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.

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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 Working Memory

Notepad...Working memory is the ability to keep things in mind while performing an activity. It helps in remembering while you are in the process of learning. It involves the maintenance of information in mind so that an individual can use it for planning, learning, reasoning, and producing a result. Working memory helps to hold a thought or long-term memory in mind so you can act more efficiently in the present moment. For example, working memory might involve shutting off a television and remembering to gather one’s coat and backpack before leaving a friend’s house. Improve working memory by following our recommendations below.

Home and School Situations Requiring Working Memory

  • Taking notes in class
  • Recalling plans made or an assignment due date
  • Remembering the rules to a game or sport while playing
  • Following multi-step directions at both school and at home
  • Doing math computations in one’s head
  • Recalling answers to reading comprehension questions
  • Remembering a list of chores, items, or tasks

Hints and Strategies to Improve Working Memory

1. Simplify directions as much as possible. Your child will be more likely to recall short, simple, and direct instructions. For example, saying, “When you finish those two math worksheets, you can watch one episode of ‘Adventure Time’,” is much more direct than saying “When you finish your homework you can watch some TV.”

2. Encourage your child to seek assistance from others. Emphasize to your child that it is acceptable to ask the teacher to repeat instructions or to ask a classmate to borrow their notes. Role-play these scenarios at home so that your child will feel comfortable when the situation arises.

3. Find a mode of technology that is helpful to your child. For example, use a tape recorder to record notes or directions, or a cell-phone to program in reminders and scheduling changes. Digital picture frames can show a sequence of activities that are easily forgotten, such as eating breakfast, putting dishes away, and washing up.

4. Practice verbal memory like rehearsal, chunking, or mnemonic devices. Help your child to rehearse by whispering directions or lists to him/herself. Also, practice chunking devices that can help your child to whittle down two-step instructions to one, such as brushing her teeth and washing her face together. Mnemonic devices can be especially helpful, such as how ROY G BIV is often used to recall the colors of the rainbow in order.

5. Practice reading comprehension. Read the same material as your child and then have a brief discussion about it. This may help to increase your child’s focus and stretch their memory as an active component of working memory skills.

6. Showcase your own working memory difficulties by dramatizing your strategies to compensate for them. Many adults report difficulties with working memory in simple tasks such as remembering what they meant to do when they went into the kitchen or leaving the house and forgetting something important. Use compensatory strategies such as making notes, using Post-its, asking someone else to give a reminder, or doing something immediately when it comes to mind. Exaggerating and dramatizing your strategies for compensating your own working memory difficulties may be helpful for a child who has similar difficulties.

7. Select video games for your child that require the use of working memory skills.Brain training games, such as “Mind Quiz” and “Brain Age 2,” require the use of working memory skills and visual memory tasks. Other longer narrative games, such as “The Legend of Zelda” series, require the player to keep in mind incidents and objects from earlier in the game in order to be successful in strategies on later levels. Most importantly, try and get your child to recognize how memory skills can help in games and encourage your child to try out different strategies. These strategies can include the following: visualizing what (s)he needs to remember, over-learning math facts so that they become automatic, and repeating things out loud. These strategies may help your child in a number of memory tasks.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Working Memory

Playing board games – Most board games require players to use working memory to recall rules, remember whose turn it is, and relate the spin or roll to the appropriate move. Asking your child to help you remember what happens next in the game will even further improve this working memory activity.

Grocery shopping trip – Ask your child to help you keep track of the next three or four items you have to find. Have your child count them as you find each one.

“Memory” – This card game challenges players to match pairs of cards by turning them over two at a time while they are face down, allowing your child to practice his working memory skills.

“I packed my suitcase” Game – Players in this game have to picture and remember an increasing list of items. One child starts by saying, “I packed my suitcase and in it I put a toothbrush.” The next player repeats that phrase and then adds another item. This game can continue for as long as the players enjoy adding more items, and remember what came before what they’re about to say next.

“Big Brain Academy” – This game requires your child to keep facts in mind in order to successfully play the game.

 

Source can be found here.

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.