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Information Alone Will Not Change Habits: Helping Student-Athletes Boost Executive Function Skills


Here at Untapped Learning, we know how tricky it can be for your kid to manage academics and sports. You’ve probably heard about how important executive function skills (like getting started on homework, planning, organization, self-control, and time management) are in helping your kid succeed on and off the field. However, just telling them about these skills isn’t enough to change your teen’s habits.

Experts agree that learning about healthy habits is important, but it’s only part of the solution. Researchers say you must combine this information with practical strategies and support to help them build these skills.

To help your student-athlete strengthen these skills, we recommend focusing on the process of building habits instead of just focusing on the outcome of the habit. We encourage you to try the “Tiny Habits” strategy, as outlined by BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University. This approach focuses on making small, incremental changes to behaviors, fixing the environment to support these changes, and finding prompts to help promote the new habit you are trying to build.

We have broken it down into simple tips on how to help your kids build good habits. 

1. Start small:

  • Middle school: Encourage your child to spend 5 minutes each day organizing their backpack and sports gear. It’s a small step to help them stay organized without feeling overwhelmed.
  • High school: Have your teen spend 5 minutes every night planning what they must do the next day. This quick planning can help them manage their time better.

2. Set up a good place to work:

  • Middle school: Create a quiet place for your student to do homework, away from distractions. This can help them concentrate better. 
  • High school: Consider a rule that says phones are prohibited during homework. This will help your teen focus without getting distracted. 

3. Make a Routine:

  • Middle school: Get your student to check their school website after dinner. This routine is an easy way for them to keep track of assignments and pay attention to their progress. 
  • High school: Before they start their homework, have them look at their planner or online portal to prioritize the items and estimate how long it will take to complete each task. This will help them understand what to do and get started quickly.

4. Think and talk about their goals:

  • Middle School: Before sports practice, ask your kid to spend a few minutes thinking about what they want to achieve. This quick exercise can help them stay focused. 
  • High school: Before bedtime, have your child think about what went well that day and what they could do better. This prompt can help them learn from their experiences to improve the next day.

Remember, starting small and making changes easy to stick to is important. As your teen keeps doing these little things, they’ll get better at managing their time and staying organized. Be sure to cheer them on as they make progress!

For More:

Tiny Habits

Smart but Scattered

Making Health Habitual

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