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Effective Strategies for Parents: Clear Expectations


Establishing clear expectations and rules is crucial for children with executive function challenges to help them navigate their daily lives. These children often struggle to understand what is expected of them. They may feel overwhelmed by the rules that govern their routines. Setting reasonable expectations and providing the proper support and guidance can help your child succeed academically, build strong behavior patterns, and boost their confidence and independence.

The key to this is proactively communicating your expectations upfront. Children with executive function challenges may experience developmental delays. Recognizing these challenges and exploring appropriate accommodations will help your child discover how capable they are when they have the right structures in place. They may need help following rules, problem-solving, staying focused, and managing their time efficiently. To overcome these barriers, establish clear expectations through consistent routines, clear schedules, and a structured environment.

Look at the following strategies to help you implement this successfully at home.

Create a Sense of Urgency. Parents often ask teachers to accommodate their students by extending assignment deadlines. However, students who are given long extensions tend to procrastinate on the project while falling behind in other subjects. Maintaining structured and specific deadlines will help prevent procrastination and keep them on track.

Tap into their Interests. Children with executive function challenges often hyper-focus on things they are passionate about. Connecting their passion to their schoolwork will help keep them engaged with the material. This can lead to meaningful conversations about their coursework and allow them to apply their prior knowledge to understand new concepts better.

Recognize their Efforts. It is important to remember that these students may feel frustrated or inadequate compared to their peers, even when they put in significant effort. This can lead to low self-esteem and create even more barriers to success. Remember to treat them with sensitivity and understanding. Building their confidence and independence requires patience and kindness. While some behaviors might be challenging (such as lack of impulse control, academic struggles, or social difficulties), offer frequent, positive feedback to encourage their progress.

Identify Appropriate Consequences. Establishing clear consequences is integral to providing clear guidelines and rules to children. Instead of using vague instructions, such as “be home by dark,” set specific curfew times like 10:00 pm to avoid confusion and arguments. Additionally, if a rule is broken, ensure the punishment fits the crime! Consequences should be proportionate to the offense. For example, if your child arrives five minutes late, adjust the curfew time by five minutes earlier the next night rather than grounding them for a month.

Seek Support from Others. You likely already know that teenagers tend to rebel through puberty. Significant changes in hormones, brain development, and a desire for independence can lead to impulsive decision-making and swiftly changing moods (like those intense arguments that come out of nowhere!). During this time, they may resist listening to your advice. This can be frustrating at the moment but remember – this is also a confusing time for your student. Don’t hesitate to bring in other trusted adult figures (teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.) to help them with their accountability. They will likely be more receptive to listening to these respective adults than their parents.

For More:

Helping Kids Who Struggle with EF 

Consistent routines

Executive Functioning Interventions

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