Get it done: Focus on Executive Function

Ever notice that, when we hurry, things actually take longer and we’re not so nice to be around? Think about it for a second. We tend to drop stuff, get easily annoyed or even forget to do things altogether? And the stress of the rush makes us harsh in our tone, hurried (and therefore less thoughtful) in our choice of words or even downright unpleasant. Does any of this speak to you? It can’t just be me, can it?

So, when I found out about something called executive function and how things work in our kids’ brains, it grabbed me and I felt it was something every parent should know. While you watch this video, keep our “hurry up” lifestyle in mind.

Back to our scenario; let’s add our kids to it. “We have to leave – finish your milk, put your cup in the sink, put your shoes and jacket on and meet me at the door – and hurry; we’re running late!” To you and me, that was essentially one direction we gave: “Do what you gotta do and get to the door quickly.” To the child, it was a bunch of overwhelming words, none of them generating any action.

We actually gave 6 directions:

1. Finish your milk.

2. Put your cup in the sink.

3. Put your shoes on.

4. Put your jacket on.

5. Meet me at the door.

6. Hurry up.

Your child likely forgot the first one by #3 or for sure by #5 or even sooner. Not very much chance for success, is there?

Depending on their age and stage of development, the day, how they’re feeling (physically and emotionally), stress, distractions, learning disabilities (that you don’t know about yet – diagnosed years after you’ve assumed for ages that you were raising an exceptionally disobedient kid) and other factors our kids can be truly unable to do what we’re asking. Plus, we’re creating stress (and making them even less able to do what we’re asking) by rushing them and speaking to them in a quick and harsh manner. It’s a wonder these little people ever get it right!

But rejoice – there is hope! Ever the realist, I know that life is very busy and there are many times we need to hurry. Fortunately, there are tips for parents to help improve executive function. One small thing that worked for me was simply giving directions one at a time. So that 6-item list above? Try to give each direction only after the prior one is achieved (all while you are running around like a hurricane doing all of your own hurried tasks – LOL!) Oh and tone of voice – a big one for me. Softer is better in getting stuff done. Trust me on that one! Try it – let me know how it goes!

You can always connect with us:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this blogger:

Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her?  Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)

This entry was posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Preschool, School, School-aged Children, Special Needs, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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