Today I had the pleasure of presenting at the Hatch Elementary School PTO with our District 97. I was invited with Alyssa from Dynamic Lynks Holistic Therapy who I partnered with last summer for our Executive Functions Camp(s)! Sadly, Alyssa was out, being cautious with illness right now (thank you for that Alyssa!).
Kara from the PTO invited us after hearing our presentations at the Middle School last year. It was SUCH a pleasure meeting these parents today- they had a big group of involved folks, and great questions about how to get their kids/students motivated, organized, and on time.
I gave examples from therapy as well as my home life, including the "points system" we have at home (pictured below - tip: use wet erase for the base and dry erase for points!).
Below were some of the great questions and the responses I gave (paraphrased!), the handout I provided for the parents, and a picture of our "screen time" positive behavior point system! I blocked where the kids' names go, and the list of do-don't can be adjusted for whatever YOUR target behaviors are at home.
Question 1: What do I do if my child is a disaster with folders- materials a mess and a crammed backpack? How much should I be doing, and how much should I be making them do?
I suggested that actually you don't need to force a system on them, or do it for them, but bring it to them of "what are you willing to do?"
a) Ask them how they would like to be organized: folders and colored tabs aren't for everyone!
For Example: a "dump" folder that I learned from Lisa Marsicano, is one way that maybe a slower processor can manage a fast class period transition.
b) If they don't think they need a system, give them a chance to prove it: "find that paper for me, I'll time you and see how fast you can do it!" and show them how being neat and organized (in some way) can improve how much free time they have, and the effort they have to put in. show them that they need a system, but that it can be a system that makes sense for them.
c) Scaffold: start small and build: pick one small skill and practice for a week or two before adding another step. First, let's keep track of your calculator, then as we succeed and buy in, we can build to folders and tabs.
Question 2: How do I get my daughter to get moving in the morning. No matter what I do, we are always running late and she doesn't seem motivated to go any faster.
We have this same issue at home with meals and mornings- the 6 year old especially. The thing is, they aren't motivated-- and we need to show them why they should care! In our house, we started a system to show that the things THEY care about are tied to responsibility, self-reliance, and good cooperation: they earn screens for efficient and cooperative behavior (see images for our example). Instead of money/allowance, we can offer screen time for a certain level of independence.
Also, set a visual for the timer where she can see it: a counting down timer, a marker on your clock-- the thing is that this little girl probably doesn't know what "time" feels like. She really thinks she is going "fast", and can't edit her urgency until she knows what "late" feels like.
Question 3: My son plays soccer, and every weekend I am working hard to be "super-dad" and make sure we pull it all off to get to soccer on time. I struggle with knowing when to let him fail, and not make it work. I tried that this weekend, so he could explain to the coach himself why he was late, and maybe understand the need to get going and focus on the 6 things that need to be done before he can play soccer.
I would make it visual for him: make a check-list and give a visual timer, like with the other urgency situation. We can give auditory prompts to get going, but visual support is much more tangible. His brain might be distracted and those internal distractions are much stronger than the checklist. To be fair, he might not even really realize that the list exists yet. We are the model for our kids, and we can talk aloud in order to show them how we get out the door on time. And yes, letting them fail to feel that consequence is VERY important- it's the feeling of "late" that will get them going. Some kinds of brains, though, simply can't control when they're on task, and they can't help getting off task: this is where we can support the step-by-step use of a tool or strategy that we use for ourselves, and follow the scaffolding steps: I do, We do, You do. I show you how to use it, then I help you use it, and then I expect you to use it. They have to somewhat master the skill in we-do, or else they will certainly fail during the independent "You do" phase. TELL them about these steps so they know they are expected to do it themselves and soon!
Affirmation/Statement/Question 4: Parents have SO much to do as it is, and while I don't want to pile-on, but they need to step up and give consistency if any of the tips are going to work- get up, have breakfast ready, and be ready yourself to get out the door. We need to model that consequences do happen or else they will not feel the responsibility to do it. Parents need to show that they can be responsible and on time, or else why would their kids do it?
Yes, we are the models: the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. You are the model raising your kids whether they are adopted, steps, grand-children, nieces etc. She is right, we need to be that model and show consistency. We also will fail- we are still only human. When we fail though, how likely is it that our child will tend to fail in the same way? We should admit this failing in a way that shows them how we correct it. Show them that "I can be this way too, sometimes!" and then show how you put in effort to be better and adjust. This could inspire them to do things differently, and even see that you "talk the talk, and walk the walk"- you are potentially the future adult they could become- and they are very much like you!
THANK you to the PTO for their hospitality this gray morning- it brightened my day, even if the sun won't.