What are Executive Functions?


Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.

International Women Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women who made History and I would like to dedicate this #IWD to the women who inspire me the most in this world : Moms.

A week ago, I posted a message on my group “Things I learned from my mom” :

“There is one person in this world that is both magical, inspiring and love us unconditionally and it’s our Mothers! They are the only people on earth who knew us before we even came to this world. Our mothers experienced our growth while in their womb, delivered us through an experience that can sometimes be excruciating (and that is just the beginning). Interestingly, once a man gets married, he can witness that process far closer.

Standing by the mother of his kids, a man can see what they go through once they become mothers. My experience overwhelmed me with awe when my first daughter was born. My wife spent more than twenty-five hours in the delivery room. It struck me like an electric shock when I saw her in surgery delivering our second baby and take care of him before he sadly passed away from SIDS. I watched my wife, mourning the death of her son, yet not giving up. We got pregnant again and had a beautiful daughter one year after. Witnessing the agony of the loss and the bittersweet joy of having a new baby left me with an infinite admiration for her strength.

My own process as a partner, threw me back twenty years early. I found myself wondering about my own mother. How was she able to do this? Where did she get the strength from? What encouraged her to embrace me unconditionally? How come she didn’t give up on me?

I was born when my mother was only twenty-years-old. For six years, until my younger brother was born, we were just the two of us. She raised me as a single-parent. It was the early 1980’s and my mother was still in college, studying to get her degree (in Education) while working as a young assistant teacher. I remember the days she wrote her first lesson plans, creating activities, making phone calls to parents and even principals. She was a busy young lady!

Despite her hectic life, my mother succeeded in providing me with a great childhood. We had lots of quality time. We hosted many interesting people: stylists, artists, and fashion designers who came to speak with my mother to find some empathy. It was during those days that I learned how people can be different and so interesting in different ways. I remember a lot of 1980’s music too and will never forget how we danced in front of the mirror just for fun. As I grew older, I realized how young my mother was. Having me in her life imposed many kinds of responsibilities which she fulfilled diligently.

Three months before my 30th birthday, my mother passed away. She had just celebrated her 50th birthday a few months earlier. Today, I obviously cannot call her, send her pictures of the girls or go visit her. The only thing I possess is a set of memories, values and life lessons which I try to impart to my children. I created this group to encourage each one of you to share gratitude, express your admiration, and inspire us with life lessons from your mothers. I hope you will take the opportunity to do so because for some of us, it is the only way.”


Positive Body Image

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.
~ Sarah Koppelkam

Help Your Children Understand The Core Values of Friendship

The following activity will take between 20-25 minutes of your time but will have a lasting impact on your child’s life!

Helping your child understand what true, loyal, and happy friendship is can be a complicated task. You should not give up the opportunity to know how your child perceives friendship and what s/he is willing to tolerate to stay in friendship with others.

Below, you can find two charts I created (one for boys and one for girls) to help young students understand the pillars of healthy and happy friendship. We did it as follows:

  1. My child and I spoke about her friends and asked various GENERAL questions about her social dynamic in school.
  2. To make a smooth transition I asked: “Could you complete the sentence: A good friend is….” Fill-in-the-blank questions are more engaging than questions like “Who do you think can be a good friend?”
  3. I suggested we will search in the internet for pictures that described a good friend.
  4. We found four pictures that encompass the values I wanted to illustrate with her: inclusiveness, loyalty, respect, and diversity.

It is essential that your child will describe the picture and only then complete the sentence. Also, make sure to revolve the conversation around the value YOU think are relevant to your child’s social dynamic with her/his friends.

Friendship- GIRLS

Friendship- BOYS

The Highly Sensitive Child

Highly sensitive children are often in amidst of some strong emotional turbulence. Their eyes may seem sad, they could become vexed for little or no issue at all, and when they are ill it seems that the entire home is in commotion. Nevertheless, being sensitive can be a good thing as long as we guide our children according to their emotional capacities.

Highly sensitive children can be explained in five different categories:

The Anxious Highly Sensitive.

Not all anxious people are hypersensitive, but many highly sensitive people are anxious. At home, sensory perceptions are exacerbated. Thus, their hypersensitivity makes them fine observers of nuances of expressions and mimicry. What could be positive, like being able to read people, will be contaminated by anxiety. This is how neutral attitudes of concern or concentration will be interpreted as threatening. For example, an unusual facial expression by the father will signal his highly sensitive that something is wrong. This feeling may impact the child’s behavior through the rest of the evening.

In addition, their imagination is filled with anxiety, and they consider all the possible consequences of imaginary threatening events. They spend a lot of time trying to find solutions to problems that exist only in their head. This tires them enormously. Moreover, as they anticipate all kinds of difficulties, they often under-perform in school, even though they have all the required skills. Performance anxiety is an obstacle to academic success. Highly sensitive children are not easy to mobilize by teachers and are often not motivated by their difficulties.

Another characteristic of highly sensitive kids is their propensity to worry about everything all the time. As if they carried all the misery of the world on their shoulders, they spend a lot of time imagining the worst for their loved ones and for themselves and are very affected by it.

The Highly Sensitive Withdrawal

In this profile, we find children whose defense against excessive sensitivity is reflected in the inhibition, in different areas of life, emotional, social or intellectual. It is an unconscious attitude, which allows them to live better with their personality. As they are overwhelmed by their emotions, they prefer to avoid situations that expose them, such as group activities or strong, friendly relationships. They are often thought to be indifferent, whereas, on the contrary, they are too receptive! Some children prefer to give up a social and emotional life that overexposes their sensitivity.

Shyness is the corollary of this type of highly sensitive child, who is moreover often influenced. “Indeed, their hypersensitivity encourages them not to upset their friends, to avoid conflict they would live very badly.” This profile can lead them to take part in reprehensible actions, even cruel, only in order not to put in a situation of conflict vis-à-vis the group. And as they do not express their discomfort, they remain undermined for a long time without being able to evoke what disturbs them.

In addition, highly sensitive withdrawal, whose sensitivity is “mobilized to excess in all areas of life,” have a strong tendency to somatize. The stomach ache is then the privileged expression of their overflowing emotions, which they can not express (apart from any proven affection). Fleeing the reality too hard in daydreaming, they take refuge in an imaginary often rich. And in some cases, their inhibition leads to intellectual blockages that jeopardize their academic success. “This is particularly the case for these children who are psychologically frozen at the slightest remark of an adult, connoted negatively or deemed too dry.” Their motility can also be weakened by their hypersensitivity: they become clumsy, left.

The Expressive Highly Sensitivity

Unlike the previous examples, children whose high sensitivity is manifested by introversion, children in this category demonstrate with high intensity all the emotions: joy, sadness, fear, anger, love, disgust, frustration, astonishment … The physical enters then also in the dance, causing tears so intense that they can suffocate. They lose control of themselves. In case one of the parents is also hypersensitive, then it is the paroxysmal explosion on a daily basis!

Ultra-receptive to the moods and moods that emerge from their surroundings, they live according to the moods of others, especially when they are collective – as in a classroom. Their need to constantly please, their staggered attitudes, make them chameleons very difficult to follow and understand.

The Sensitive Highly Sensitivity

Sensitive children of this type think that we are angry at them or that they are not considered to their real value. They do not support the slightest criticism. Their ego is strong, they have a high opinion of themselves, even feel superior to others. However, their hypersensitivity makes their self-esteem vacillating, because it is based only on what is said about themselves, and not on their experience, the analysis of their strengths or weaknesses. Their imagination often makes them paranoid, and they make stories. “They are unfortunately rather difficult to meet, despite their keen desire to be loved and their ability to understand the emotions of others” because they react very strongly when their susceptibility is hit, quite often! They take everything to the first degree and easily distort what they say. They keep thinking that they are being mistreated, which makes their relationship exchanges very complicated.

How to help a highly sensitive child?

The first thing to do is to find out what is the dominant of your hypersensitive child. However, that it is rare for a child to belong exclusively to one of these: they often overlap with each other.

Then, we must bring them to relativize, because they have a lot of trouble to screen what happens to them, they take all full force. Parents can, little by little, help them distinguish between what is important and what is not. But for that, we must avoid the rational arguments: it is better to be reassuring, showing that one understands that the pain or anger is great for the child. Do not ridicule him.

Another action to take is to teach them to wait. Teach your child not to react immediately, to take time to distance themselves from the situations, to repel the primary reactions. For this, parents must lead by example, be patient, agree not to immediately get behavior from the child.

Soothing one’s susceptibility is also helpful. It’s about giving your child confidence so that the words of others do not reach them as much. To do this, you can discuss with your child afterward remarks that they perceived as offensive, and show them that there was no reason to react at all. Avoiding sensitive topics also pays off.


Surround them with love and security, more than other children, because the hypersensitive have greater needs in these areas. “It’s not about raising your highly sensitive child in a bubble, says the psychologist: a hyper-protective attitude will not help his business. But special attention is required, as well as evidence of love and esteem.

A highly sensitive child can have trouble with the demonstrations of tenderness and love (which overwhelm them with emotions): it is, therefore, necessary to observe and go at their own pace.

Developing autonomy is also fundamental to help your highly sensitive child live better with her/his hypersensitivity. This is true for all children, but even more so for highly sensitive kids. This autonomy will allow them not to model their emotions on those of others, to which they are particularly receptive. “To help him, he is offered a precise and stable framework, especially for unusual moments, by leading him to anticipate a little the events to come: how will he react? What are the alternatives? What questions to ask?”. The more situation your child is psychologically prepared, the less anxiety and unfounded interpretations s/he will experience.

Making them tame his emotions, helping your child identify and name her/his feelings, will be of great help to both of you. The best way is to help them do it as soon as the emotion begins to invade, or when it is still between two glasses of water. Getting your child used to hear words about how he feels will gradually allow her/him to distance himself from his invasive affectivity. It is crucial never to mock or criticize the emotional outbursts of a highly sensitive child, as it reinforces them. When it comes to anger, you can train her to restrain her by positive images, by breathing properly, while trying to speak.

Do not neglect the body dimensions. Taming their bodies is crucial for these children who do not have this skill innately. Clutching them, carrying them, cuddling them, making them do motor activities, is even more essential for a highly sensitive child.

Listen to them carefully. Even if they are often in excess, the little hypersensitive needs to feel that her/his word is valuable and is heard. To make them verbalize their suffering rather than somatize or shout, tap, etc., they should feel confident, and that their word is really heard, and not thwarted every time they try to tell you what open their heart. Then discuss with them to help relativize, delay, etc.

The importance of activities such as music, gardening, cooking, visual arts, but also relationships with animals and nature, as well as manual work, is beneficial for the all highly sensitive children.

Impulse control (video)

The following video is an illustration of how impulse control can come in the way of young students. It important to remind ourselves that having weak impulse control (Response Inhibition) is NOT a character trait, rather a developmental issue that can be solved with coaching.

I encourage you to watch this video with your child (ages 5-8):

Ask them if this situation is familiar, and feel free to share with them the last time it was difficult for YOU to resist what you wanted to say/do. Talk about the how we feel after and how others might feel when we interrupt them in the middle of an activity or a conversation. Finally, invite them to join you in creating ways to deal with the need to say/do something out of turn. Some strategies that work for students in 1st through 4th grades are:

– Sitting on a cushion

– Stretching while sitting

– Asking to be the teacher’s helper.

– Asking to introduce the story (if you are familiar with it).

– Setting a signal with the teacher to take a short break.

These are just examples to help your child think about strategies that work for THEM.

You should feel free to share with me your experience and ask questions if you wish.


Enhancing Emotional Control

Learning about emotions begins at a very young age, as the child discovers a wide range of emotions, and evolves over the years. This theme offers a better understanding of the essential stages of emotional development, its impacts, the interrelated abilities, and the factors that build emotional competence.

The foundations of children’s emotional development are based on their relationship with their parents. Through proper care and sufficient amount of attention, kids will learn to:

  • Use words to express their feelings, positive or negative.
  • Empathize with how others feel.
  • Manage strong emotions under challenging situations.
  • Cope with their fears in the face of the unknown.
  • Calm themselves when in distress.
  • Control their anger and learn from their mischief.

Having the capacity to deal with managing their emotions will help children to develop their confidence and be more able to communicate their needs and understand those of others. Indeed, self-confidence is one of the direct outgrowths of developed emotional control.

How important is it?

Emotional Competence (EC) is a developmental process that involves three interrelated competencies: 1) emotional expression, 2) emotional awareness, and 3) emotional regulation (e.g., being aware of his emotion and changing them if needed). In infancy, children already experience a wide range of emotions in social situations through non-verbal messages (e.g., hugging or making a face). Then, as cognitive development progresses, children can determine their feelings and those of others and the circumstances that led to their expression. This understanding of emotions, in turn, allows children to control and modify their emotions to cope with stressful situations.

Emotional development during infancy and early childhood are essential for many interrelated skills. Children with healthy EC are more likely to excel in at least three of the following. 1) persevere in learning, 2) engage in empathic and pro-social behaviors, 3) express appropriate emotions in various contexts, 4) use adaptive strategies to cope with conflicting and disturbing emotions (anger, disappointment), and 5) to reduce multiple risk factors related to psychopathology. Together, these skills predict academic success in the early years at school and positive interpersonal relationships with peers and family members.

What do we know?

Emotional control as a skill varies with age. It is also manifested in different ways from one culture to another. The culture in which children grow up tends to influence the intensity and type of emotion expressed. Notably, the expression and understanding of feelings are likely to vary among children depending on how children socialize, the presence of comforting objects, the proximity of parental figures and situational contexts.

Emotions do not all appear at the same time. Primary emotions (fear, anger, sadness, interest, and joy) appear in the first year of life, while secondary emotions (embarrassment, guilt, and shame) are usually expressed at the end of the second year. The mental representation that children have of “themselves” evolves at the age of two as well.

Emotions play an essential role in the appearance of psychopathologies during childhood. Children who have experienced adverse social experiences, such as abuse or insecurity, tend to be very vigilant in detecting signs of threat.

As a result, they engage in anxiety, aggression and fear behaviors as a means of self-protection. Their negative affectivity, inadequate regulation of emotions, and imbalances in the different emotional systems in their brains (anxiety, care, and research systems) predict internal and external disorders (depression, aggressiveness, respectively).

What can we do?

In order to enhance emotional competence in children, parents are encouraged to model various emotional expressions. Since emotions at home greatly affect the emotions that children express with their peers and at school, positive parent-child interactions is imperative. Particularly, parents will benefit from using positive parenting practices and support their children when faced with challenges. Interventions at an early age will help to improve the emotional control and emotional parent-child synchrony is greatly encouraged.

Improve Response Inhibition

Who's Turn Is It? 94


Response inhibition is the ability to cease or delay an action and to be able to reflect rather than display impulsive behavior. Simply put, response inhibition helps individuals to stop and think before acting. It also helps one to ignore outside interference. This skill allows a child to plan and display appropriate behaviors. Response inhibition is imperative in tasks such as maintaining safety, problem solving efficiently, and behaving in a socially appropriate manner. This skill is also needed for focusing on the task at hand, rather than reacting to other situations in the environment. Follow our recommendations below to improve response inhibition.

Home and School Situations Requiring Response Inhibition

  • Raising one’s hand before answering a question in class
  • Waiting for one’s turn to play in a game or to speak during a conversation
  • Ignoring distractions while working on homework
  • Putting a helmet on before getting on a bike
  • Reading the directions before starting an assignment
  • Being patient with a younger sibling
  • Completing a long, multi-step task
  • Waiting in line at school or at a store
  • Keeping oneself from falling back asleep in the morning
  • Not talking back to one’s parents when upset

Hints and Strategies to Improve Response Inhibition

1. Have your child think about their answer to a question a few seconds before they verbalize the answer. Teach your child to count to 10 before acting. Practice this by counting together out loud before making a decision.

2. Arrange for your child to play games with other children that require them to wait for their turn. An example of a game that involves patience can be “Chutes and Ladders.” An example of a game that involves both patience and concentration, (when counting the number of spaces to move) can be “Trouble.” “Chess” can also be helpful to improve concentration and patience because the game requires the player to be constantly thinking about their next move.

3. Take a break. Let your child take a break from a situation that is upsetting to them. Doing so will keep your child motivated, as well as keep them from growing upset and irritable. Your child may tend to become angry or upset, and possibly give up on a difficult assignment if they are being forced to complete it all at once. For example, if your child has to write a lengthy paper, giving him/her a 10 minute break will allow them to remove him/herself from the stressful situation and begin with a fresh start again after the break. Model the same procedure by showing your child how you take a break to handle a difficult or frustrating experience. Display your own strategies by walking away but later returning to solve a problem.

4. Model response inhibition for your child. Talk to your child about the strategies that you use to exhibit response inhibition and self-control and then model these strategies. For example, you may tell your child, “I really would like to watch TV… but I know I have to clean the basement first.” This will help show your child how to develop a form of response inhibition and structure.

5. Review homework assignment directions with your child so that they know what to do before starting. Discuss what needs to be done and help show your child how to follow the directions. If a teacher assigns a worksheet, have your child read the instructions to you and discuss them, rather than allowing your child to dive in without reading.

6. Encourage your child to play puzzle-based video games. Examples of puzzle-based games include the following: “Bejeweled,” “Tetris,” and “Bubblicious,” in which your child can earn bonus points by delaying a first response. Many of these puzzle games will reward patience when the player is able to combine a number of shapes that match or create a larger pattern rather than simply pairing the first two that fit with each other. Most importantly, ask your child to describe to you how (s)he can earn the maximum number of points; engage in a discussion about how inhibiting or delaying an action results in a higher game score.

7. Encourage high levels of activity during leisure time. Children who struggle with response inhibition often find themselves in trouble due to too much movement. Encouraging your child to exert him/herself when it is appropriate may help in getting your child to sit still when necessary. Teach your child basic yoga, meditation, or breathing techniques. Learning one or more of these strategies can be very useful for children who act before thinking. Regular practice of one or two small techniques is something that can be used in a situation where the child tends to respond quickly and get into trouble. Teaching one or two yoga stretches may be particularly helpful for children with movement-based response inhibition difficulties. For example, learning the “mountain” and “sun salutation” poses (which essentially consists of standing with one’s hands extended above the head and breathing) can be very useful for delaying actions. Further information about a number of yoga poses can be found on http://yoga.about.com.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Response Inhibition

“Choose Your Own Adventure” Books – Encourage your child to read any books in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, which will allow him to recognize how each decision made can lead to a distinct consequence.

Playing board games (e.g. “Trouble,” “Chutes and Ladder,” “Candyland”) – These, or similar games, will allow your child to practice waiting for their turn to play, while other players count spaces or play out their own turns.

“Dance Dance Revolution” and “Guitar Hero” – Both of these games enhance response inhibition in that the player must really concentrate and think about which note to play or square to step on in order to achieve success.

“Simon Says” – The traditional game of “Simon Says” will allow your child to practice delaying an action until the appropriate cue is heard.

Freeze Tag -Playing freeze tag with your child or having them play this game with friends or siblings will encourage the stop-and-start action of appropriate behaviors as well as the delaying of impulsive action.

Reading with a partner – Read with your child, alternating turns, to allow for practice in waiting for one’s turn and patience.

Websites and Articles on Response Inhibition

LearningWorks For Kids: The premier resource for executive function information, offering a detailed explanation of response inhibition, tips for parents, and activities to improve this skill.

Education.com: This site offers examples and techniques for parents to use when helping their children to develop self-control.

Illinois Early Learning Project: This site provides tips for instilling impulse control in their children, as well as links to other informative sites on related topics.

National Association of School Psychologists: This handout describes important step-by-step strategies and skills for parents and teachers who are hoping to teach self-control skills to children.

Books on Response Inhibition

Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, Ph.D. and Laurie C. Dietzel. (2008). Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House. [Chapter 11]

Cox, Adam J., Ph.D. (2007). No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control–The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive. New York, NY: Penguin Books. [Chapter 9]

Dawson, Peg, Ed.D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. [Chapter 11]

Kulman, Randy, Ph.D. (2012). Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press, Inc. [Chapter 7]

Richard, Gail J. and Jill K. Fahy. (2005). The Source for Development of Executive Functions. East Moline, IL: Lingua Systems.

Schwarzchild, Michael. (2000) Helping Your Difficult Child Behave: A Guide to Improving Children’s Self-Control-Without Losing Your Own. New York, NY: Authors Guild.


Source can be found here.

Improve Metacognition

Thinking KidMetacognition involves the processes of self-monitoring and observation. It is an opportunity for children to check on their efforts and assess their successes and failures. Simply put, metacognition is thinking about one’s thinking. It is a particularly important function for helping children to gain some perspective on their decision-making and skill development. Metacognition facilitates reflecting on the impact of one’s actions on others by checking on how one has done. To improve metacognition involves asking oneself questions that facilitate defining problems, developing solutions, and assessing successes.

Home and School Situations Requiring Metacognition

  • Understanding personal strengths and weaknesses in academic subjects, athletics, or other extracurricular activities
  • Achieving an awareness of how one’s behavior can impact others
  • Being able to evaluate preparedness for a quiz or performance on a test
  • Following household or classroom rules
  • Articulating feelings when dealing with peers or siblings
  • Checking homework or in-class assignments for mistakes
  • Identifying the steps needed to successfully write a paper or complete a household chore
  • Recognizing consequences for decisions in advance, such as misbehaving at recess or not finishing one’s homework

Hints and Strategies to Improve Metacognition

1. Help your child to self-evaluate using checklists. Before your child begins a chore or task, discuss how you both will determine successful completion of the task and develop a checklist together, to determine how effectively the task has been completed. For example, a checklist for evaluating a successfully cleaned bedroom might include items such as: I made my bed; I put my dirty clothes in the laundry basket; I put my toys in the bin; I put my papers in my desk drawer. You and your child should both complete this checklist after having finished the task and discuss why you each rated the items as you did. Be sure to praise your child for accurate self-evaluations and brainstorm ideas for improving accuracy in the future.

2. Ask your child to try and predict the outcome of a situation. Teach them to think about the different factors and obstacles affecting successful completion of tasks, such as an upcoming science project, a soccer game, or a musical performance. Keep track of these predictions in a journal to serve as a direct reminder for your child, and to be used for later comparisons. After the activity has been completed, discuss your child’s predictions and identify possible reasons for any inaccuracies.

3. Model self-verbalization skills by expressing your thoughts and problem-solving strategies aloud. This will allow your child to identify otherwise hidden metacognitive strategies. For example, verbalize statements such as the following: “This reminds me of the time when we tried to do this” or “I need to think about what worked and what didn’t work the last time we did this.” Encourage your child to use similar self-instructional strategies to aid in problem-solving tasks, such as the following: putting a puzzle together, solving a math problem, or brainstorming for an art project.

4. Provide cues to help your child identify and acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses. This can be done by making a list, collage, or voice recording of his/her strengths and weaknesses. It is important for your child to recognize that although they may have weaknesses in some areas, they has strengths in others. Being able to identify those strengths and weaknesses is important in developing accurate self-perceptions, as well as positive self-esteem.

5. Have your child explain to you how to succeed at one of his/her favorite videogames or board games. This will allow your child the opportunity to practice reporting how he/she thinks about their step-by-step problem-solving strategies in a game. In many games it is important for players to be able to recognize their current score and how it reflects their performance and capacity within the game. When your child can identify errors of omission and commission in game play, this will allow them to practice identifying strengths and weaknesses.

6. Use your child’s video game playing as an opportunity to help them reflect on their strategic thinking. A good opportunity would be when your child talks about having “beaten a level.” When this occurs, ask your child to think about how they figured out what to do. Ask your child to also identify the mistakes he/she previously made and to then reflect upon how your child has learned from them. The concept of metacognition revolves around an individual being able to step back and think about their thinking. Help your child to understand that this same type of stepping back and trying to find a new way to “beat a level” is something they can try in many situations at home and at school.

7. Next time your child asks for something outrageous or asks to do something that is out of the ordinary, do not say “no.” Instead, say “Let’s think about that” and encourage your child to step back, consider what he/she is asking for, and point out the pros and cons of this activity or acquisition. If you determine this request to be unfeasible, encourage your child to formulate an understanding of what your thoughts are and how he/she might be able to otherwise accomplish what he/she is looking to do or have.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Metacognition

“Big Brain Academy” and “Brain Age” – These games offer your child the opportunity to test his/her “brain” abilities and calls for the player to make accurate self-assessments in order to succeed.

“Rock Band” – Games, such as “Rock Band”, which have distinct roles (i.e. drummer, guitarist, singer) will allow for your child to begin to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and others.

Athletics – Have your child predict how fast he/she can swim a lap of the pool, how high he/she can jump, or how far he/she can kick a soccer ball to practice achieving accurate predictions.

“Chess,” “Checkers,” and “Connect Four “- These types of strategy games allow for a discussion with your child which includes evaluating what kind of approaches were successful and what new approaches you might try when you next play this game.

Programming a cell phone – Have your child help you set different ring tones and/or pictures for people in your phonebook and discuss how this could be useful in identification of a caller.

Observe people interacting at the grocery store or in the mall – While observing strangers, have your child describe her perceptions of these people and then discuss how your child formed this impression (i.e. facial expressions, body language, verbal cues).

Websites and Articles on Metacognition

LearningWorks for Kids: The premier resource for executive function information, offering a detailed explanation of metacognition, tips for parents, and activities to improve this skill.

US Department of Education: A site which offers additional strategies for developing metacognition, tips for creating a metacognitive environment, and a list of additional resources to consult on this topic.

University of Buffalo: A more technical overview of metacognition that addresses many areas of metacognitive research.

Books on Metacognition

Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, Ph.D. and Laurie C. Dietzel. (2008). Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House. [Chapter 16]

Cox, Adam J., Ph.D. (2007). No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control–The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive. New York, NY: Penguin Group. [Chapter 8]

Dawson, Peg, Ed.D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. [Chapter 21]

Kulman, Randy, Ph.D. (2012). Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press, Inc. [Chapter 10]

Larkin, Shirley. (2009). Metacognition in Young Children. London, England: Routledge.

Richard, Gail J. and Jill K. Fahy. (2005). The Source for Development of Executive Functions. East Moline, IL: Lingua Systems.

Source can be found here.