Reinforcing Executive Functioning: Parents as Homelife Influencers

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

| by Thuy Truong, TPT Teaching and Coaching, 9/1/2020 |



No matter whether we realize it or not. Young people internalize adults’ behaviors. When youths hit a roadblock of some sort or learn a new skill in their journey of life, they turn to surrounding adults for examples and solutions. Even if they don’t, they think of how did dad or mom handle it when it was like this? I had a middle schooler whom I work with and we’re learning the art of building a sound argument. She texted me saying she can’t find five evidence to back up her claim for her homework. Instead of letting her off the hook, I encourage her by replying: “Be creative! Think outside of the box. Try to come up with three and I’ll help you with the last two. You’ll do great! Now, go and find them.” She did indeed find them and then came up with a new, compelling argument. Young people need examples of flexible thinking and enthusiasm to tackle healthy, new challenges. They may shy away at first, but with guidance from an adult, they will brave on. They are learning grit from you.


Here are 3 ways you can help your student foster structure, organization, and time management in the comfort of your own home:


1. Practice Structure: Wake Up Together

Students learn by doing, but they internalize by watching and mirroring. Whatever the skill you’d like your student to aspire to. Model it. For example, wake up at a disciplined time together and practice the morning routine. Have fun waking up early and your student will too. You can vary the depth and breadth of your modeling based on the student’s age and needs. Students have always learned from adults modeling the golden standard. Even when adults don’t think kids are internalizing their behaviors, they are. They learn the most in those hidden, human moments.


2. Practice Organization: Plan Together

The best way to demonstrate planning ahead is to sit the student next to you for the first few rounds and have them plan their school week as you plan your work week. They write in their planner, and you write in your planner. Planning has a lot of complex thinking behind it. It is difficult for students who are unfamiliar with planning and organization to visualize this process and execute it independently for the very first time. However, the process is very clear when an adult works through this process with them side by side a few times to start out and then it will become something of the household culture and soon it will be second nature. Plus, adult modeling will smooth out any resistance because when adults lead by example, that is the height of influence. Students’ buy-in often will follow.


Suggested daily activities that you can plan and do together to reinforce a structured day and organization:

  • Work time/focus time

  • Clean up time

  • Meal time

  • Get ready for bed time

  • Leisure time (students need to see what’s a good way to spend leisure time)

  • Plan ahead for an event (i.e. student packs their duffel bag for camping, while you pack your big backpack for camping too)



3. Practice Time Management and Self-Regulation: Take Breaks Together

Show your student when to take breaks, how long, and how they should spend their break time. This is about self-discipline and time management. This is the perfect window of opportunity to model moderation and self-regulation. Okay, we’ve watched a movie, now it’s time to get some real work done. They do their workbook, and you do your marketing project, for example. Then, check in from time to time and celebrate goals that you both have met at the end. When students see how self-discipline actually gets done, it really leaves an indelible imprint in their minds. Plus, your example inspires them to rise to your expectations. Day after day, this will become the norm for them. After all, the ultimate goal is we want students to grow up to be well-functioning adults who can juggle the many tasks that life brings. What better way to prepare them for those future moments than practicing those exact skills in the immediate present.


What if your student feels stuck half way through any practice activities, then you get them started by doing half of it with them, then let them finish up independently-so they can show you they have learned the skills (use a timer for a healthy boost of task completion urgency).


Students learn healthy habits by seeing examples from adults that inspire confidence in them. With time, they will gradually acquire the skills. Students learn at different pace, but the bottom line is, if they see how it’s done in real time, they will get it. Students learn a lot by watching how you do or react to something. This is a powerful moment where parents can really control what their student internalizes. Parental presence is powerful, when you lead by example, your parental influence pervades. You are powerful and magical in their eyes, especially when you model grit, courage, vulnerability, responsibility, and self-discipline. You are more real to them than any moral lesson they read in a book. You are their lesson.


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