I see a lot of parents who seek help for their children’s executive function challenges. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I am more concerned about the parents than I am about the child. Let me explain.
Some parents arrive at my office, dragging in very reluctant teenagers, looking for a magic wand to “fix” their children. These exhausted parents are looking for some much needed breathing room. In reality, parents are struggling with their own demanding lives and the poor child is seen as the straw that might break the camel’s back. When I face this scenario, I take a deep breath and connect to the compassion I have for these parents. Theirs is tough job.
In cases such as these, I find myself focusing more on the parents than on the child. Often they have demanding professional positions. They are sleep deprived. Many are being pulled in multiple directions. Some are angry. Some exude hopelessness. They focus on the negative, what is “wrong” with their lives and with their child. It is painful to watch. I can see the love and caring underneath all of their “stuff.” But sometimes I am really concerned about these parents’ ability to reconnect with that love.
Little by little, as we progress through the Seeing My Time course, parents make a shift as they start to make different choices. They go to bed earlier to get more sleep. They adapt the strategy I teach them to calm their emotional brain, which lowers the the intensity of family conflicts. They begin to use day plan sheets and time circles for tasks. This helps them to start adjusting their expectations to what they can pragmatically accomplish in a day.
These parents also begin to set boundaries around their time, evaluating what to to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to. They start dealing with the piles in their lives. Many begin making future plans that excite them. They develop an understanding of the developmental aspects of executive function skills, which helps them to become more realistic about their expectations for their child’s behavior. They learn how to be supportive of their child rather than reactive.
It can take a few weeks, but wonder of wonders, it begins to happen. When parents highlight all that is going well, I look at their child and say, “Aren’t you proud of your parents? Isn’t it wonderful to see them making these changes? Isn’t it exciting to see your parents as learners?” They all nod enthusiastically with wide and beautiful smiles.
And then I will turn to the parents and say, “I am SO proud of both of you for being positive models for your child. You are modeling how we are never too old to learn. You are showing how to be a life-long learner. You are showing how to keep on growing up! You are showing how to make changes to make your life better.” And the parents glow!
Here it is: the secret to Seeing My Time is working with the child AND the parents together. Seeing My Time is a parent education course in disguise. Change the parents and you change the family dynamic. Parents learn how to support themselves and their student. It is magical. After praising one set of parents, I have begun to focus more on celebrating other parents’ positive changes. They need praise, just like their children do. They need to be honored for having the courage to learn. Children need to hear their parents praised. The proud smiles make my day.
Do you know a parent that needs to be praised?
PS: Being a parent is a challenging job. Here are two books I recommend: Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers by Michael Riera and Scream Free Parenting by Hal Runkel. My Seeing My Time Adult Planner System is another great way to help parents support themselves – while supporting their kids.
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.
Why Our Executive Functions Need Sleep
The Power of Positive Mindset on Executive Functions
Don’t Forget the Effect of the Emotional Brain on Students’ Executive Functions
The Executive Function of Future Thinking: A Real Life Example