How to Help Your Kids Cope with Peer Pressure

“Peer pressure is pressure you put on yourself to fit in.” – Jeff Moore

What Is Peer Pressure?

Any type of direct influence that a peer group makes on a person is considered peer pressure. This influence can be established both verbally and through nonverbal communication. It can also be achieved through direct social interaction or digitally through social media, for example. The results of this influence are changes in behavior, values, and/or attitudes a person might make in order to conform and satisfy the expectations of their peers.

We’re all susceptible to peer pressure but children are particularly vulnerable to it. So it makes sense that this is a particularly burning issue for parents. Perhaps it might help if we explored this phenomenon from a little broader perspective.

Our Coaches work with students to help them develop self-confidence, resilience, communication skills, and coping strategies that will allow them to resist peer pressure. You can click here to schedule a free consultation!

Is It Always a Bad Thing?

We’re used to hearing about peer pressure in a negative sense because any kind of pressure is inherently negative. Still, peer influence can be positive in cases where it leads to improvements in behavior or reinforces good attitudes and values. Peers can affect each other positively in two ways – through encouraging or rewarding good forms of behavior:

Example 01
“Let’s organize a study group so we’re better prepared for the math quiz!”

Or by discouraging or punishing bad ones.

Example 02
“Pick up your candy wrapper! You shouldn’t litter, it’s bad for the environment.”

Peer pressure or influence can also be much more complex and can sometimes produce both positive and negative effects. Let’s say for instance your child wants to take up soccer because a couple of their friends are already on the team. Knowing about all the benefits that sports have for children and their development, you decide to support their decision. But youth athletes face a whole spectrum of unique challenges. So even though joining the school soccer team brings some positives, there’s also a chance it might have negative effects on other things. Such as if they start falling behind on their homework or feel more stressed due to their schedule filling up.

Bottom line is that peer influence is a normal aspect of social dynamics and it’s not inherently good or bad. Now that we have a better idea of what we should be looking out for, let’s consider what we can do to help kids become more resilient to negative forms of peer pressure.

What Makes Children Particularly Vulnerable to Peer Pressure?

As a parent, you are trying to instill a set of values in your child. You teach them good manners and try to help them develop useful habits. Essentially, what you’re really helping them build and internalize is a moral code – a sense of what they should or shouldn’t do. However, parents are not sole-contributors to a child’s upbringing. Turns out their friends and peers get a say as well!

Children, much like adults, want to fit in and be approved of by their peers. They’re scared of being rejected, isolated, and made fun of. What they don’t have are the necessary skills to cope, persevere, and not give in to pressure. This is where you come in.

Four Ways to Help Your Kids Cope with Peer Pressure

Now that we’ve narrowed down what we’re trying to do, let’s explore some of the best practices towards reaching our goal. These are the top four ways to help children become more resilient to peer pressure.

1. Talk to them About Peer Pressure

Teaching them about the concept of peer pressure should help them recognize it and make it easier for them to reject. You can use examples from your own life and not just from your childhood. Letting them know about your adult peer-pressure challenges will give them a new perspective. It will show them it’s not just a “kid” thing and it’s something that you can both relate to.

There’s a good chance your children understand the dynamics even though they don’t know about the concept. For most, conforming to peer pressure leaves you feeling powerless – that there wasn’t anything you could have done. That’s why role-playing can be an effective teaching tool, where you can allow them to practice different ways of taking a stand.

2. Help them Build Confidence

Saying “no” to people and risking disappointing or alienating them is not easy. It takes courage, and that’s usually drawn from being confident and believing in yourself. By helping your children develop self-confidence, you’re providing them with the tools to stand up for what they believe in and resist peer pressure.

You can boost your child’s confidence by using positive reinforcement, but there’s more to that than simply praising them all the time. In fact, if your praise is inappropriate or dishonest, it can actually hurt their self-esteem.

In conclusion, positive reinforcement is important but should come from multiple sources. That’s why you should encourage your children to make decisions and do things by themselves. The goal is for them to learn to understand they can actively affect the world and the people around them. Surrendering to peer pressure is purely reactive.

Peer pressure quote by Bruce Lee

3. Encourage them to Broaden their Network of Friends

The effects of peer pressure are stronger the more you think you have to lose. So let’s say that your child’s social network consists of friends from one single group. Maybe they’re all from the same class or they all learn karate at the same dojo. The amount of peer pressure the child will feel will be much greater because if they’re rejected, a lot is at stake. They’re actually risking having no friends at all.

That’s why you should always keep an open mind if your child wants to try out different things. Get behind their desire to take up dancing, or join the drama club, or even learn a new language! Having friends from different areas of life will make it easier for them to stand their ground.

4. Offer to Be their Lifeline

A lot of the time, children succumb to peer pressure because they don’t feel there’s anything else they can do. Let your child know that they can always count on you if they need a way out. If they’re ever in a situation where they just want to pick up and leave, they should be fully aware that you’ll be there to come and get them. You can also pre-agree on an excuse in case your child is worried about saving face.

Additional Tips on How to Approach the Topic

As you can see, there are lots of things that you can do as a parent. However, in order to really be successful, you need to have the right approach.

Acknowledge and reference your own worries, thoughts, and emotions. Don’t just hide behind such classic lines as, “If Jimmy jumped off a bridge, would you?” Children usually find parenting cliches particularly annoying and even insulting. You don’t want to alienate your kids when you’re actually trying to teach them something.

It’s also safe to say that you should balance your efforts and pick your battles. You shouldn’t be pressing them on everything because there’s only so much they can tolerate. And if you keep focusing on the little things, you’ll be diminishing the significance of the really important ones.

Lastly, try to keep an open mind. Don’t let anxiety cause you to overreact and refrain from making accusations or assumptions drawn from fear. Being able to put yourself in their shoes will give you a better chance of saying things that actually resonate with them. They need to really feel that it’s coming from a good place.

It’s not going to be easy, but you have to try. These types of conversations can be a solid foundation for your future relationship and it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Gratitude Through the Ages: A Thanksgiving Story

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent to all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Can you remember a moment in your life when you felt really bad because you forgot to say thank you to someone? Or do you remember being really angry with someone because they didn’t seem to show any appreciation for your kind gesture or lending a helping hand?

The negative emotions that arise as a result of both of these situations are not always necessarily intense, but the fact that they are there indicates how much we actually value expressing and receiving gratitude.

“What Do We Say?”

Gratitude is a fundamental aspect of human relationships, something that we inherited. Studies of animals that speak of reciprocal altruism, along with neurological and developmental studies of humans, suggest that gratitude is an inherent characteristic of our human experience.

It’s also moderated by society and we have very clear means of passing it on from generation to generation. It is usually instilled very early, primarily through our parents. You can probably remember a time from your childhood when you were firmly guided to say “thank you” when you received a gift or any other form of generosity. You can also probably recall how upset your parents would get if you forgot to say it.

And it’s not just about having good manners. Research suggests that positive reactions to receiving a benefit are not simple expressions of momentary happiness. Rather, they’re a means to spark the desire to give back to others, the community, and the world. Data from this research also shows that gratitude and social integration go hand in hand. Gratitude helps us fit in and build strong relationships.

Expressing gratitude is just one of the techniques you can use to improve mental health and well-being.
If you would like to learn more, click here to schedule a free talk with one of our coaches!

Aside from conveying the value of being grateful through education and social interaction, we also rely on yearly group activities based on gratitude which strengthen its place in human culture.

Using Customs to Preserve a Culture of Gratitude

For centuries, humans have engaged in festivals based on expressing gratitude. They are popular all over the world and in different cultures, these customs take on different forms. In Germany, they celebrate Erntedankfest. The people of Japan celebrate Kinro Kansha no Hi or the Labor Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving is a monumental part of American culture. It’s a time when we do our best to bring out the good in ourselves and others. There’s a reason why Thanksgiving has remained such an important event in our society. Most likely, it’s because it resonates with something very deep and meaningful to all of us. The message goes far beyond its pilgrim origins and it help us remember the importance of appreciating what we have.

Gratitude quote by Dalai Lama

A Modern Day Thanksgiving: Taking the Good with the Bad

Today’s Thanksgiving is a rich blend of various traditions centered around a very simple idea – sharing a delicious feast with friends and family combined with the ritual of taking turns in talking about what we’re grateful for. And sometimes, that simple practice is all it takes to bring out the best in us. It’s not the parade, it’s not the football, it’s not the pardoning of the turkey. They’re all good fun but it’s the expression of gratitude that can give you that honest, warm and fuzzy feeling.

The spirit of Thanksgiving is a wonderful thing but getting into it isn’t easy for everyone. Some consider that planning a big dinner is too stressful, while others simply aren’t huge fans of family gatherings. Lots of us have a pretty hard time during the holidays and are dealing with issues like loneliness, anxiety, depression… It’s not easy to feel thankful or give thanks when you’re feeling down.

In the end, it might be just too much to ask from a holiday. This celebration of gratitude comes only once a year, but all the stuff that makes it hard to embrace the holiday spirit can happen any day of the year.

A Thanksgiving Gratitude Experiment from Nobel

This year, why not experiment with being grateful throughout the day? Way before you start stressing out on whether or not you have enough seating in the house or whether everyone will be able to make it. Hours before you start doubting your cranberry sauce or worry if you’re going to end up stuck in traffic. Before and in between these challenges, make time to actively show appreciation for the little things.

Being grateful takes effort. If you’re lacking inspiration just think about the folks who are working on Thanksgiving, helping everyone else enjoy their holiday to the fullest. Hey, wait a minute! You might be one of those people! If you are – please know that you’re awesome!

And think about all the people who might have contributed to your Thanksgiving dinner without expecting anything in return. People you’ve never met. Think about the sweet old lady from Wisconsin who was kind enough to share her family recipe with the world and helped you knock this year’s stuffing out of the park!

Thanksgiving is a reminder to take a step back and shift our attention to the things that mean the most to us. If we get caught up by small, irrelevant issues that distract us from the bigger picture it makes it no different than any other day of the year. Instead, we invite you to do the exact opposite and take a piece of that Thanksgiving Day spirit into the next day… And the day after that one… And the one after that…

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Happy Thanksgiving from the Nobel Family!

6 Steps to Getting Rid of Fall Blues (+Examples!)

You’ve probably already heard of the term Fall Blues – those feelings of sadness, tiredness, lack of energy, and the inability to enjoy the things we used to with the same passion, are common companions of short days and cold nights.

The reason for this is simple: the reduced amount of sunlight causes our serotonin levels to drop. And if you’re wondering why that matters so much, you should know that serotonin is commonly referred to as the happiness hormone.

It’s no surprise that we feel better when we have ample sunlight, though – this is simply the more scientific way to explain it. But the good news is, as always, that there’s help for these seasonal blues!

Here’s some tips to make you feel better when the days are dark and gloomy.

 

Tip #1: Bring Light Into Your Life!

And we don’t just mean that figuratively! Even artificial light can do wonders for Fall Blues. Get the closest thing to natural light that you can – we recommend putting those sunlight-imitating light bulbs in every single room in your home and leave them turned on as long as possible during the day. This will help raise your serotonin levels, and that’s especially important in the mornings.

So if  you wake up before daylight for work, school, or anything else, turn on the light as soon as you open your eyes!

 

Image result for blinding light

That’s maybe a bit much.

 

Tip #2: Fill Up Your Calendar

Image result for calendar gif

Not like that!

When we’re feeling down, going out and hanging out with people, or doing anything that requires even the smallest amount of energy can be a real struggle. That’s why planning different activities in advance can help – it gives you a sense of responsibility towards other people, and even yourself.

Just don’t go overboard! Planning a gazillion things is neither doable nor helpful – you’re bound to end up feeling exhausted and skipping them. Start small and build up as you start feeling more energetic. Whether it’s dinner with friends, hitting the gym, or simply watching a movie by yourself, you should plan it all out to make sure your free time is spent somewhat actively.

 

Tip #3: Eat Well

You’d be surprised how much energy a balanced diet can give you. The first important thing is – never skip breakfast! If you do, you’ll be low on energy and start your day off the wrong way. With that being said, adding some sort of fruit for breakfast is a must – it has fructose, which is a healthy sugar, and it’s great for boosting your energy levels early in the morning!

There’s another neat trick – certain foods help increase your serotonin levels due to their natural components. Just make sure to vary your diet instead of switching to, say, cheese alone (yum)!

Related image

We know it’s tempting.

Tip #4: Exercise Daily!

You’ve probably heard a bunch of times how exercise helps boost your energy and feelings of well-being, but that’s easier said than done, right? The last thing you feel like doing when you’re down is those burning squats!

So if you feel you won’t be able to motivate yourself for this, include a friend. Arrange with them to go jogging three times a week, visit the gym, or even do yoga together! That way, much like our tip about filling up your calendar, you’ll be feeling a sense of responsibility towards it. Plus, your friend is bound to drag you out of the house even if you’re not feeling like a jogger on some days!

Tip #5: Become a Scandinavian!

Okay, we don’t mean that literally… Rather, adopt their attitude when it comes to dark days. Most places in Northern Europe only get four hours of sunlight a day when autumn/winter approach, so they’ve had to learn to deal with it (otherwise they would have probably gone mad!).

 

Image result for stefon gif gone crazy

 

In Denmark and Norway, for example, they have something called hygge – simply said, it’s a mood of coziness. Although fall and winter may not be the best time in the world to go sunbathing, these seasons come with other great qualities that we tend to overlook. For example, you can’t exactly slip into thick, soft, comfortable, warm sweaters in the middle of summer! Nor can you curl up in front of the fireplace with a book and some hot chocolate (if you can, we applaud you – and urge you to check your body temperature!).

The point is, if you keep on thinking of this time and weather as just something to be endured, you won’t have any chance of enjoying it. But if you look at it as a time of year with its own unique possibilities, we promise you’ll find a lot of hygge in it!

Tip #6: Don’t Idealize #Holidays!

You know how it goes. It’s not even October yet, and they start popping up – the #FallVibes instagram posts. You’re suddenly being bombarded with pumpkins, lattes, decorations,  sweaters, comfy socks, couples on romantic getaways…

And you start thinking – why don’t I have/feel like that?

Here’s an uncomfortable truth: most of them probably don’t, either – at least not all the time. It’s all for show, for likes, and for the aesthetic of it. As we mentioned before, you can definitely embrace the comfy feels and make the most of them; but if you’re feeling pressured to do so because the internet (or your sister, or neighbor) is telling you to – it’s not going to work.

After all, the holidays are just like any other time of the year – all that matters is how you feel and how you want to enjoy them.

skeleton-daily-life-photography-7

We can’t all look like that!

 

We hope this will help with any Fall Blues you’re having. Leave a comment and tell us if you’ve liked these tips! And if you feel you need more help, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Coaches for a FREE first consultation – they’re truly professionals in the field.

 

Ten Mistakes Sports Parents Make when Raising Young Athletes

Being a parent of an aspiring young athlete is a very peculiar situation. Your child is going through similar phases to the rest of the kids, but they’re also facing a whole different set of challenges on a day-to-day basis. If you’ve never played sports professionally, you’re probably lacking insight into unique situations, experiences, and issues. Sports parents who were pro athletes themselves are better informed, but even they are liable to make mistakes just like any other parent would.

Why Do Sports Parents Make Mistakes?

Whether you’re dealing with the burden of knowing or with the fear of not knowing, being a sports parent is not an easy role. There are lots of different sports out there and plenty of reasons why your child’s situation is unique.

Yet, sports parents often tend to err in similar ways and some patterns can be spotted. Normally, as parents, we have the best of intentions at heart. But we’re also dealing with things like inexperience, lack of information, biases, fears, and all kinds of factors that impair our judgment.

All of this can potentially lead to our inadvertently doing more harm to our child’s potential career than good. These are the ten most common mistakes sports parents make trying to raise a talented young athlete.

1. Pressuring Your Child Athlete to Succeed

Some sports parents are supporters of the “pressure makes diamonds” school of thought and tend to draw from it when deciding on parenting techniques. It’s an attitude somewhat based on the notion that mental toughness is a crucial characteristic of top-level athletes. While this is true, parental pressure is far from a good way of teaching your child athlete how to be mentally tough.

One study in 2006 showed that young athletes who are feeling pressure from both their coaches and their parents are more likely to develop maladaptive forms of achievement striving, to experience overconcern for mistakes, have doubts about their decisions and actions, and lowered perception of their own competence.

Another cause of parental pressure is parents believing their child might slack off or show lack of discipline if they don’t step in and tighten the screws. Parental involvement in itself is very useful for child development but you need to be careful.

If it’s too much or not the right kind of involvement, it can become a source of frustration, pressure, and stress for the child and you will inevitably be caught in the middle of it. There are much safer, more effective ways of motivating your child than simply giving them heat every chance you get.

2. Not Teaching Young Athletes There’s an Alternative

Actually becoming a professional athlete is extremely difficult. The stats presented in the table below are sourced from the NCAA database and show, on average, the chances of high school athletes making it to the pros.

As you can see, the competition is very high and the data tell a harsh story – only a small minority of young athletes ever actually makes a professional career in sports.

 

Why sports parents teach young athletes there is an alternative

 

Your child’s chances are determined by a range of factors and neither you nor your child will have complete control over some of them. Even if your child has all the essential characteristics such as technical skills, soft skills, talent, resilience, or a good work ethic, circumstances such as chronic or traumatic injury may abruptly end their career.

Some take these numbers as a sign that only those who are truly committed to the cause will prosper. But what about those who went all in and still didn’t make the cut? They’ll surely be devastated that their dreams didn’t come true. What happens when what they’re best at just isn’t good enough?

Giving up on your dream career is difficult for everyone, let alone young people who have their whole lives ahead of them. Having an alternative will go a long way to keep them from spiraling down and something they’ll be grateful for later in life. It’s your job as a parent to make sure they’re keeping their options open.

Sports-related activities are a great context for developing important management and teamwork skills that they can use at any job. You need to point out these opportunities, because that way, they’re boosting their athletic career while gaining something to rely on in the future.

Our coach, Tiana, is a sports psychologist experienced in working with sports parents and an expert on the topics of motivating child athletes, making them more confident, and teaching them how to build mental toughness.

 

3. Failing to Establish a Good Sports Parent-Coach Relationship

The roles of sports parents and coaches have an innately different perspective. The coach has to put the team first, while the parents are usually concerned with the needs and success of their own child.

In order to complement their efforts, both the parents and the coach need to build a good relationship so that they can provide the young athletes with the best possible, coherent support. That means that parents need to make an effort to understand the coach’s vision and consider their way of thinking before taking any action.

Your child will benefit from the fact they’re not getting mixed messages. If parents keep undermining the coaches and vice-versa, the child won’t know what to think and who to listen to.

4. Teaching Your Children the Win-at-All-Cost Mentality

Playing to win is a crucial aspect of sports. Nobody plays to lose and if they did, it wouldn’t be sports. Those who win stand to gain a lot. Personal satisfaction, social recognition, rewards, praise… Winning is valuable, enjoyable – and definitely not the only thing that’s important.

There are many top-level athletes who would disagree with this statement. And while romanticizing the desire to win does have a certain appeal, you don’t have to dig a lot in order to realize that winning isn’t the most important thing. At least not when considered in the context of life.

If your child places winning at the very top of their system of values, it could have a very negative effect on their judgment. It might make them more determined or motivated, but at what price?

Having a “win-at-all-cost” mindset provides a person with the conditions to rationalize unacceptable behavior. Things like poor sportsmanship, not playing by the rules, cheating, doping… They might learn to value winning over being a good teammate or simply doing the right thing. Winning is important, but if you prioritize it in terms of values, you need to consider what you’ll be losing in the trade-off.

5. Getting Too Emotionally Invested (ie. Angry Sports-Parent Syndrome)

You’ve probably heard stories about sports parents behaving inappropriately to the point where they’ve ended up on the local 9 o’clock news. New clips of parents brawling, screaming, and cursing at each other, coaches, referees, and even children, are being uploaded each week. These examples of toxic behavior leave a mark on everyone involved, including the very ones these parents are trying to help – their own children.

It’s understandable that being a bystander in an adrenaline-inducing situation can be difficult but you need to have control over your emotions and keep calm. Sports parents who lose it are usually ridiculed and mocked, but the negative effects this type of behavior can have on a developing child can’t be emphasized enough.

It takes all the fun out of sports and the children are left feeling embarrassed. It sets a bad example on how to deal with losing and not playing well. It is ethically wrong for a whole cluster of reasons. If you find that attending your child’s games, matches, and sporting events is making you angry or over-excited, then please, for your child’s sake as well as your own, consult a sports psychologist.

6. Overlooking the Development of Soft Skills

Technical skill is fundamental to athletic performance. That being said, a career in sports doesn’t happen in a vacuum and athletes need to be able to work with others as well. Even athletes competing in individual sports need to have good people-skills so they can, for example, make the most out of their relationship with the coaching staff. There are also lots of management skills that can be beneficial to an athlete such as time management or judgment and decision-making.

In team sports, teamwork and management skills can be the difference between going pro or not. Those who are exceptionally talented might be able to wiggle their way through to a career even though they’re very poor team players. But in the vast majority of cases, if they’re unable to cooperate and work well within a group, their chances of success will be incredibly slim.

Project-based learning in international teams can be an amazing opportunity for young athletes to effectively develop management and teamwork skills. They can transfer what they’ve learned to their career in sports!

Nobel Explorers teaches children valuable management and teamwork skills through working on STEM-related projects as part of an international team.

Online STEM projects can be a great way for young athletes to effectively develop communication skills, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking in a pressure-free environment.

 

7. Teaching Young Athletes to Fear Failure

In order to learn how to win, you first need to learn how to deal with losing. Each failure, each mistake we make is simply feedback telling us that we need to do better or maybe try something different. By taking the time to analyze what we did wrong, we can gain valuable insights into what we need to do in order to improve.

But before we can do that, we need to be able to handle the frustration of defeat and failure, also referred to as building resilience or mental toughness.

Studies show that athletes who are constantly being criticized for what they’re doing wrong will have a greater chance of developing a fear of failure. This can have a crippling effect on their development because it will make the sensation of playing less fun, reduce their game to the use of the most basic actions, and stunt their creativity.

“The child is so focused on the outcome and fearful of the possibility of failure, that they get frozen and stuck and can’t perform at their best at that moment.”

– Tiana M. (Sports Psychologist/Nobel Coach)

Young athletes need to be able to explore their sport and step outside their comfort zone in order to diversify their skill set and add new dimensions to their game. They need to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes. You as a parent should help them build a mindset where they’re not indifferent to failure, but also not devastated by it.

8. Showering Your Children with False Praise

Praising your children in order to reinforce good behavior is one of the foundations of good parenting. However, you need to make sure your praise is adequate, highlighting the right things, and delivered in alignment with how your child is feeling. You may think of false praise as a way to cheer your child up after a bad game, but there are a couple of reasons why you should never do this.

When your child buys into your false praise, they’ll think that they’ve done well when in fact they haven’t. If these scenarios repeat often, they’ll slowly develop a false sense about their abilities and skills. This means that they’ll be going into every next challenge poorly prepared, more likely to repeat the same mistakes and perpetuating the cycle until they’re faced with an obstacle that can’t be praised away.

Another issue arises if your child is able to see through your false praise. In those cases, praise can actually make them feel worse because they think they don’t deserve it. Aside from that, you’ll come across as if you either don’t really understand what happened or don’t really care about how they’ve played.

9. Neglecting Other Aspects of Parenting

Young athletes will face unique challenges on their road to a professional career in sports but they’ll also have to deal with issues common to any other kid their age. Friendship struggles, school challenges, puberty… It’s easy to get carried away, especially if your child is really invested in a sport and loves what they do.

Your child will need guidance for a life beyond the context of sporting events and the training ground. The issues they’ll face either at school or with friends are not less important than the things happening on the court or field. You’re raising a person first and an athlete second.

10. Disregard for Health and Safety (Both Physical and Mental)

In the culture of “all in” and “leaving your heart on the field”, toughness, hard work, and commitment come first. Unfortunately, this usually means that the health and safety of athletes are being placed somewhere lower down the list. This type of ranking can lead from innocuous situations such as, “It’s just a knock, I’ll walk it off.” to the more dangerous, “So what if it’s swollen? I can still run!”

The fact that they “only have one shot” doesn’t mean they should “risk it all”. The fact that they need to “work hard” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be “working smart” first.

The importance of health for a sports career is intuitive to us but we don’t always act like it is. Surely we’ve all heard more than enough stories about people from our neighborhood who “could’ve gone pro if their knee hadn’t given out”. Injuries are unpredictable but aside from luck, great results can be achieved through injury-prevention exercises and procedures, along with having the right attitude.

Most sports parents would agree on the importance of being physically healthy, even if they sometimes encourage behaviors that go against that notion. But the topic of mental health is not that well-acknowledged in the world of sports and dealing with those issues carries a huge amount of stigma. Anxiety and depression are portrayed as signs of weakness and can be debilitating for the player’s social rating. The good news is, each year, more players are speaking out about their struggles with maintaining mental health.

“Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.”

– Kevin Love (Professional Basketball Player)

As a parent, you need to be a health advocate for your children because the athlete mindset will pull them in the opposite direction. Your kids need to understand how their body works, listen to what it’s telling them, and be educated on what it means to be healthy both physically and mentally.

What Can Sports Parents Learn From These Mistakes?

“Parents, listen and look to your child. Hear your child out. What are his or her interests?… One very important role a parent has is to help their child just select and decide what’s important and what’s not important. But… together with them and not for them.”

– Tiana M. (Sports Psychologist/Nobel Coach)

It’s funny how easy it is to get caught up in wanting to help your child any way you can. But good intentions are not a guarantee of the success of your actions. We love our children so much that it sometimes clouds our judgment. But just as our children can learn from their mistakes made on the court or field, we need to be able to learn from our own mistakes to be better parents.

Sports parenting, like all types of parenting, is a partnership. Our parental role burdens us with a greater sense of responsibility but we shouldn’t take on things that are not on us. We’re not helping anyone if we’re overstepping our boundaries and either contributing to our child’s feeling of being pressured, or robbing them of an opportunity to build their character and grow.

Finally, your child’s wishes are one of the most important factors that should be considered when making big decisions about their career in sports. In the end, they’re the ones that will have to live the life you’re helping them build and they should actively partake in the decision-making process as much as possible.

“Your child’s success or lack of success in sports does not indicate what kind of parent you are. But having an athlete who is coachable, respectful, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient, and tries their best, is a direct reflection of your parenting.”

John A. Casadia (Swimming Coach)

Math Is Difficult, but Far from Impossible

Maryke K. is a  Nobel Tutor. She knows a lot about Chemistry, Physics, English Language, and Statistics, but one of her greatest loves is Math! She makes math fun (yes, it’s possible!) and finds the best way for students to learn it. Here she answers common questions about math and shares her personal experience in learning it.

 

Question: Let’s begin with fun stuff. What is the best math joke you’ve ever heard?

Maryke: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?

You can’t cross a vector and a scalar… (laugh).

 

Q: Can you tell us how did you end up falling in love with mathematics? How did you become the math tutor?

M: From an early age, math has been fascinating to me. Because of that, I focused on it and worked hard. As I began sharing my knowledge with others, I discovered that mathematics was a path to helping people, and that’s what I love to do! And that’s why I became a tutor.

 

Q: Even though some people, like you, enjoy mathematics, there are others who find it hard. Based on your experience, why do some students fall behind in math?

M: Some people have a natural aptitude for mathematics, but that’s not the reason why others fall behind. I think the reason they do fall behind is they need it explained in a different way and there isn’t always time to do this in a classroom setting.

That’s why math tutoring exists! Not because you don’t have the ability to do math, but because a tutor is usually a few years older than you and they were in your shoes a few years before. So it’s easy to relate and find a great way to explain the unexplainable.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to those students? How should they study math?

M: If you don’t get math, just like anything else you don’t like, you’re going to have to motivate yourself.

Still, what I used to do is play. When I was younger, up to 6th grade, I would use computer games. I played educational games which meant I had to constantly do math in my head. Because of that, and by really putting thought into it, I made math fun, linking it to games.

So how you should study math? You find the fun in math and keep practicing. If you’re not good at it, practice is the only way to fix that.

 

Q: You’ve already mentioned teachers. Do you think that if you don’t understand math, maybe you have the wrong teacher?

M: It’s not about the teacher all the time, it’s usually about their workload. You can’t put a workload of 40 students on a teacher and expect every one of them is going to be catered to.

I think that everybody should be able to get tutoring. But since not everybody can afford a tutor, perhaps ask a friend who’s good at math to help you with the things you’re having difficulty with. You just need to have the additional help.

I come from a very humble background. I begged my parents to get me tutoring because despite having good grades, I needed even better grades to enroll in this program I wanted to get into. But we couldn’t afford it. The only help I had was reading math books and learning it by myself. That still wasn’t enough. I feel that if I had been in a smaller class, if my teachers could have catered to me specifically, then I would’ve had even better marks.. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I worked with a friend who was good at math and we made sure we helped each other. I did that my whole university career – we’d teach each other those concepts that we mightn’t otherwise understand.. We’d just work together and help each other. I feel everybody should do that because there’s always something that you don’t understand. So let the students be the teachers, as well.

 

Q: Some people believe that being good at math is a natural ability. What do you think about that? Can anybody be good at math?

M: I don’t think everybody can be good at math. However, I think everybody can do it. You just need the right way, the fun way to approach it.

There’s always going to be someone who gets 100% no matter what – someone with the natural aptitude. It may seem like you’ll never be as good as that person, but you can do it! You just need to accept that you have to practice a lot more than they do.

So, you can be good, but you have to practice. Practice as much as you can and eventually results will come.

 

Q: Natural talent vs. hard work. Do you think that people who aren’t naturally good at math but practice a lot eventually can become better at it than people who are naturally good but don’t practice?

M: Yes, that was me! I fell behind in my first year of engineering because I was like, This is going to be so easy! And all those people who were a little bit weaker than me in high school, were surpassing me. They were doing so much better than I was!

That’s because at some point math catches up with you. You might think it’s easy now, but there will be a time when you don’t understand anything. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t need to.

 

Q: What is your approach to teaching math?

M: Making it fun. I’m a very outgoing person and I always try to make people think of a fun way to go about something. I use visuals, I use tricks, I use anything that might make something entertaining and interesting!

No matter what your learning challenge is, what your skill is, it has to be fun!

 

Q: How do you choose between being an authority figure and a friend?

M: I think balance is the key. You need to be both an authority figure and a friend. I do believe my students respect me, but I also believe I open this door into letting them talk to me about their personal problems, not just focusing on math.

You need to listen to the challenges they have as that can affect their learning as well. For example, if their dog dies and they just don’t feel like doing math today, take things easier.

Being their teacher doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. You just need to evaluate when that is appropriate. They’ll learn to trust you, and then they will respect you.

MAKE MATH FUN WITH MARYKE

She can’t wait to meet new friends!

 

Q: Does fun make math easy? Do you find mathematics easy overall?

M: Math is never easy. I have an engineering degree and when I was doing models I failed the math model. Yes, that thing destroyed me (laugh).

Now I’m doing a mathematics degree. I’m in my final year now and I’m realizing that math is always difficult. If you’re in that spot, it’s going to be hard. Right now, final-year math is unbelievably difficult, but first-year math was also unbelievably difficult. Math will always be difficult. It’s up to you to practice and find a way to understand it. So practice, practice, practice.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for parents to help their students with math?

M: Don’t start too late. I wish my parents had started earlier in letting me have fun with mathematics. I did start early, earlier than most people. But if they’d started even earlier, I feel that I would’ve been further ahead right now.

You need to make sure your kids are exposed to this environment. Let them play puzzles, let them play logic games when they’re very young. Because it opens a door for problem-solving skills and so on.

Make it fun and start early. But don’t overdo it. so that they start to hate it. Like anything, if you push your child too much, they’re going to resent it. Make sure you strike a balance between giving them constant stimulation and not overworking them. A great tutor would know how to help in that area, for sure.

 

Q: And if I’m a parent of a student with learning challenges (ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia…), what approach would you recommend for me to help my students with math? What should I do?

M: We all have those times when we’re faced with difficulty that causes anxiety. So did I. I know it’s not the same as ADHD, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to learning. One way to deal with it is to learn how to study despite the difficulty. Wishing it away won’t help, but finding a way to figure things out will.

What I would actually do was enjoy some free time but then dedicate 10 minutes to some math homework. It forced me to think about it, but not overwhelm myself. Of course, if you have a lot of homework you might need to up that to 15, 20 minutes. Some people will go up to 30 minutes or more, but if you constantly push a child they’re just going to completely resist.

If you’re helping your child with math, you need to make sure they’re not overwhelmed and that you are making it, again, fun. They need to have that feeling of I really want to solve these logic puzzles.

Also, I’ve always told my mom she needs to reward my brother, because my brother was a very, lazy boy when it came to math.The way she got him to finish his math was by giving him rewards. He has ADHD, and the reward for finishing was time playing computer games. And he would be so excited! Because that’s what children like to do, including me (laugh).

So,give them rewards, make it fun, and don’t make it too intensive!

 

Q: Why do we need math? Do we really need to know algebra, geometry, integers..? Why does math matters in the real world?

M: The things you’ll use depend on the field in which you’ll work. I don’t think you’ll need all the complex formulae and stuff.

But the basic reason everybody needs math is for logical reasoning. If you know math, you build a certain skill when it comes to reasoning with people, when it comes to logical thinking, solving problems at work in the future… So even though you don’t need quadratic equations, you still need to build these skills to be able to function in life and today’s world.

Long answer short, reasoning in real life and problem-solving skills.

 

Q: What are the uses of math? Are there any benefits to knowing math for a future career? What are applied-mathematics jobs?

M: As I’ve said, reasoning and problem-solving but not just that. For example, you’ll use it if you’re an animator. You’ll need math to put things together in a program and work through possible problems you might encounter when you animate different things. The same would apply to working as a game designer, It doesn’t mean that if you’re not good in math you can’t go into these areas. However, knowing math can be helpful.

Additionally, think about engineering, architecture, law… each requires logical reasoning, (especially law) and a background in mathematics.  Computer science, astronautics, the visual arts (such as painting).

 

Q: What message would you like to leave with our young readers?

M: Mathematics is always useful, so practice it and study it. You’ll use it in any career you choose. You’ll use it in the future just by practicing reasoning and in everyday activities that you need to think about.

However, if you’re not good at math, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. If math is not going to be your career, you just need to find someone who can help you with logical reasoning so you can have a foundation to build on in your future life.

Math can be very useful and if you can’t figure it out on your own, there are great tutors to help!

IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP WITH MATHEMATICS OR ANY OTHER SUBJECT, OUR EXPERT TUTORS ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

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.

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:

Quote

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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

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

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 sixteen, 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