Tonight Roycemore will be hosting author, Michael Delman, as he shares with our community thoughts from his book “Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay: A Guide to Raising Competent and Confident Kids.” In his book, (available for purchase) Delman writes about the importance of executive function skills and how parents and teachers can help cultivate them in children. He describes executive function skills as “Certain mental processes (that) are imperative to managing ourselves and overcoming obstacles to achieve our goals.” These include:
- Controlling impulses and regulating our emotional state
- Starting tasks that we must do, even when we don’t want to
- Directing our attention effectively
- Setting priorities
- Planning tasks and managing time limits
- Organizing materials and ideas
- Thinking flexibly
- Assessing our progress and changing tactics as needed
In reviewing this list, we can all probably agree that we aren’t 100% effective in implementing these processes. It takes focus and commitment to chip away at these skills even as adults, much less as adolescents. The prefrontal cortex of our brain is key to executive functioning and most researchers agree that that part of our brain may not be fully developed until we are thirty years old. Our children have the best chance of developing these skills if we give them opportunities to work at them. They need our support to know that we don’t expect them to be perfect, in fact, we too are working on these skills throughout our adult lives. Praising effort, as researcher Carol Dweck suggests, promotes a growth mindset that is a critical aspect in honing executive functioning. When, as parents or teachers, we step in and problem solve for children rather than letting them do some of the difficult work they need to do to come to their own conclusions–even if they are proven wrong later–we rob our children of important growth opportunities that are needed to learn.
Competence is gained when we have opportunities to work through sometimes challenging problems or difficulties and learn from what goes well and what doesn’t. Competence is often developed just as much through failure as it is through success. It certainly helps to know that you are surrounded by people who love and believe in you and your journey, but the deepest learning occurs when one can come to his or her own conclusions. As we become more and more competent, often through a lot of hard work, we gain important confidence that allows us to grow even more.
We hope you will join us tonight to hear about a variety of strategies that can be used to help children develop competence and confidence. As Michael Delman writes, “Sometimes because of the stress of parenting, we forget that it doesn’t help to constantly worry about our children.” They are going to be okay, and we can learn ways to better support them as they grow and develop.