3 Reasons Why Your Child Can’t Sit Still!

“Why can’t they just sit still?”

A comment we hear so much! And a challenge we love helping to reduce!

If your child seems to bound through the day with endless energy, struggles to sit still in class or at home, is fidgeting, constantly on the move, bounding out of their chair at the dinner table, moving from one activity to the next or wriggling and writhing when sitting anywhere, then know that you are not alone!!

There are many reasons why this may be. Some reasons help us to embrace or at least understand a child’s energy and need for movement, even if it exhausts us as parents! Other reasons may point to some specific underlying reflex challenges which can be worked with to lessen their impact.

Let’s look at three reasons why your child may be on the move!

1. The ACTIVATOR HealthType!

Do you recognise people around you who are:

  • shorter in stature
  • expressive (sometimes explosive) in language and nature
  • sometimes impulsive
  • often competitive or up for a challenge
  • fast
  • alternating between being all on or all off
  • regular sufferers of hanger!  

Maybe you’re even recognising yourself in that description?!

It’s highly likely that the person that springs to your mind is an Activator HealthType™.

The term ‘Activator’ refers to one of the 6 HealthTypes that exist within the ph360™ and Parenting360™ framework. A HealthType™ is not a personality type, it is a particular physiological type determined by factors that influence our development before we are born. 

During development, our Activators put the most energy into their building their musculature, circulatory, cardiac and reproductive systems. As a result, these systems have a strength and dominance in their bodies.

Their behaviour, motivations, mind and body are all predominantly driven by the hormones of adrenaline and testosterone. Their biology and subconscious feel safest when they are getting regular doses of these hormones. These hormones prime a body for movement in response to the fight or flight response, bring out a competitive edge and cause a body to seek movement, challenge or conflict.

If things are a little slow, or they’re required to sit on the class floor for a little too long, they will seek the adrenaline rush anyway they can! This may be poking the person next to them or asking a contentious question to create a little conflict.

Are you getting an idea of why the Activators in your world may be on the move incessantly?!

For Activators, there are several things that can help them to focus when they need to BUT it is important to also recognise that, for their body, sitting still for extended periods of time is HARD, unnatural and unhelpful for their overall wellbeing and health!

Things like regular food and snacks 5-6 times throughout the day, regular movement breaks, the ability to express; physically, emotionally and mentally each day and engaging their body and mind through challenge or competitive activities will help Activators to attend and focus when they need to.

2. The Spinal Galant Reflex

Another contributor to the restless or ‘on the move’ child is the Spinal Galant reflex.

This is a primitive reflex that is foundational in the natural birthing process. During birth, the vaginal contractions trigger the reflex which is seen as a twitch of the hips to the side. This sashaying movement of the hips, triggered by each contraction, assists the infant in fish-tailing their way down the birth canal. The birth process is the centre stage for this reflex and is what this reflex emerged for!

Interruptions of any sort to the birthing process means this reflex often ‘hangs around’ in the body waiting for its moment to fully ‘perform.’  While hanging around, it interrupts a child or adult’s ability to function and can create challenges with focus and attention.

While before birth the reflex is triggered by the contractions, outside of the womb the reflex can continue to be triggered by stimulation to the lower part of the spine. Think of scratchy labels on the waistbands of clothes, a child sitting in a school chair with their back contacting the chair, rolling over in bed onto their back.

If your child ticks the box for any of the following:

  • was born by caesarean
  • had interruptions to or instruments used to help in their birth process
  • dislikes labels on their waistbands of their clothes
  • dislikes tight clothes
  • bed-wets at night beyond 5 years of age

then this may indicate that their Spinal Galant reflex is still active in their system.

A simple way to check for this reflex is to firmly stroke your finger down your child’s back about 1cm either side of their spine. This can be done with the child standing or on all fours. You can try each side separately or both together. If you notice a twitch of the hips or the shoulders then this indicates the Spinal Galant is still active.

3. Development of the Basal Ganglia

Our primitive reflexes teach our body to move. Reflexive involuntary movements, triggered by various sensory stimuli, trigger the muscles in our body to begin their earliest movements and explore the vast array of movements we are able to perform with our bodies. Through these earliest movements, our brain also begins to develop; strengthening the connections it has between the hemispheres and between the various layers of the brain.

Primitive reflexes live in our brainstem. If we considered the brain to be an onion, our brainstem would be at the centre. Surrounding our brainstem would be a layer called the basal ganglia. It is in the basal ganglia that our cerebellum resides which modulates movement or, to put it more simply, puts the brakes on our movement.

Once the brain has sufficiently developed to a point that it has strong connections into the basal ganglia region, then the reflexes no longer have the ability to control our movement in an involuntary fashion. Our reactivity to our environment settles once our reflexes integrate. The higher centres of the brain take over our conscious control and we can choose whether to move or not to move.

Stillness is, after all, the highest form of movement.

Until we have developed, refined and strengthened our neurological foundations and connections within our brain, our choice to be still will be interrupted as our primitive reflexes constantly respond to the sensory stimuli – sound, temperature, smell, action, movement, tactile – around us. While our primitive reflexes and brainstem are ‘running the show,’ our higher centres of the brain where our choice and decision making ability resides is overridden. 

How can I help my child to focus?

The great news is, where reflexes are at play, Rhythmic Movement Training provides a way to integrate the Spinal Galant reflex and strengthen the connections between the layers of the brain and the basal ganglia region to give access to all types of movement….including stillness and a new level of focus.

If you’re suspecting your child may be an Activator, then registering for the Parenting360™ Course will enable you to have your child’s HealthType™ assessed and determined so you can know for sure. The course will then educate you on your child’s unique physiology and the ways you can support your child to be living their best life.

This course is offered as an online self-paced or live virtual course and is also available in a 1:1 coaching format.

Contact us today if you’re having some ‘aha’ moments as to why your child is struggling with focus and attention.