Thursday, July 5, 2018

Book Nook: Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay - Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention.

There are two common pieces of advice parents here - one about incentivizing kids, and one about making sure kids always try their hardest. However, I recently read a book by Massachusetts Distinguished Educator Michael Delman, that offers a different approach. In Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay: Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention, Michael provides strategies to help build your child's own decision-making skills, improving internal motivation and decision-making.

Children are often driven by their own motives, not what parents want. For example, my older child is motivated by making others happy (which is very helpful as a parent). My younger child, however, has to want to do something for it to happen. Obviously we have non-negotiables like cleaning her room, but traditional motivation techniques and incentives don't work for her.

I completely agreed with the book that for many kids, it's helpful to have a sense of purpose for their activities. As a parent, "How can I motivate my child?" isn't as accurate as "How can I help my child find what motivates them?" and then figuring out how to set up those conditions. For example, my younger child is highly motivated by a sense of justice and fairness, and also by video games and physical activity. So the more we can incorporate movement, the more motivated she is to do something.

I also really liked the author's opinion on putting for the best effort. As parents, we worry about raising "slackers." But as adults, we don't always try our best at every little thing - we have decided what we can do as "good enough." This book points out that this is actually a good decision-making skill for kids. Being able to determine what's urgent and needs to get done quickly, and what's important because it's worth a lot or a source of passion, helps kids succeed in ways that they may not if they're burned out from always being on.

For example, with my own kids, I'm having both of them work on building web-based skills this summer. While they both have to practice the essential skill of typing, they're working on different skills as well. My older one is really fired up by coding, while my younger one isn't. However, she wants to create her own country, so while my older one works on coding for longer, my younger one works on creating a website for her country. Both are building web-based skills, with different effort put forth for what they like.

What specific steps can parents take to help their kids try hard selectively?
  • Teach their children how to distinguish between what is urgent (timely) and what is important (weighty).
  • Point out larger frameworks. For instance,when an assignment is worth more points, it merits greater effort than a low-point assignment
  • Encourage them to follow what naturally motivates them -- to nurture those things that connect to their passions and talents.

This book provides food for thought, not just on these two points, but on other ways to build decision-making skills and executive function skills in kids. It's a well-researched, well-written book.

About Michael Delman
Massachusetts Distinguished Educator Michael Delman is founder and CEO of Beyond BookSmart, the first organization to apply Dr. James Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Change to help students improve academic performance. He is the author of Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay (2018), distilling years of wisdom on the executive function skills children need in the age of attention. As an educator since 1991, Michael’s primary mission is to make learning relevant and to help young people find capacities in themselves that they don’t know they have. Co-founder of the McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham, Massachusetts, Michael is an avid researcher and developer of tools and strategies to help students become more effective. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Brown University, and an M. Ed. in Middle School Education from Lesley University.

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