Have you ever had difficulty with your child starting their homework or assignment right away? Do you have to constantly remind them to do certain tasks? 

To be honest, who hasn’t been a victim to distractions, or a little procrastination here and there, right? The issue begins when initiating the chores and daily tasks becomes a real struggle for your child, ending in frustration for everyone; the parents, educators, and the students themselves. Every task takes longer and requires more effort. 

Task Initiation, as part of Executive Function Skills, may not be easy to spot. It can be seen as behavioral problems or even a spoiled child. But it can be defined as the inability to start a task, as well as not having the capacity to see it through completion.

In our experience, students who struggle with task initiation are not able to start working on their homework, excusing themselves by saying it is boring. It’s like it’s their kryptonite! Of course, they can start right away with screen time or movie time, but if the homework, project, or house chore is next, the struggle begins. 

Now more than ever, in the new era of virtual classrooms and distance learning since COVID became part of our lives, we are asking our children for a higher level of independence. Therefore, the challenges with task initiation become more apparent. It is harder for a teacher to make sure the students do their homework, so this extra responsibility relies on the parents and sometimes can be very frustrating.

What can we do to help?

Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time”. Everything in life that seems too big of a task, overwhelming, and perhaps impossible, can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little piece at a time. One thing we could do is give students the right tools and resources to help them break down the steps to make any task or project more manageable.

As we have mentioned before in our past Executive Functions articles, a “one shoe fits all” approach will not apply, and that is why at Wright Academics we work with different coaches who provide different activities, strategies, and resources to help the student develop their Task Initiation skills.

It is important to empathize with the student and make sure they know we understand how hard it is for them to start a task and complete it. But we also encourage them that it is something they can learn how to do by themselves. Breaking down a project into more manageable pieces makes it easier to both start and complete it. One step at a time!

Brain breaks can be as recharging as taking a nap. We have several board games that are engaging, fun, and educational at the same time. Brain breaks can also look like taking a walk, stretching for a few minutes, or even bouncing on a yoga ball. Use a timer to start the task and a timer for breaks. A very important step that can be missed is to set up a clean, organized, and decluttered space, it may help to calm the mind of your child.

One executive function skill can trigger the next, that’s why is very common to see a student struggling with task initiation and with signs of perfectionism and procrastination. For instance, we have previously worked with a student having trouble committing to a specific time to do their homework. While trying to pinpoint the root cause of the struggle, we discovered he was a perfectionist, meaning that in his mind, if the task was not going to be perfect, it was hard for him to start it. It’s different for every student but sometimes two executive function skills can present together.

It is life-changing to pair your child with the right coach, sometimes there can be self-esteem issues and anxiety. Both related to the fact that they are aware the task needs to be done and done well, but they just can’t get past the struggle.

Our goal is to help our students develop a set of skills that allow them to navigate any situation throughout their life. Learn to identify what is making it hard for them to do something and use any resource available to overcome that struggle. They will not only believe they can do it themselves but also, that it is ok to reach out and ask for help if necessary. Sometimes, surrounding ourselves with people that enhances our own set of skills can be beneficial.

Wright Academics is here to help. Our coaches are ready to work alongside teachers and parents to help them navigate these challenges. We have a variety of tools and activities available for your student. Reach out to us, there are resources available to help them build the skill set they need to be successful.

This is another article on Executive Function skills. If this is your first time here, feel free to navigate through our blogs to learn about the other Executive Functioning skills if you want to learn more about our processes.