouble sitting still due to sensory processing disorder, it is definitely not the only reason. Research has shown that some children’s brains benefits from fidgeting and some children do not. Each child is an individual so I just disagree with the statement of “the real reason your child can not sit still”. There are other reasons such as decreased postural control (sometimes purely a muscular weakness), visual deficits, lack of sleep, etc. Of course we use our senses to process all input and form a motor output but it doesn’t necessarily mean a student needs proprioceptive or vestibular input to help them sit still. If a student or your child, has difficulty sitting still and it is affecting his/her ability to learn, request an occupational or physical therapy evaluation in your school system.
You have a great point! Thank you for mentioning the underlying causes that can also be present!
It causes me great concern . For those of us with the disorder . Sure kids are suppost to move i agree with that and wiggle and fidget. But sensory problems Adhd are valid disorders and you have helped spread myths about conditions that you make light of like it no big deal im very disabppointed
I in no way mean to make light of something we struggle with in this family every single day! On the contrary I am trying to show how Sensory Processing affects ALL OF US!!!!!!!!! Some children/adults struggle with Sensory processing integration (the disorder)! Which is a very very real thing! I am trying to share more about this so those that have never heard of it, will look into it! I do hope you understand. If you read, I said “my son has sensory processing disorder”. I say I am ashamed at my initial reaction when I heard of the disorder with one of my students, however the truth is, that the misconceptions are there. This is my steps to share what I have learned!
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Thank you I’m a Special Education classroom teacher for more than 20 years and I still don’t understand the causes of kind of problems. Can you explain more on that.
Thank you very much
Interesting! My son is a wiggle-worm (2yo). I usually just let him wiggle, move, whatever he feels he neds to do. He’s in daycare tho and gets “noted” for struggles. I have a feeling he will be “that kid”!
Hugs to you! I know that feeling!
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As an occupational therapist, this was great to read! 🙂 If you suspect sensory processing difficulties in your kiddo, I agree with the aforementioned suggestion of asking your pediatrician to write a referral for an OT screen or evaluation. Then together, they can see if it’s SPD going on, or perhaps something else (as other diagnoses often have sensory processing difficulties as a “ride-along”.) Thanks for the family-friendly info! 🙂
Isn’t that just a case of being a Kinesthetic learner in a world of sit stills, stare at the front of the class, listen to this, and then take this standardized test…
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Dayna, thank you for this post, and for your book. I’ll be reading it. I have a four year old (interestingly, he is my third child and nearly ten years younger than his siblings, neither of whom exhibit any of the characteristics he does) that this post describes to a T. I am an educator with a BA and MA, and am well-versed in a variety of different disorders. I was concerned from the time of his birth, due to extreme colic and other issues, that he was experiencing some sort of sensory processing disorder, and as it developed had him evaluated. I was very disappointed in the shallow nature of the evaluation conducted by our county. At this stage in his development, he is fortunately extremely bright, inquisitive, social, and most of all happy to be in a learning environment. His teachers are very tolerant of his behaviors. I am just hoping that through continued education concerning proprioceptive disorders, our academic community will continue to learn how best to work with these kids.
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You are making excuses for kids who have not been parented to behave appropriately. They know no consequences for their actions. They have “lax” parents. They care not about whom they irritate. They are self-centerred like their parents. Teach them to sit still or have consequences. Consequences are not “stop it.” They are lising priveledges…any priveledges.
Karter, you must also be an aggressive person. I can’t imagine what sort of punishment goes on in your home. This article is not making excuses for kids. It is simply giving parents more understanding on this important topic and to encourage people to think outside of the box. Yes, there are hyperactive kids who need more patience. It is a shame that some people label hyperactive kids as “bad kids”. Not every kid is “acting out”. You must have been “irritated” in grocery stores on many occasions by kids who were whining or couldn’t sit still. I have seen your kind glaring at parents who were trying their best to calm there children down. You offer no hope to parents who are dealing with hyperactive kids. You only bring them down in their struggle.
Karter, I truly hope you are joking. This post is incredibly judgemental and truly sad. ADHD, ASD, SPD etc are all real disorders. Brains are wired differently, neurodiverse, however you wanna call it. It has totally and utterly nothing to do with parenting. I can’t believe there are still people out there that think that! I am a primary and special needs teacher. Neuroscience is a passion of mine and my daughter is studying it. Maybe go and read about it instead of ‘blaming’ parents for the behaviours of their children. Old fashioned way of thinking.
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I want to say thank you for your honesty, concern, and love for our “special” children. I am a mother of 3. My oldest who is now 11 she is a bright , confident, young lady. But she had an accident when younger at 5 that left her with a cracked skull and a concussion and I tell you since then she has not been the same. But she has overcome alot of her obstacles actually on her own. She used to leave notes in her bible asking God to make her understand and focus more on her work and directions I would give. Broke my heart to not be able to just fix whatever my child is struggling with. I have a 9 yr old who from birth has had some struggles that weren’t understandable and he was diagnosed as Autistic at 3yr old. Today he is the one child who gives me no problems straight A student and has more common sense than most adults and the memory of an elephant. My youngest is 7 and he has been a wiggle worm since I can remember always “that child” I’ve even been blamed from their own Dad as I let his behavior go wild. Smh he is the smartest, loving, kindness, BLUNT 7 yr old I know. He accomplishes everything he tries and always wins over everyone even the adults. But I will tell you no matter if you are the cool parent, the strict parent, the irresponsible parent. There is sometimes nothing you can do to change who our children are. I stopped at this site tonight because my youngest came in my room before bed and gave me a hug and his little heart felt like it was going to beat right out his chest. And I asked what were you doing and he says “Mom I just can’t be still. Cherish (daughter) is like that sometimes but she can be still most times. And Messiah (oldest son) is still all the time. But I can’t be still and when people come over I don’t know what to do (referring to when we have company over and his energy is elevated and he becomes excited kinda of like public areas with more people around)”. Royalty is a social butterfly and loves people in general but he has had his little spirit broken at times by people who really think that Bad Kids are just that. There is always a reason for somethings we ourselves can’t explain and I will tell you it’s not the parents fault at all or the teachers or the kids. I for one think reason enough is to let everyone understand that we are different so that we can learn to love unconditionally. I love my 3 although on paper or at first glance you may think they are a handful but I do talk to them and help them understand that people can’t put you in a box and say you belong here only things have a place Humans have each other. Support those who need the help because I have not been able to find any resources for help for just basic things like hygiene and grooming and understand what we call the simple things. But as a single parent because their Dad is not the parent type and has no patience. My mom didn’t have any for me and my brother either and that helped me to understand just how important it is to let these wonderful children know just how special and loved they are and that we aren’t judging them but helping them to cope with what society thinks they ought to be and who they really are. Themselves. Regardless of our struggles all 3 of my children have won the Citizenship award 4 yrs in the running from their classes, all 3! Each year. That says alot about my children and its not just my parenting. Children are sponges, Royalty and Cherish don’t remember alot because they are always in go mode but the repetition I give them daily which for me is tiring! But it shows that somewhere in their little minds they are soaking up the love and skills I can give. No meds, no help from doctors or therapists who gave up on them not able to say what it was. Then I realized these are just my children and as long as I focus on the good that’s what they focus as well and trust it changes alot.
From one parent, teacher, and counselor to another. They are our future. Let’s help!!
Too much junk food and too much screen time. My kid use to sit down for all his books until he started watching TV.
Have you seen what kind of cartoons are on nowadays?
They are so fast pace and don’t stay on one subject very long. They also don’t make any sense. We stick with only educated videos and cut the junk on TV.
It’s been 2 weeks since I stop letting my son go on that PBS kids website. (That’s where he would sneak and watch these crazy shows). I saw results almost instantly.
My kids favorite shows/movies are: FireMan Sam, Barney, Land Before Time, Curious George, Little Baby Bum, Mighty Machines, Franklin the Turtle, Bearstein Bears, etc…
A good variety but very limited.
Oh and movies are different from TV.
You still have the flashy, non sense commercial eating away their focus and attention span.
I have trouble sitting still and my parents are still trying to help me.