Is Your Child Smart but Scattered?

By Susan Fletcher, Lower School Director of Studies and Student Affairs

Would you like your child to finish homework assignments without fussing? How often do you say to your child, “Clean up your room!” only to have your request ignored over and over again?  Dr. Dawson and Dr. Guare, authors of the “Smart but Scattered” series, may provide you with the help needed to assist your child with developing strategies for managing challenging and frustrating tasks.

Children need executive skills to plan and direct their personal activities as well as to regulate their behavior. Executive skills have nothing to do with a child’s intelligence. It refers to the brain-based skills that are required for humans to perform tasks, such as getting a glass of milk, straightening their bedrooms, or completing a homework assignment.

Several examples of the principles are:

  1. Understand your child’s developmental level at any given age, so you do not expect too much from the child in the beginning when addressing an executive skill weakness.
  2. All executive training moves from the external to the internal. For example, helping children develop the skill to look both ways before crossing the street begins with holding their hands in high traffic areas. Direct instructions, through a variety of steps, lead to the goal of a child safely navigating streets and cars. Eventually, the child achieves success by internalizing the rule of looking both ways before crossing the street alone.
  3. Incentives, after the task or goal is successfully achieved, teach the child delayed gratification. For example, there are children unwilling to start and finish homework without a fight. Think about small incentives for the child to make the homework less aversive, yet motivate him or her to persist with the difficult task and combat the negative feelings about the homework at hand.

Help your child develop executive skills by:

  • Teach ways to overcome deficient skills, rather than expecting the child to acquire them observation or osmosis.
  • Provide just enough support for the child to be successful.
  • Support and supervise the child until mastery or success is achieved.
  • Fade the support, supervision, and incentives gradually, never abruptly.

Utilizing these tips can help your child develop executive skills that maximize their potential and help them to feel less scattered and more successful.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr

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