Is it helpful to give everything a name? 📓
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
An email 📧 I received today had me reading between the lines. The email announced a talented educator who was coming to speak about executive functioning.
My first thought after reading it was, isn’t executive functioning a work in progress?
This post is about teaching kids executive functioning skills, not about executive dysfunction.
The Golda Och Academy states, “Scientists refer to brain processes required for ‘getting things done’ as executive functioning and self-regulation. These cognitive skills allow us to set goals; plan ahead; finish a project; prioritize tasks.”
When parents take over the management of their child’s daily executive functioning skills instead of teaching kids how to do it on their own, the parent becomes the “child’s external frontal lobe,” and that’s not the goal.
Kids who have a hard time with time management and organizing really do need help learning how to create executive functioning skills. Others learn these skills by gleaning the relevance of their importance as they manage their daily responsibilities and the lessons that come along with those experiences.
The three main areas of executive functioning are:
Working Memory 📎 Working memory and short-term storage are what is used so we can flow with changing rules and circumstances, and what we use to find the solutions to the problems we face.
Cognitive flexibility 🤭 Is what’s needed to modify the strategies involved in problem solving and decision–making.
Self-control or impulse control 🚥 Remaining focused, tuning out distractions, resisting impulses and temptations, even when you aren’t interested or don’t want to, allows you to choose behavior that’s appropriate for completing the task or goal.
Here are 7 no-tech ways to increase executive functioning.
1. Have your child teach you something. 📚
When you teach something, you need to put the steps of the activity in order. Teaching you something helps your child practice memory and sequential order.
2. Games 🎲
Playing board games increases memory and helps kids learn how to follow the rules.
3. What Else Could This Be? 📋
Ask your child to pick an ordinary household object and tell you what else it could be used for? There are no rules to this game. The purpose is simply to introduce and encourage flexible thinking.
4. Constantly Warning ❗
Are you consistently warning your child about being late or the timing of an activity or project?
If so, consider using an analog clock instead of a digital one. Analog clocks tick off the seconds, which shows a child exactly how long and how much can be accomplished in 1 minute. They also place the responsibility back where it belongs—on a child’s plate so they can learn.
5. Phone Apps 📱
As an adult, you need to keep track of who needs to be where and when, and you should use the apps that work best for you. However, your child is still growing and learning the basic skills that will create successful time management and organization for her.
Researchers have found that there’s a direct correlation between writing things down and retaining information. Give kids a pencil and paper or a planner and have them write down their schedules, activities, and assignments. Also, have them use colored markers to highlight the days when an assignment or project should begin, and when each part of the project is due. Seeing things in action is far more helpful than just being told how to do something.
6. Are you explaining the details of a task each time you make a request? 📇
Children may know what’s needed to complete a task, get a broom and sweep, but they might have trouble remembering that they should get a dustpan, pick up the mess, and then complete the job by throwing it in the trash. Consider making a handbook spelling out the details and steps of your child’s activities and household chores. Also, model for your child how you break larger projects into smaller tasks so they become more easily accomplished.
7. Do you lecture about the importance of time management and organizing? ⏲
Consider asking the types of questions you want your child to ask himself when he is about to begin a task. Things like, I see a jacket on the hook and a boy about to walk out of the door. What do you need before you leave? Where will you find that? When asked repeatedly, those questions automatically surface in your child’s awareness and to remind him of the sequential steps involved in going outside.
Recently someone said to me that “We are under an information attack.” 🌐
The internet 💻 provides the answer to any question we ask, which is great and needed.
I believe the next question to ask is, do we need to identify and name every part of a child’s behavior?
Or can we frame it as normal and natural, if it is, and handle it with awareness, love, and the clarity that comes with being authoritative, not punitive?
What do you think?
As always you can find ways to correct behavior with love and the authority that comes with responding by visiting our store or blog.