Sibling Rivalry: How Can Parents Deal with It?

Sibling rivalry is a tale as old as time itself. Just remember one of the oldest stories from the Bible – Cain was jealous that God would accept Abel’s sacrifice, but not his! Nowadays, luckily, sibling conflicts are resolved in a much calmer way, but they can still cause problems, for both siblings and their parents.

The first lesson is: even if you had perfect children, you wouldn’t get out of it without some tension and rivalry – and here’s why.

The Causes of Sibling Rivalry

Perhaps the biggest reason siblings see each other as rivals is because they are in a constant fight for your attention. And since people aren’t exact machines, we aren’t able to dedicate exactly the same amount of attention to each child, much as we might want to. No matter how similar the children may be – even if they’re twins! – there will always be differences between them that require us to treat them if only a bit differently. We’re often unaware of this, but children tend to notice it.

Gender and age differences alone more often than not cause parents to treat their children in very different ways. Dads might be more gentle with their daughters than their sons, but sons may be granted more freedom and a later curfew. The tricky thing is, no daughter will focus on the extra attention, nor son on the extra permission: they’ll tend to focus on the negatives and see themselves as less loved and less worthy.

Also, the closer the siblings are in age, the more reason they’ll have to fight. They’ll want to play with same toys, have the same relationship with you, play the same video games… But on the other hand, if there’s a wider age difference, the older one may get angry if the younger one makes them feel embarrassed in front of their friends. It seems like there’s no escape!

Is There No Way Out?

So far, it seems like whatever you do, fights are inevitable! That is true to some extent, and we’ll talk later on about the positive sides of sibling rivalry. However, certain things are in your control and can be prevented.

Kids in Spiderman and Captain America costumes smiling.

Even Spiderman and Captain America found a way to overcome their issues.

Try to treat them the same when it comes to granting permission

New parents, given their inexperience and natural anxiety, often overprotect their first child. When the second one comes along, you feel more confident and trust yourself more, so you’ll probably end up granting that child more latitude. But as understandable as this is, think of how it’s affecting the older child. They’ll probably end up thinking, “They don’t love me and care as much” or “They don’t really trust me”. What you can do is adapt your responses to meet the situation. Now that your younger one has a curfew until 10, give the older one a slightly longer one – 11 or 12. Treating them the same even though they’re four years apart is not exactly equal, so as hard as it is to see them grow up – let them know they’ve earned your confidence.

Let them solve it on their own

If their fight is about something else – whose toy it is, whose turn it is to walk the dog, etc. – give them time to come up with a solution among themselves. However, if you notice that’s not going anywhere, offer mediation, but without taking sides. Try to look at it objectively. Ask them to give you the arguments for why they each think the other one should be walking the dog. You can even have them write their arguments down. Let them present their reasons one by one, and once you have all the facts, ask them if it’s now clear to them who should be doing the task. If they’re still unwilling to find a solution, you can offer one, but not without providing them with an explanation why.

Skip the labels

Does your family have the smart one? The athletic one? The artistic one? If it does, try not to call them that. Of course you’re allowed to think of them that way, but the minute you say, “Oh, my Josh is the smart one”, the other child will, without a doubt, be thinking, “That must mean I’m the dumb one”. You should be nurturing their strengths – by all means! – but in such a way that they don’t feel that being a “geek” or a “football player” is all they can ever be. We talked about the self-fulfilling prophecy before – the way you talk about your children could become who they are. Using a language free of labels works wonders in giving them more options.

Accept that you will be treating them differently…

…which doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If you, say, have a gifted child, treating both of them the same could lead to the gifted one not reaching their full potential. In the end, they might be resentful of both you and their sibling – “If only Mary weren’t so dumb, I could have been at MIT right now!” Instead, nurture their strengths. If you see they’re gifted, enroll them in different programs that could help them develop even further.

As for their sibling, inspire them to try out different things as well, and make sure to be open about everything. Explain that just because John is a straight A student and making apps at 17, doesn’t mean that you love Mary any less. They’re both equally valuable, and the important thing is to have each follow their passion and do whatever makes them happy. In short, give the gifted child what they need, but don’t concentrate all of your love and pride on them only.

Can Sibling Rivalry be Beneficial?

Absolutely! Children’s first conflicts happen between them and their siblings. In the warm, nurturing, safe atmosphere of their own home, they’ll have plenty of chances to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to disagreements with others. If handled well, they’ll learn the values of negotiation and teamwork.

Another important thing conflict will teach them is resilience. If you’re always stepping in to protect the younger one and keep them from any hardships, they’ll be left without the skills necessary to stand up for themselves. They’ll always be expecting others to swoop in and save them. It’s much better if they get to practice this with their brother/sister first, even if it ends in tears from time to time, than for them to be left helpless later on.

Just remember that treating two very different individuals differently is completely normal and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Do your best to be just and to catch yourself in showing signs of favoritism, and there’ll be no reason to worry about sibling rivalry too much.

Mother’s Guilt: What It is and How You Can Overcome It

We’ve all felt guilty about one thing or another sometime in our lives. But perhaps the most haunting type of guilt is mother’s guilt. There aren’t many mothers who’ve never felt guilty about their parenting, even if it’s for just a second. But when does it become an issue?

Let’s start by defining the term “mother’s guilt”. It’s the guilt that arises in mothers who feel they aren’t “good enough” parents. There are various reasons they might be thinking this: punishing a child often, not letting them do what the other kids are doing (this can often happen with teenagers), and perhaps the most common one today (that we will be focusing on) – not spending enough time with them. Have you ever ordered a pizza instead of making them the dinner you promised, because you got held up at work? Or have you left them to deal with their homework themselves so you can answer a couple of emails, and lost track of time? If yes, it might have made you feel guilty.

And while not being sure about what you’re doing from time to time is perfectly normal, being caught up in guilt constantly, up to the point it messes with your everyday tasks – that’s a sign of an issue that you should talk about with someone.

But while talking to others about it may be beneficial for you, what will help you make a change and start feeling better long-term are the following:

1. Focus on the Good

There’s a fault in most human brains: we tend to focus on the bad and completely ignore the good. I challenge you to take a pen and paper right now and write down at least three things you think you’re doing well as a mom! It can be something as small as giving everyone a goodbye kiss when you leave for work in the morning, or the fact that you treated your kids to ice cream that one time last week. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t flag everything that’s good as unimportant. You might worry that your kids will hold your flaws against you, but they’re just as likely to cherish the memories you make with them.

2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Social Media Moms

How often have you seen someone’s bad photo on Instagram? Or a bad photo of their kids with the caption “I’m a terrible mom”? Everyone wants to look good on social media, so everyone chooses the best parts of their lives to display to others. Comparing your reality to their highlights makes no sense! Every mom has problems, even if they aren’t up to showing it online.

So the next time you see a mom who looks like they have it all figured out, take a closer look at your friends and cousins. Take a look at your own parents, too! Do any of them have it all under control 100% of the time, feeling perfectly proud of themselves?

And if you need to unfollow those moms or delete your Instagram account to make yourself feel better, go for it. Your mental health and self-esteem should be much more important than being able to look at pretty photos 24/7.

3. Ask for and Accept Help

Venting to friends may be a great way to feel better, but while it helps temporarily, it doesn’t necessarily change what you’re feeling guilty about. But asking for help does. If you’re worried that you’re not helping your child enough with their studies, and you’re afraid they might be falling behind, there’s no shame in letting an online tutor help you out.

Tutoring sessions all happen online, so it won’t be extra hard on you, nor on your child. Nobel tutors will help your child master the subject that’s troubling them, and they won’t even have to leave their room! That means no driving around for you, and no extra tasks on your to-do list. You don’t have to do everything alone. In today’s busy world, you have the choice to either let others help, or to take everything upon yourself until you go crazy from all the stress.

You can also opt for Academic Coaching where Nobel’s coaches focus on the child’s motivation, anxiety, and any other psychological barriers that might be impeding academic success.

4. Talk to Your Kids about It

The most common source of all misunderstandings are assumptions. (link to our article about communication). You might think that your kids are holding your lack of time for them against you, when they might really be proud of you for working so hard. But you’ll never know for sure until you ask them! Ask about their feelings and whether they have some ideas about how you can spend more time together. Make a plan and, just as important, share your feelings, too! They need to have you as an example that sharing feelings is a wonderful thing that can only lead to more good things.

Now, if they tell you they’re mad at you, sad, or disappointed, don’t despair. All feelings are normal, negative ones included. Try to talk to them more about it and see how you can change something. And if you think their negative feelings are something they might have trouble dealing with, our coaches can help – not only them, but you, too.

Try to bear in mind that this conversation will bring many emotional benefits to them as well. If they see their parents asking for help, your kids will be more likely to take care of themselves and ask for help for themselves, which will ultimately make them happier and healthier.

Word to the Wise

Overcoming mother’s guilt is not an easy thing to do, but the first step is always the hardest. The important thing is to let yourself know you have the right to live your own life, and that it doesn’t mean you love your kids any less than you should. You taking good care of yourself while finding alternative ways to help your kids is the best possible solution for the struggles of this modern age.

 

10 Easy Ways to Be Mindful while Doing Everyday Tasks

Being mindful has many benefits, but it sounds complicated and demanding. Also, some people think that practicing mindfulness requires meditation or yoga, for example. But mindfulness doesn’t have to include much time or yoga mats. What if we say there are plenty of easy ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life? And by doing so, you can de-stress and do your best. So, no more excuses – let’s start!

1. Drink more water.

Our bodies dehydrate overnight, so start the day with a glass of water at breakfast. Pay attention to how that gulp is going through your body. Also, try not to think about anything else. To stay energetic, don’t forget to drink lots of water all day. It doesn’t sound hard, does it?

2. Make your bed in the morning.

While making a fresh cup of coffee to start your day, make sure to make your bed. Slow down your breathing as you smooth your sheets and tuck in corners. This way, making bed is not a chore, but a mindful practice. Further, you will feel as if you have already completed a task and started your day productively. Starting the day with a habit will help you develop other useful habits. It has also been shown that, since you spend a large portion of your life in your bedroom, the way it looks can severely affect your mood, so making the bed equals better mood and less stress throughout the day!

3. Enjoy your meal.

Avoid multitasking while eating your lunch – take at least 15 minutes to focus completely on enjoying your meal, allowing it to re-energize you. Also, chew your food slowly. While eating, enjoy the texture and the taste. This is shown to boost your mood and register more satisfaction, which further curbs overeating.

4. Organize things.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at work or home, being in chaos can cause stress and anxiety. Picking things and organizing them is a pretty simple way to reduce that stress. Also, while doing so pay attention to every bit and piece of objects and to each placement of the object. To practice mindfulness while organizing, you are called to turn your attention to what’s happening right now: what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what your senses are telling you.

5. Stretch whenever you can.

Nowadays, we spend most of our time at the desk, working, studying or just surfing the internet. To say that that amount of sitting is bad for our health would be an understatement. Be aware of your body and take a rest from sitting. Get up for at least a few minutes every hour and walk around your room or office, or use that time to stretch. You will see that it not only helps your body but your mind as well!

6. Turn off your devices.

Mobile phone ringing and beeping every now and then can cause anxiety. Also, we usually constantly check emails and social networks on our devices. It distracts us from our primary activities and people around us. Therefore, every once in a while turn off your devices. This way you’ll be more productive and refresh yourself.

7. Pay attention to your breathing.

Are you nervous before some big date? Take three slow and deep breaths from your belly before entering that room. Even if you’re not nervous, stop thinking about other stuff for a few seconds and just pay attention to your breathing. Try to feel how your stomach and chests move, how fast and deep is your breathing…

8. Walk mindfully.

You don’t have to sit and cross your legs to practice mindfulness. As you walk to the store or to work practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing and each step you take. This way you’ll clear your mind of clutter, decrease stress, restore your sense of focus, and increases overall well-being.

9. Pause between actions.

Your to-do list is pretty long, right? Also, there are many things that you haven’t included there. But it is good to pause between your actions. Take a moment and be proud that you’ve done something. Let yourself to rest a bit. And don’t think about other stuff that is waiting to be done.

10. Do your routine activities mindfully.

Everything you do can be a way of practicing mindfulness, especially those activities that are not demanding. Try to pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth before bed, for example. Try to be more aware – activate all of your senses. Maybe you’ll find those activities more interesting than you thought.

Mindfulness can easily be integrated into your daily routine. As we can conclude from above, there are so many tasks that we take for granted, but they are all primed for more mindfulness. However, nothing can be done in one day. Try practicing these tips for a few days and they will become even easier. Try practicing them for a few weeks and they will become habits!

References:

[1] Heaversedge, J., & Halliwell, E. (2012). The mindful manifesto: How doing less and noticing more can help us thrive in a stressed-out world. Hay House, Inc.

Exercises to Help Boost the Dyslexic Mind

Dyslexia is a disability that impairs language learning – spelling, pronunciation, reading, and reading comprehension – despite normal intelligence.

Seeing an otherwise bright kid struggle with something “as simple as a reading task” is likely to take most people aback. The inability to relate to the issues kids with dyslexia face can result in both parents and teachers overlooking the importance of effectively overcoming them.

I tutor middle-schoolers with dyslexia in Language Arts. I found that implementing games as exercises can yield outstanding results. Dissecting the workings of two of my favorites will help you understand core problems and give you the ability to tailor your approach to your child.

Why games?

Throughout my experience, I’ve noticed that kids with dyslexia largely benefit from kinaesthetic ways of learning when it comes to Language Arts. Merely listening or observing isn’t enough to build correlations between letters and sounds. When a multitude of their senses are engaged, words begin to gain meaning.

So, how do games fit into this narrative? First off, games force you to implement a variety of skills (like waiting for your turn, which is connected to executive functions – inhibition) – often without you even noticing. Secondly, although they demand your full attention, they provide fun in return. This means a boost in motivation, making distractions less likely to occur.

The interactive aspect of playing games keeps us from getting bored. We make mistakes, we learn to lose. The feedback we get from other players pushes us to do more. We begin to understand the importance and value of doing our due diligence. Working together, regardless if as a team or as opponents, will form a bond and establish trust between you and your child.

You’ve created an environment where making mistakes is part of the process and help is always around the corner. This is particularly useful when you encounter more complex tasks –  more specifically, school assignments.

Hangman

Hangman is one of my top picks for working with kids who struggle with dyslexia. It incorporates all the crucial benefits of learning through games – focus, patterns, interactivity, and creativity.

In a world of distractions, we struggle with focusing on what truly matters. Facing an abundance of information is intimidating, especially when you’re not yet ready to tackle it. Hangman takes things back to basics. The game focuses on one word alone, meaning all attention is fixed to a single point. It allows the opportunity to build a relationship with words devoid of pressure.

Playing the game, patterns start to appear: the frequency of vowels or how ‘q’ is always followed with by a ‘u’. We begin noticing these patterns outside of play time – in the texts we read or words we spell for the first time. These connections testify that there’s a method to the madness that is spelling. Over time, a database is generated in our heads, enabling us to become skilled at guessing how a word might be spelled – accurately!

Don’t be afraid of not covering enough material. Easing into the idea of spelling takes time, but has a great impact on how we feel about language and language learning. Once we’ve mastered some basic skills, learning becomes quicker – and more efficient. Taking the edge off doesn’t just make the exercise less intimidating, but promises greater results.

Moreover, the game’s interactive aspect allows a varied approach. You can choose to collaborate or compete (you don’t even have to stick to just one or the other!). This way, you begin forming a more dynamic and complex relationship with your child when learning.

Lastly, you can get creative. Incorporate the child’s interests (e.g. basketball) when choosing words or creating your Hangman stick figures. By customizing your Hangman character, the game becomes more fun. With something so basic, possibilities are endless. Give your child the freedom to express themselves.

20 Questions

The concept of this game is very simple: guess the person, place, or thing in 20 questions or less. You probably know this game for its vocabulary-building quality, but what if I told you it can help a child master storytelling?

A good storyteller knows how to engage their audience. They set the scene – providing all the information needed to get their point across. We often don’t realize how much we have to factor in to tell a good story: go into enough detail for the audience to understand, but not overdo it to the point that they’re bored. This is where 20 Questions comes in.

We’ll need to master the game in its original form first. As we play, we’ll start to notice patterns that help us identify the word faster: where we can find this thing, what it’s made out of, in which situation are likely to use it. Certain questions have priority in the more general sense – to set the scene, while details are what helps us pin the word down.

Through this process, we become more aware of the importance of having enough information. Moreover, we begin noticing that adding unnecessary details is just that – unnecessary – it doesn’t do much to contribute to the story, distracting us while we try to identify the word. Now let’s take it to the next level to incorporate the game into storytelling.

Before you begin, help your child map out the events in chronological order. A timeline will make it easier to follow the story. Then guide the child by asking them appropriate questions. I would recommend using wh- questions. Ask WHERE the story took place, details about the scene; WHO was involved, and the background of the characters. Then move on to WHAT actually happened and WHY. Additional questions may be prompted by something they mention or when they get stuck.

With time, you’ll notice the child no longer needs assistance. They have actually memorized the questions themselves and can now determine the necessary information on their own!

Gaming done right!

I hope the examples given inspire you to incorporate games into learning. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with your child in order to make the games even better! Children love to come up with their own rules – and there is a lot to gain from that. Since the way we learn isn’t universal, small tweaks can make a huge difference in how we interpret and memorize information. Moreover, the experience you gain from this will form a strong bond between you, preparing you for future endeavours.

As Vince Gowmon once said:

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Author: Tutor Olivera

Our English Language Tutor, Olivera, who loves to incorporate games when she works with her students, wrote this article. If you need someone who will make learning fun, teach your child how to write the best essays, or boost their dyslexic mind, just book a FREE Video Call with the Nobel Tutor Olivera to find out if she’s a good fit for your kid.

The Pygmalion effect – How Teachers’ Expectations Affect Students’ Achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.

References:

[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

What Is Executive Function?

Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps us manage, plan, and organize our activities in order to achieve a certain goal [1]. Extensive neuropsychological research places it in the prefrontal cortex and even though it forms in early childhood, it continues to develop and change throughout our lifetime. It plays an essential part in our everyday dealings and we rely on it when faced with situations that require us to make decisions and see them through. If we were to compare our brains to a complex organization, executive function would be the equivalent of a CEO. Essentially, executive function is what allows us to get things done, and it’s important to understand how it works so that we can really appreciate its value and potentially work on improving it.

Areas of Executive Function and Executive-Functioning Skills

Executive function is a complex construct consisting of three key components or areas, which are: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and impulse control. All of these components are interconnected and together allow us to do things like process information, switch from task to task, and hold back impulsive behavior.

Working memory represents the more advanced understanding of our short-term memory, the one we use to store information happening in the present and hold onto it for a brief period of time in order to deal with a task at hand. So, for example, if you’re having a conversation with someone, working memory is allowing you to follow what they’re saying and respond or engage them by asking relevant questions.

Cognitive flexibility refers to our ability to adapt our mental strategies to new conditions. When faced with a task we’ve never encountered in the past, cognitive flexibility allows us to rapidly use our past experience, knowledge, and skills to overcome that particular challenge.

Impulse control is referred to as self-control in layman’s terms. It is our capability to subdue impulsive behavior and refrain from acting abruptly to a specific stimulus. For instance, if you’re feeling frustrated, impulse control is what holds you back from lashing out at others, keeps you calm, and allows you to rationally assess the situation.

These key areas enable us to perform complex mental tasks such as:

Paying attention – being able to focus and process information for an extended period of time.
Planning and organizing – setting up the proper conditions and taking the right steps in the process of decision-making and overcoming challenges.
Time assessment and time management – being able to predict the time it would take to complete a certain task and adjusting your activities in order to complete the most tasks in the shortest amount of time.
Initiating and completing tasks – actually getting started with an activity that will help you complete a task and see it through.
Prioritizing – being able to assess the importance of tasks and to rank them accordingly.

The combined effort of the key areas is needed in order to complete these tasks, but not all of them are always being activated. For instance, paying attention depends on the use of working memory and impulse control, while planning and organizing require all three. Being able to perform these activities successfully is referred to as having executive-functioning skills.

Executive function can be trained and improved over time, which means that understanding how it works can be a huge benefit in terms of both academic and real-life success.

Hot and Cool Executive Functions: An Emotional Context

When studying human behavior, it’s always a good rule of thumb to have the question of context in mind. Some phenomena may be more or less consistent but they are usually connected to a network of factors and can have different interpretations depending on the situation. Such is the case with executive function, which is contextually related to and affected by an emotional factor. That is why we differentiate between hot and cool executive functions [2].

Hot executive functions are used when emotions are running high. In order for them to be activated, a certain amount of tension between instant and long-term gratification needs to exist. On the other hand, cool executive functions are activated when there is no emotional arousal whatsoever.

The most important thing that determines whether we’re going to use hot or cool executive functions is the way in which we perceive the challenge in front of us. It’s a matter of individual differences, meaning there are specific situations out there that would invoke the use of hot executive functions in some, while others will be able to remain cool.

How to Spot an Executive-Function Deficit

The most representative behaviors that will help you identify executive functioning issues are:

Poor planning and organization – working in messy conditions without having the “bigger picture” in mind.
Impulsive behavior – lacking impulse control and overreacting.
Struggling with time management – always being late for scheduled appointments and missing deadlines.
Lack of and/or inability to focus – attention tends to drift in the middle of an important activity.
Working-memory difficulties – having difficulty retaining information for short periods of time.
Procrastination – avoiding or struggling to initiate task resolution.
Prioritization issues – not being able to determine the importance of certain tasks.
Rigid thinking patterns – showing frustration when asked to think about a certain issue in a different way.

If you are a parent of a child who is struggling in a similar way and exhibiting one or more symptoms, then they might have an executive-functioning issue. We have prepared an online executive-functioning course for parents, which explores many different aspects of the concept, providing you with:

Real-life examples of executive-functioning skills and issues!
Direct advice on how to improve executive functioning!
Access to a whole community of parents just like you!
And tons more information about executive function!

Take a look at this introductory video with our Coach Ana, which briefly sums up what the course is all about.

Executive Function and Psychological Disorders: Is Executive-Function Disorder a Thing?

In psychology, a sizable amount of data regarding specific mental processes and brain functions comes from examining the unfortunate cases of people exhibiting certain issues or complete lack thereof. Disorders in the domain of executive functioning are directly related to and reflect on the areas and skills we’ve discussed in the previous segment. That being said, executive function disorder as such is not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association officially. However, studies imply that executive-functioning challenges are closely connected to other cognitive disorders, such as ADHD and dyslexia.

ADHD and Executive Function

People suffering from ADHD are in fact struggling with scattered attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity which leads to different social difficulties. You’re probably already able to sense the connection between these symptoms and what we previously defined as an executive-function deficit [3]. The fact of the matter is these two issues share the same neurophysiological background. Even though executive function can’t explain the cause of ADHD, it’s obvious that it is a component of how the disorder actually plays out. That is why children with ADHD can benefit from executive-function exercises and why consulting an executive function Coach is highly recommended.

Dyslexia and Executive Function

Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability characterized by difficulties with word recognition, spelling, and decoding abilities [4]. Studies show that children with dyslexia also experience challenges in areas related to executive function, like verbal and visual short-term processing and attention. By strategically improving these domains of executive function, children with dyslexia can learn how to compensate for and overcome the limiting nature of their disability. Once again, consulting an executive-function Coach can help you devise a plan to systematically work on tackling this issue.

Academic and Real-Life Examples of Executive-Function Deficits and Issues

It’s very important for us to understand that executive-functioning issues are not only found in a school setting, but also interfere with everyday activities such as doing chores, having productive conversations, and even affect the simple act of playing. On that note, we will describe two scenarios – academic and real life – connected to executive-functioning issues.

Mary is four and she has recently started preschool. A couple of days ago, she threw a tantrum when another child from the class didn’t want to share a stuffed toy elephant. At the end of each day, she’s almost always the last one ready, usually because she left her things all over the classroom and then forgot where they were. Her teacher noticed that often during group activities and interaction, she responds by saying things completely unrelated to the topic or task.

Josh is 16, and his parents feel that something is just not right. He often wanders from room to room, starts doing one thing and quickly switches to another. His chores are a similar story. He often procrastinates and puts things off, like cleaning the garage or folding his laundry, and even when he does manage to start doing them, he either quits soon after or doesn’t do a very good job. He’s recently asked for his allowance to be increased but left the discussion abruptly, showing signs of frustration when asked to back up his request with arguments.

Remember that taking a holistic approach is very important when determining whether or not someone has issues with executive function. Both of these examples contain descriptions of behaviors representative of executive-functioning issues, but they are exclusively exploring situations related to a specific setting. Only by looking at the whole picture are we able to claim that someone is actually suffering from an executive-function deficit and that other factors are not at play, such as lack of motivation.

If you think your child is struggling in similar ways, our Coaches are highly experienced with resolving specific executive-functioning issues and helping children overcome the deficits that accompany them.

Why Is Understanding Executive Function so Important?

Executive function refers to a set of mental processes that help us handle most of our everyday activities. Many aspects of concepts like creativity, problem-solving, and good decision-making rely on these processes. The good news is that we can help our kids develop and improve their executive function. The really good news is that we can use their personal strengths to compensate for those skills they find hard to improve. We’re not talking about complex programs that are costly and time-consuming, but about everyday activities that facilitate growth and learning.

It is evident that children would benefit from a structured and systematic practice of executive-functioning skills. That is exactly why it’s important for every parent to be familiar with the concept, so that they can help their children directly by encouraging activities which nurture executive function. Furthermore, in the bigger picture of educating children in general, it’s crucial that teachers are also well acquainted with executive function, so they can adapt their curriculum to encourage its development.

Author: Predrag Mladenovic

References:

Zelazo, P. D., & Cunningham, W. (2005). What is executive function? AboutkidsHealth. Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. (Part one of a multi-part series). Recuperado el, 2.
Goldstein, S., & Naglieri, J. A. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of executive functioning. Springer Science & Business Media.
Meltzer, L. (Ed.). (2018). Executive function in education: From theory to practice. Guilford Publications.

Did you enjoy how we answered the question of ‘what is executive function?’
Do you think your child could benefit from improving executive function?
Is there anything you would like to know about more?

Please leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments below.
We’re eager to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Going Back to School: How to Overcome Procrastination

Ah, January… The month of getting back to reality. The holidays are over and everyone’s back to their regular routine of working and going to school. But now that the kids are used to sleeping in and getting some well deserved rest, procrastination may be an issue when it comes to getting up early for school and studying. So how can you help them find their motivation and get back to hustling? We have some ideas for you!

Procrastination: Laziness or Something Else?

The first question we should answer is: what is procrastination? For children who tend to procrastinate, it’s an ongoing habit that doesn’t depend on the time of year, a.k.a. chronic procrastination. However, it can become more apparent and troubling if they’ve just returned from vacation and are suddenly expected to be doing a million school assignments at once. Why is that? Are they just lazy?

Well, if you came across this article when you were searching for topics like “how to overcome laziness”, we have some (good) news: procrastination usually doesn’t stem from children being lazy. Although the definition of procrastination is “avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished” [1], that avoidance is usually the result of fear of failure. You can’t fail at something you never attempt in the first place, right? And the chance of failing is much greater if you’ve been on break for days or even weeks and are now suddenly required to be finishing task after task.

Another cause of procrastination may be perfectionism. People who want to do things perfectly never feel quite ready to start doing them – they feel they could always be a bit more prepared. Combine that with not studying for a while and voilà – you’ve got yourself a perfectionist who’s afraid of failure and thus – procrastinating.

It All Comes Down to Habits

This whole thing may sound scary, but there’s good news, too. It’s all about reversing bad habits. Although fear of failure and perfectionism are not habits per se – they’re emotional struggles – they’re difficult for children to overcome because they’re being reinforced. Every time the child feels stressed out, they choose to close up their books and whisper those magic words, “I’ll do it later – I have enough time”. This brings instant relief, which makes it easier for them to do the same thing over and over, just to calm their fear and anxiety. Though it might work for a while, time soon starts running out. So what can they do instead – and how can you help them?

They can choose to stay in that stressful situation, or challenge themselves, and become stronger. It’s like exercise, really – you try to do one push-up for the first time, and it’s so difficult! You keep going, and eventually you can do two, three, five, until the moment you find everything less than twenty to be a piece of cake.

But children shouldn’t be forced into it – instead, they need to develop certain skills and understanding of their issues before being able to confidently work on them. What you as a parent can do here is learn what makes your child fall behind at times and work on that with them.


If you want to know more about how to help your child deal with different issues and help them become more independent, check out our upcoming Online Classes for Parents.

These classes are perfect for you if you want to:

  • Improve Your Child’s Executive Function
  • Help Them Build Great Homework Habits
  • Help Them Manage Their Screen Time

Get a FREE Access to the Syllabus of Online Class “Improve Your Child’s Executive Function”:


What Are Some Other Reasons for Falling Behind?

Parents often come to us, especially at this time of year, with: “I don’t feel my child is keeping up with their classmates. What can I do to help?”

So, what happened? Your child did their best to keep up before the holidays, but now that they’ve gotten some rest, it’s become harder for them to get back into the study-hard mode. What can you do to help them become better at handling school assignments? How can you aid their productivity?

One of the ways you can help them is by providing them with motivation. A more comprehensive list of ways to do that can be found in one of our previous articles, but it all comes down to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the one that lies inward. When the child is self-motivated, results tend to be better and the child is happier to tackle the necessary work. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, means you’re providing rewards for them – the motivation lies outside of them. This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s a good way to start developing intrinsic motivation – but intrinsic motivation should be the main goal.

What Can I Do?

For example, you can start motivating them by offering to make their favorite meal if they study for two hours every day that week. Make sure to praise the effort they’re putting into studying, rather than the result. For one thing, the effort will usually lead to good results; and it will all happen without the stress they’re feeling if they need to strive for the result. The “you must get an A” might cause test anxiety and further exacerbate their perfectionistic issues, which will have precisely the opposite effect from the desired one.

Once they start seeing their efforts rewarded, they’re in a much better position to begin developing intrinsic motivation. In fact, one of the best ways to ease your child’s transition to school during the post-holiday period is to make studying creative and fun – and making their favorite meal together once they’ve studied enough is a good start [2].

One more thing to pay attention to is the amount of time they spend using technology. They may have had a lot of time to browse through social media or YouTube while on vacation, but that amount should be lower now that they’re back at school [3].


If any of this sounds familiar to you, schedule a free consultation with one of our Coaches and talk to them – together with your child – about their struggles and steps for overcoming them.


In Conclusion…

Procrastination is a normal occurrence after the holidays. Just remember how difficult it is for you during those first few working days in January. Now, imagine if you had to go home and do homework and study on top of that! A lot of children tend to also be fearful of any sort of failure, or even be perfectionists when it comes to school. All of that can lead to avoiding school tasks, which can often be mistaken for laziness.

The best thing you can do is to motivate them by rewarding their efforts. This will teach them both that effort really matters, and that they don’t need to be perfect, as long as they keep trying. Eventually, they may develop their own inner motivation for studying – and you’ll be happy to see that it’s bringing in good results, without your needing to reward them for it anymore.

References:

  1. https://nobelcoaching.com/procrastination-teens-can-help/
  2. https://www.verywellfamily.com/solutions-for-back-to-school-problems-4081699
  3. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-common-back-to-school-strugglesand-how-to-deal_b_5b896a6ae4b0f023e4a60479

The Common Unwanted Holiday Gift – the Blues

Holidays are usually associated with family get-togethers, excitement, and joy, especially nowadays, when modern society insists on perpetual cheerfulness. At the end of the year, we tend to look back on and evaluate the months behind us. But memory can be biased and we tend to predominantly remember the things we’ve done wrong. In order to defend ourselves from our own judgmental mind, we decide to make new decisions. Turn the page. Go big next year.

We decide to quit smoking. Become a better parent. Find a job. Get a raise. Exercise.
Suddenly there’s a rush of positive emotions. We’re excited, motivated, and determined.

Then comes the Christmas and New Year celebrations when we eat too much, drink too much, over-socialize, spend lots of money, lose a lot of energy, and gain a few pounds.

Then January ends, and we haven’t done anything. It might even seem like we’ve fallen behind. We become irritated by the simplest tasks, sad, tired, and lonely. We might feel like a failure as we struggle on, trying to hide how exhausted and close to tears we are inside.

Woman lying on bed face down.

Holiday Loneliness

Since the human brain is designed to work based on associations, we might even begin to feel lonely, indifferent, and guilty with the first Christmas decorations. In order to save ourselves from disappointment, we quit even before we get started. Our Christmas gift to ourselves becomes melancholy, sadness, and a major case of the blues.

With this, the holidays become fertile territory for conflicts, break-ups, and big changes in our life circumstances. And it all arises from our own feelings of pressure, responsibility, and the high expectations we impose on ourselves.

The solution is not to blame the economy, country, partner, kids, boss, neighbors or Santa, or sit around feeling bad about who we are. We can’t abandon our lives. There are too many people depending on us. We need to take responsibility and examine the expectations we impose on ourselves. Ask these questions:

How (non)realistic are our expectations?
Why do we quit so early on?
Why is it so difficult to tolerate the frustration we feel?

We must remind ourselves that these feelings touch everyone. Sadness is a basic reality for all of us. We’re often harder on ourselves then we would be on a friend. So for starters, we should at least allow ourselves the same degree of forgiveness we wouldn’t hesitate to grant to an acquaintance.

Circumstances we thought we could never get over gradually become bearable. We adjust our thinking and grow accustomed to our new reality. But most importantly, we should always remember that asking for help is courageous, never shameful.

To get your new year started on a positive step, book a free consultation call with one of our Coaches.

Author: Coach Daria P. 

7 Easy Steps to Stress-Free Holidays

Despite wanting to spend time with family during the holidays, getting together can be difficult to arrange. Everyone has different schedules. Work, school, friends, and many other things seem to get in the way. However, winter break is a great opportunity for togetherness and bonding with family.

Winter break

It’s the end of December and what does that mean? Winter break is finally here!
Some people will say this is the most wonderful time of the year. Winter brings not only snow, but also holiday magic, the joy of giving, and the happiness of sharing these moments with your family and friends. Also, schools are closed, and the kids are at home. Spending time with your child is a little bit easier now, right?  But winter break lasts (only) a few days – from Christmas Eve until January. So we want you to get the most out of it!

Winter holidays

How did you spend Christmas this year? We hope you enjoyed it and made some unforgettable memories. However, New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. If you’re out of ideas on how to celebrate it, read our articles Creative Ideas for How to Spend Holidays With Your Family part 1 and part 2.

Holidays bring stress, too!

How did you feel days (or weeks) before Christmas? Let’s admit it – we all get stressed out making plans for the holidays. We want everything to be perfect – which can mean that although holidays are usually joyful, they also bring a lot of tension. Family obligations and lots of have-to-dos can be overwhelming, so feeling out of control is not unusual.

A sad woman is looking outside through the blinds.If you’ve ever tried to organize dinner for New Year’s Eve, for example, you know it’s not easy! Let’s mention a few things that you’d do:

  • Prepare a favorite dish using your grandma’s recipe
  • Make cookies
  • Choose, buy, and wrap the-best-gift-ever for everyone

And, still, there’s so much more to do! Does this sound familiar?

We should keep in mind that nothing can be perfect. The good thing about that is – it doesn’t have to be! Also, do you really have to do all those things the way you’ve planned ? You don’t!  The key to memorable holidays is simply being together.

New Year’s Eve is coming soon, so don’t make the same mistake again. Here’s a few tips on handling that holiday stress.

Togetherness is the key

Dealing with all this pressure is pretty hard. So we’ve listed seven ideas that are easy to implement and can help you spend memorable and, more importantly, stress-free holidays with your family.

  1. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

    Everything’s easier if you do it together! Those things you “have to do” transform into family activities. Making cookies with your children is sure a big mess, but also so much fun! Probably those cookies won’t be the best you’ve ever eaten, but that’s okay because you made them together!

  2. Don’t worry about how things should be.

    The cookies we mentioned are a great example. Also, keep in mind that most families have less than perfect holidays – the meal didn’t turn out well, the cookies aren’t that pretty, family tension is high, etc. And if you have negative feelings, don’t deny them – there’s nothing unusual or wrong about feeling down at holiday time. Admitting and talking about them will surely help. Just try it.

  3. No devices – really listen to people.

    In today’s digitally-fueled world, it’s pretty hard not to answer calls, reply to text messages, or check what’s new on social media. Screen time often eats into family time. Still, we can’t not check our devices from time to time. How about making a rule that no devices are allowed during mealtime, for example?

  4. Be generous.

    Here’s one more family activity – make gifts for people who are homeless or feeling lonely. If you have toy experts in your house (younger kids) you can let them pick some toys and donate them to Toys for Tots. This will teach your children about sharing and brighten someone’s holidays.

  5. Show gratitude.

    Let everyone know how much you’ve appreciated their gift. Thank people who do things for you but whom you may have taken for granted. Show your family members how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Also, call a relative who lives far away and wish them happy holidays.

  6. Time is not money.

    Actually, it’s more important than money. The time we have to care for one another, especially for our children, is more precious than anything else in the world. This quote says it all:

    If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

    – Abigail Van Buren

  7. Winter break is a break.

    Notice that you’re being hard on yourself. Even though you want to please your children and make everything the way they love, don’t forget about yourself. Treat everyone with kindness, including you! Take time out. Let yourself to sleep more, watch your favorite movie again, and generally do the things you love.

We at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring wish you Happy Holidays! Health, happiness, and lots of love this Season and success in the New Year!

Resources:

[1] Daly, K. J. (2001). Deconstructing Family Time: From Ideology to Lived Experience. Journal of  Marriage and Family, 63(2), 283-294. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00283.x

[2] Folbre, N. (2006). Family time: The social organization of care. London: Routledge.

[3] Hofferth, S. L., & Sandberg, J. F. (2001). How American Children Spend Their Time. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 295-308. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00295.x

Education and Technology: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

We call our times the Information Age or the Digital Age. Both describe the world where we live today. Truly, our lives have never been more dependent on information. And, we have never found ourselves in a world where information has been so easy to access.

 

Certainly, living in the Information Age has advantages, such as easier communications, access to knowledge, and flexibility. There are disadvantages too: feelings of isolation and an over-dependence on technology and information. With our world changing more with every new day, the skills we need to be satisfied with our lives also change, and our education and learning systems evolve too. Naturally, technology has found its way into our classrooms and our discussions about studying and learning. In this article, we will discuss these technologies we find in our new age, and how to use them effectively in supporting our academic pursuits.

Heaven! I’m in technological heaven!

Ready-to-use knowledge

Students often complain that what they are learning in school is irrelevant or not applicable to our modern world. But, what’s more relevant to today’s world than technology and how to use it? To live, and succeed, in the 21st century, we not only need to know how to use technology, we need to know how to use it well. Today’s children need digital literacy, teamwork and effective communication in order to succeed in their future jobs – skills that are closely related to technology, especially in today’s world where most communication happens online and teams are becoming increasingly virtual, with people who have never met in person. If children were to learn the skills needed to succeed in this modern world, they would not only stop criticizing the system for not providing them with necessary and applicable knowledge, they would also be better prepared to live in a world that’s constantly changing. This world will continue to expect even more from the younger generations, and these expectations will surely include technology and communication skills that will continue growing ever more complex.

Technology as an Avenue to Learning in the 21st Century

Technology is also useful in that it can make students feel more independent and allow them to find the learning strategies that best fit their needs. Students are most motivated to learn when they study topics that they value and when they are engaged in the learning process. Simply put, students value feeling that they have control over their learning.

 

As children of the 21st century, students find technology familiar, and we, as their parents and educators, can use this in getting them more motivated about learning. Using technology, students can easily access more information about a topic, or seek additional explanations for topics they have not yet mastered completely. Since students cannot always get all the information they need in school or, in some cases, the school environment simply does not meet their needs, teaching children to effectively use technology to fulfill their learning needs can make them more independent and show them ways to learn that do not involve strict curriculums or even more time spent in the classroom.

Turning hobbies into productive study tools

Contrary to popular belief, technology isn’t only a means to procrastinate through Netflix, Minecraft, and Facebook. There are apps and strategies out there that can help your student learn, and learn more efficiently.

 

Let’s face it. Our kids spend a lot of time on social media. But, social media isn’t all bad. By putting our children’s interest in social media to use, we can find a great instrument for sharing knowledge among their peers. By using social media for the right purposes, our children will not only contribute to the exchange of knowledge, but they will also develop a sense of competence and confidence. They might enjoy themselves when they can see that their contributions help others.

Beyond social media, students can use technology to find ways to shorten the time they spend on studying, writing flashcards and revising their writing. In our world today, students can use a wide variety of software to organize and help with their academic tasks. And they will be among the first to point out to us that using technology usually works faster than any outdated method we’ve carried over from our 20th-century childhoods.

Learning tools for everyone

We’ve seen that technology can give our students some great tools that they can use in  mastering their studies. And technology can do this for students of all abilities. A lot of progress had been made lately in developing apps in the field of special education. These apps have made the lives of some students much easier and they have helped them feel even more motivated to learn.

These advances are not only great for students with special needs, but also for other children who share the classroom with them. Through technology, they are taught how to respect all people, and are prepared for life in an inclusive society.

And now the bad stuff…

With all this praise for technology, it might be easy to forget about all those times you thought about how easier life would be without electronic devices. You might forget about the last time you criticized someone for using their phone too much. (Un)fortunately, you weren’t all that wrong when you lamented all this technology. Technology, like anything else, has a downside. This too carries over to the learning process.

Let me check my messages just one more time…

Technology can, and does, distract. This is probably the most obvious disadvantage of using technology in education. Because students use technology every day, it can easily become too distracting and even draw their attention away from their studies. This is especially true today because there are so many apps and social media platforms and students often feel required to stay on top of them all. To do this, they are constantly multi-tasking, and this leaves a higher risk that their learning will be negatively impacted. Naturally, social media isn’t the only culprit; games and other online content distract students from their academic pursuits too. Technology, as we noted above, is a source of procrastination.

Why would I study when I can just google the answer when I need it?

While the constant access to enormous amounts of information is a key advantage of technology, it can also be a huge disadvantage because this can leave students intellectually lazy. Students may feel that there is no point in studying something when you can just search for it online, and find your answer in just a second. This is one of the ways technology has made us spoiled and has also diminished our capacities. These days, we simply do not need to remember as much as before. When viewed from this perspective, technology can actually be seen as something that makes us more dependent, even though we made a case earlier that it also helps build students’ independence.

Always staring at the screen

And while technology can bring people together, it is also known for rending them apart, or at least disconnecting them from the real world. This is especially true for our children today, who spend most of their time socializing online even if they have trouble initiating social contact in the real world, and experience anxiety when they actually have to talk to people. While this may appear to have nothing to do with education, it actually has everything to do with education. Socializing is necessary for children’s development in that it helps them find their own place in society.

What to make of it?

After reading these advantages and disadvantages of using technology to help with learning, it is not entirely clear if technology should or shouldn’t be used in education. The answer lies, like always, somewhere in the middle. Some aspects of technology can definitely be useful and make a student more confident and productive, while these same technological aspects can, on the other hand, make that student even more dependent on technology.

In order to use technology properly, moderation is important. Research has shown that excessive usage can lead to problematic behavior. However, it’s important to remember that forbidding students to use technology won’t help them to achieve more. They may even grow resentful as they want to multitask and keep on top of their fast-changing world. A better way to make sure that technology does not become a distraction is, again, making sure that our children are not multitasking excessively. Students should focus on developing metacognitive skills that help them keep focused on their task while they are doing it, and then checking social media later.

So, while we wouldn’t advise you to pretend to live in the 19th century and ignore all things new and digital, we also caution that we shouldn’t get too excited about everything happening online. In a best-case scenario, if our students keep using technology wisely and in moderation, this will surely help them in their studies, in developing new skills, and new knowledge.

 

References:

Basilotta Gómez-Pablos, V., Martín del Pozo, M., & García-Valcárcel Muñoz-Repiso, A. (2017). Project-based learning (PBL) through the incorporation of digital technologies: An evaluation based on the experience of serving teachers. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 501–512. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.056

Birkinshaw.J. (2016, June). Beyond The Information Age. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/06/beyond-information-age

Brown, E. A., Thomas, N. J., & Thomas, L. Y. (2014). Students׳ willingness to use response and engagement technology in the classroom. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 15, 80–85. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhlste.2014.06.002

Crook, C., & Bligh, B. (2016). Technology and the dis-placing of learning in educational futures. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 11, 162–175. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2016.09.001

Domingo, M. G., & Garganté, A. B. (2016). Exploring the use of educational technology in primary education: Teachers’ perception of mobile technology learning impacts and applications’ use in the classroom. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 21–28. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.023

Firmin, M. W., & Genesi, D. J. (2013). History and Implementation of Classroom Technology. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 93, 1603–1617. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.089

Junco, R. (2012). Too much face and not enough books: The relationship between multiple indices of Facebook use and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(1), 187–198. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.08.026

Rosen, L. D., Mark Carrier, L., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 948–958. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.12.001