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Celebrating the Small Victories: A Guide for Parents 


For children with executive functioning challenges, the weight of failure often outweighs the joy of success. However, by consistently recognizing and appreciating the progress made by your children, you can instill a sense of motivation in them. Parents celebrating their children’s small wins fosters a positive mindset and encourages them to persevere despite their challenges. This positive reinforcement creates a pattern of success, ultimately helping children become the best version of themselves. 

Shifting the Focus from Failure to Success

Those with executive function difficulties receive way more negative feedback than their peers. These negative messages can lead to anger, giving up, or shying away from help. They may struggle to see their progress or believe in their abilities. As parents, you can help them break

free from this cycle of negativity. By celebrating their small victories, you provide tangible evidence of their improvement, encouraging them to continue growing. When you focus on a student’s successes, no matter how small, the student will be more incentivized to work harder. 

Recognizing these wins can influence your child’s brain chemistry. Each time you celebrate your student’s progress, their brain releases a neurochemical called dopamine, a feel-good chemical. This injection of positive energy happens every time they are rewarded and hooks your student into wanting to achieve even more. 

Short-Term Goals for Long-Term Success

Not only do children focus on their failures, but they also often struggle with thinking too far into the future. Long-term tasks or assignments may seem overwhelming or even impossible to them. As parents, you can support them by breaking these tasks into manageable short-term goals. For example, if they have a big presentation due in two weeks, you can set a daily goal of completing one slide per day. By focusing on immediate tasks, you help them bring the future into the present and make progress. Remember to celebrate each small milestone achieved, reinforcing their commitment to success.

The Power of Positive Phrasing

As parents, it’s crucial to create a safe and supportive environment where positive reinforcement prevails. Studies have shown that positive phrasing is more effective than criticism in reinforcing good behavior. When a student feels like they are being attacked or badgered by their parents, it is far less likely they will listen. Instead of commanding something, advice is more likely to be received well if phrased as a question.

For example, if your student needs to clarify an assignment with their teacher, avoid saying, “You better talk to your teacher tomorrow.” Instead, try, “How can I help you talk to your teacher?” This shift clarifies that you only want to help them solve their problem and allows you to celebrate a small victory once they have that conversation. We encourage you to explain the theory behind celebrating small achievements to your children. This way, students will know that they will feel better with every small task they accomplish.

Examples of How to Recognize their Efforts 

There are countless ways to celebrate your child’s small wins that can create lasting impacts. Whether it’s high fives and hugs, verbal praise, a reward system, creating a celebration ritual, or displaying their achievements, show genuine pride and highlight their efforts. Some phrases that we at Untapped have found helpful include:

  • “I’m so proud of you for talking to your teacher. Let’s find ways to improve your communication.”
  • “It’s great you turned in most of your assignments this week! How can I help you turn in all your assignments next week?”
  • “I’m proud of you for finishing that hard homework assignment during office hours. What strategies can we develop together that will help you finish your future assignments just as well?”
  • “I love that you asked your teacher for help studying for the math test. Let’s find ways to make it easier for you to talk to your teachers in the future.”

Ultimately, incorporating these little celebrations will help your student feel validated and foster a positive environment to motivate them to strive for success.

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More:

Why Deadlines Pounce and Long-Term Plans Never Happen

ADHD and the Epidemic of Shame

Why You Should Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrate Small Wins to Motivate Kids

Short and long-term goals for children

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