HELP! My kid is driving me crazy because she…
• Is disorganized
• Never cleans her room
• Is always late
• Avoids getting started on homework
• Puts school projects off until the last minute
• Has no sense of time
• Refuses to write down her assignments in her planner
• Doesn’t care about her work and just rushes to get it done
• Forgets to submit schoolwork
• Resists my help
Executive Function has become the current buzzword and more and more parents are reporting that their children have executive function problems and an inability to monitor and control their own behavior and impulses.
Executive functions are the mental processes that we all use to regulate our own attention and behavior and to manage our everyday lives through organization, time and space management, evaluating, prioritizing, strategizing, and reasoning.
There are three main processes involved in Executive Function:
• Working Memory – the ability to hold information on a mental sketchpad while thinking about it and working with it
• Inhibitory Control – the ability to determine when to act and when not to
• Cognitive Flexibility – the ability to see and weigh alternatives
These processes work together to look at the current situation, consider courses of action, integrate past experience, and avoid impulsive reactions.
They allow us to choose what to focus on and hold that as a priority in order to maintain that focus.
The Verbalization Key
The mind reasons through verbalization. Teaching childrento use their inner language to question and guide themselves brings executive function to a conscious level. Putting memories, past experience, choices, and strategies into words, helps students make sense of the information or situation in order to look at possibilities and come up with solutions.
Language gives us a tool for evaluating actions before they happen and helps curb impulsiveness. While there are times, when action happens instinctively, such as when a parent keeps a small child from running in front of a car, much of the time, actions that happen without giving language time to mediate, turn out to be poor choices.
Helping Children/Teens Develop Self-Talk
Metacognition is literally thinking about thinking. Parents and teachers can help stimulate metacognition in students by asking questions that cause them to reflect on how they are learning or approaching a task.
By modeling self-talk and intentionally discussing and teaching students to ask themselves questions, students can become more active thinkers, better comprehenders, and more independent learners.
Many parents express frustration over their student’s lack of organization, listening, and following directions. Here are some examples of self-questioning to increase organization
• Are my materials altogether and ready for tomorrow?
• What materials do I need to bring home from school in order to complete my homework? Do I have them?
• What order will work best for me to complete these assignments?
• How does this paper need to look when it’s finished?
• How long will this project / report take? What steps are involved?
• How many pages do I need to read each day in order to finish this book for my test?
• What is my first step in getting started?
• Where am I most focused for doing my homework?
• Where do I put my completed homework?
• When is the test?
• What kind of questions does the teacher usually ask?
• What are my best strategies for studying?
Examples of Self-Questioning to Increase Listening and Following Directions
• Am I listening carefully or is my attention drifting?
• What can I do to tune-in better?
• How do I know when the teacher or my parent is giving directions?
• Did I read and understand the directions?
• Are there any key words in the directions?
• Did I answer every question?
• How many parts are there to this question/assignment/job? Did I complete them all?
Intentionally teaching students how to self-question takes time and monitoring, but brings self-control and self-management to a more conscious level and hopefully brings more ownership on the part of the student. Metacognition is how we naturally guide our choices and behaviors, and training in this area can be applied to almost anything.
Thinking about thinking is a powerful support to learning, attention, and behavior.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Founder: Stowell Learning Centers
Author: At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
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