A student, let’s name him Tom, procrastinated too long to do his homework. It’s 11:00 p.m. and he just realized he has something big to do the next day at school. Now he’s stressed because he knows he’s going to be up really late trying to finish it. His parents now know so they got stressed too. He’s stressed out, they’re stressed out and negative emotions are getting really high. It’s the next day, Tom goes into school and turns something in that’s nowhere near what he’s capable of doing. So then the teacher is a little disappointed in him and Tom can feel it. It’s a snowball effect of negative emotions with the root cause being procrastination.
Procrastination is part of managing the student’s executive function skills with emotional control and how the child reacts to a certain situation. What I’ve seen in the office is students struggling with overreacting to a simple situation, like throwing a tantrum during their homework time and having a hard time bouncing back from a situation at school with a teacher or a classmate. Dealing with frustration, anger, sadness, even having lower grades are some of the things that can alert you that something’s going on with their emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation is another subset under the umbrella of executive functioning. It’s trying to be in control of the way you emotionally react to different situations. We’ve previously talked about Impulsivity, which is trying to control your impulses, you can read that blog right HERE. Impulsivity can certainly impact you emotionally and that’s where I believe emotional control is interrelated with it.
Emotional control can definitely impact the student’s life and everyone around them. It will affect their student-teacher and peer relationships at school, for instance, when the student is assigned to group work and they feel their ideas aren’t being heard. It will impact the student/parent relationship, either with emotional outbursts or shutting down and distancing themselves. Boy, do we see that a lot! The tension can build up fast, ending in frustration and confusion on both sides.
And that’s one of the real values we, at Wright Academics, offer to students that need help with their executive function skills. We choose a third and neutral person to work with your child. The key is finding that one coach that they can connect and feel comfortable with, so they can open up about things. I’ve seen it happen, after the students work with our coaches, parents have said to me that there’s less tension at home – just because I paired their child with the coach that they needed to work with.
A younger kid could be sitting at the kitchen table with his brother or sister and they’re having the hardest time, complaining and throwing a temper tantrum.
Doing everything to avoid doing that homework. The parent knows if they just sat down for 20 minutes they’d be able to do it. Let’s say mom or dad is making dinner or waiting for them to do their homework to go out to soccer practice, the tension will build up fast. The parents’ feeling is if they would just get it done and stop having these temper tantrums, why are they having emotional outbursts? The answer is, they’re having a hard time managing and controlling their emotions.
Our process starts with an intake call, the parents explaining the situation so I take notes on whether there are tantrums, tension with parents during certain tasks, emotional outbursts, etc. Then when I meet with the family or with the student, I delve into it more by asking questions like how are you handling frustration? Is the kid having a hard time getting started on their work? What do you do when you get stuck? Do you feel you get stuck a lot in homework? Do people say you have a lot of patience? After that meeting, I shared everything with their new coach. Then the coach creates goals around the student’s behavior and starts building that confidence and processes with the student.
Executive function coaches go deep down to find out “the why” they are behaving like that. So one of the strategies we use with kids is to try and process with them a specific situation that has happened in the past, BUT the key part is, you process with the student when they’re not hyped up. When they’re not in the middle of the situation. So when they are calm, together with their coach, they revise the steps from the beginning and take a look at what really happened, the root cause. To get them to realize the consequences of their decisions, we run through some different scenarios. We use activity cards to set up scenarios so it’s like playing a game with the student. We provide them with coping strategies for when it does happen the next time. That is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to help students with emotional control.
Emotional control is one of the aspects of executive functioning that is most frustrating for parents, teachers, and students themselves. We work around role-play and we process different scenarios in a safe environment and when they’re not amped up. We explain to them how different decisions can have positive and negative consequences, and how they can make healthier decisions in the future.
There’s a range just like anything else, executive function is not one size fits all and it’s different for every child. Sometimes students need more than just help from an executive coach, they might need a combination of an executive coach, a therapist, or counselor or get medication to make progress. We at Wright Academics want to be a resource for your family, and if I feel like there’s a student that needs more, then I will suggest that to the parents.
It’s okay that as a parent you may feel confused about why your child gets that upset but I’m here to tell you it is part of controlling their mental processes and the way they emotionally react to different situations. It is not the end of the world, executive function skills can be taught and managed, if you pair the student with the right coach, tools, and resources. When they learn to manage their impulses and emotions a little bit better, everyone around the child will see the positive change, less tension in the family and even at school.
The very best thing you can do for your kid, whether you go with us or someone else is to find them a good executive coach. I always say it’s a secret sauce to find someone who is going to help build their confidence and help them navigate through the academic information. An excellent executive coach will make the academic information more manageable, in a way they can remember and understand in a way that’s engaging because these kids really struggle with emotional dysregulation, and they need someone they trust.
This is another article on executive function coaching. If you want to contact us or have any questions about emotional regulation, you can do it here: Contact Us