Episode 26: Parental Support When Kids have EF Problems

Below you can view or listen to Episode 26 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

Parental Support When Kids have EF Problems 

happy family podcast about kids with EF problems




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Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Hey, Erica, what are we going to talk about today?

We're going to talk about parent support when kids have executive functioning problems.

It's a great topic because often people get switched on to executive function via their Children, don't they? Right?

Many people don't really know what it is, but when their Children start to struggle with it, all of a sudden there's this new buzzword - executive functioning, and they don't necessarily know what it is or what to do about it.

Yeah, let's deep dive into that because, one of the things that I've noticed is that executive function is something that affects people who are neurodivergent. For example, often people with dyslexia have got executive function difficulties. And most of the time, people with ADHD have executive function difficulties.

You know, pretty much ADHD and executive function difficulties are like a Venn diagram, where the circles are virtually exactly the same and they slightly overlap a bit, don't they?

I think the other thing that's really important is executive function difficulties are often inherited.

They are often inherited.

That's true, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

So if your Children are struggling with executive functioning issues, it's quite likely that you are perhaps somebody else in your lineage struggled with those types of issues.

Yeah, talking about this is one of the best ways to deal with teaching a child.

Something is to be learning it yourself.

And you've written down in our show notes that, you know, setting an example is one of the key things in executive function support for your child.

But that's an interesting concept, because setting an example, what if you're not very well-organized person?

What if you are?

You do have difficulties with working memory.

You know, you do blank out on certain information and things go past you and you, you think you've got it, but you've not.

What if you have difficulty with your inhibitory control and focus and maintaining focus and direction and so on?

I mean, you can still be highly successful in life and not be good at those things.

You know, often you can become very specialist at a particular thing, and you don't need a whole heap of executive function skills to make to be a success, as it were in what you're doing.

I mean, take for example, you could be a highly successful film editor and you.

You're not necessarily very good at being well structured and organized and planning things and your life and all sorts of other sort of practicalities in your life and day.

But you're really good at the one thing editing a film.

So how does that work with regard to setting an example for your child?

You know, I think setting an example might include having a team that works for you.

So say you're not very good at time management.

Well, perhaps you have a specific person that helps you with time management the schedules your day and gives you reminders.

You can also use technology to help you with reminders and with organization and actually showing your kids and demonstrating to your kids that, Yeah, I'm not very good at this.

But look at all these tools that I have that I'm using.

And then, if you don't have those tools, then find them, find them because you know we all need those executive functioning skills and just to take one little step back, you don't have to have a learning disability.

You don't have to have a PhD to have executive functioning problems.

There are plenty of people out there that are pretty normal.

They have normal cognitive functioning, but they have some little blips and executive functioning like they may have trouble with just cognitive flexibility, where they are just a really rigid thinkers, and they're not able to step out and see other perspectives.

Or they may really just struggle with working memory or just with inhibitory control or even just little pieces of it, for example, like emotional regulation.

I mean, it's funny how, if you struggle with a lot of these executive functioning problems, or at least a few of them you it tends to lead to a learning disability.

But not always.

Or perhaps you're just so wicked smart.

You can compensate for a lot of these things.

So there's some people that are really disorganized, but they're so smart, and they can remember everything that they hear that they don't really have to take notes.

They don't really have to study for a test, and they kind of just get by.

But they'll see in other parts of their life where it causes issues.

So it's always a great idea to address executive functioning needs for yourself so that you can set that example for your Children because if you're using those strategies, then you're teaching them how to use those strategies.

Yes, and before we get stuck into parents supporting Children with executive functioning problems, I think it's important to talk about Is it really important to support your child with executive functioning problems?

Because, let's face it, when your child's at school, there is a lot to think about theirs, their social lives and making sure they've got good friendships.

There's their sports and activity.

You know their health.

They might have some health conditions.

You know, there's, you know, general classroom classes, how they're doing in math and how they're doing in English and geography and so on.

And, you know, and then you just add on more and more layers of life.

And then someone like us comes along and says, Oh, it's really good.

If you help your child with executive function difficulties and you're like, oh, yeah, just added to the list, why don't you?

You know, And I think sometimes it's really important to figure out.

Is this a high priority or not?


I think for some families, it doesn't have to be a high priority because it's not enough of an issue, and there are other things that are more of a priority.

Um, but then there are other families where this is This is really kind of the key is the steppingstone that could really change everything if the child is having really severe attentional problems and they cannot focus and say they've tried medication and it doesn't work, so then executive functioning coaching could be a game changer for them.


And I've seen it.

It's amazing.

So that's another strategy is to find an executive function coach.

But even beyond that, there's some other general strategies that we can use that are really easy.

That don't take up that kind of time that don't take up that kind of cognitive load, that you can just squeak in your day and it will be enormously beneficial, like thinking out loud if you if you learn to think out loud more than it helps your Children to see how you like witness to observe and you're demonstrating how to think through things which has a big piece of executive functioning and then, you know, sharing your own strategies I can remember as a child, my mom has a lot of the same cognitive issues that I have, and she was always sharing her strategies.

For example, we both have word finding problems.

So we have trouble with the names, and she taught me a strategy of If you can't think of somebody's name, go through the alphabet and when you hit the letter, it usually will trigger their name.

And I just used it yesterday when I was trying to think of the name of a flower and I went through the alphabet and I was like, That's it.

So you know, that was a little strategy that she taught me.

And so teaching little strategies that you use even searching together for strategies helping your kids to develop that skill of when I don't know how to do something.

Figuring it out whether you go to YouTube, whether you go onto just Google and search for something, but also being open to the idea that a strategy that your child might use it doesn't work for you might work for them.

And that's a really hard thing to do because we always tend to say well if that works for me.

It's going to work for you.

You're my child and this strategy works for me.

So you really should be taking notes.

So it's really hard for us not to push our ways of processing on other people.

In some instances that will work.

And in some instances, it won't work and just being open to the idea that what works for your child might not work for you.

And that's okay, yes, what are your thoughts on that?

I think I agree completely.

I think I think it's really helpful to go on a journey together on this.

And I think sometimes a lot of my experience really comes from the parents of the Children we help in Bullet Map Academy And over the last five years of doing that, explicitly trying to teach Children executive functioning skills with the tool of mind mapping, visually organizing things and how to organize an essay, how to organize their weekend, how to organize a birthday party, and how to just get your head around all of these thoughts you might be having about something we teach Children how to put it all down on a map and map all out so that it's less stressful.

Now that's the context.

And what I've noticed is that parents often realize, oh my goodness, I'm finding this so helpful for myself and at work and they realize that they've got the same thinking styles as their Children in many ways.

Like you say, sometimes different strategies work better for the child and the parents, or vice versa.

But what I do find as a common theme is that it's a journey of discovery for the adult as much as the child, and I think that's really helpful for the child to see.

The parent is also discovering something new and the joy of it.

It's like, oh my goodness, this is absolutely amazing.

This so helps me at work and this whole helps me like this and when I see parents of, we used to have these kind of study groups where we get together on Zoom and there would be 8 to 10 of us getting together in the week and sharing our maps and talking through our maps with each other, and someone would talk through the map and a parent would come along and say?

Actually, I did this for an interview because I tend to forget what to say in an interview.

So I mapped all out all the key ideas and wrote them all down, and I had a bit of paper in front of me, and the interview was really impressed with how much it helped and how prepared I was.

But what was fascinating was that there was a nine-year-old child who also had a map that they were doing for an English essay, and they started to make join the dots and realize I'm not just doing this for school.

I'm doing this for adult life, and I think that's the key in all of this is that this isn't just learning subject.

This is learning how to think and learning how to get stuff done for the rest of your life.

And I think it that brings it right to the top of the list or very close to the top of the list, I would say learning how to read, learning how to do maths and then learning executive function skills goes into third place above physics, chemistry, sports, anything else, how to get stuff done is really important.

The other thing that's really important is believing that your kids can do it independently.

You know, I've definitely seen and worked with families where the parents really struggle.

They just don't believe their kids can do it by themselves.

And so they kind of micromanage the situation, which just amps up the anxiety.

And then all of a sudden, they're policing their Children and then their Children are rejecting them.

And there's this kind of whole cycle of judgement and frustration and name calling and, you know, the question is, is how can you get out of, you know?

One of the best ways to get out of that is to allow a third person to come in and take on that role.

Getting an executive function coach that can allow you to let go of that and just be a parent.

I agree.

I think it's so important.

I mean, it's not that we're touting for business per se, although we can do executive function coaching but find an executive function coach, whether it's a formal one or an informal one.

I mean sometimes like a grandparent or an uncle or someone in the family that you can trust that, like, really switched on and committed to that child's success in school and life?


I agree.

And bring siblings can be great because then they're helping each other and it's empowering for them.

So even if your son isn't that good at it, but he's good enough and he can be a mentor to your younger daughter or something, a situation like that, it's amazing how all of a sudden, they were okay at it.

They become quite good at it because they are now the expert and the teacher and then step into that role.

So it's, you know, believing that they can and that they will and really manifesting that because I think if we worry too much about a child and we worry that they're going to fail, we worry that what they're doing is not enough that energy, they sense that energy, and all of a sudden, you're manifesting your greatest fear.

I totally agree that such a big deal, you know that expectation and what we talked about in the podcast a while ago was learned helplessness and that is the start of learned helplessness.

Where, and I think it's if it's happening to you as a parent that you're starting to think that, then it's definitely happening.

From the teacher's perspective, the teachers will be thinking it far sooner than you are as a parent.

And so everyone in the child's world has this expectation that Darius isn't very good at this.

He's just going to kind of crash and burn on this and just, you know, But I've been thinking a lot about those deeply the executive function side of things, I think with regard to how you picture it as a metaphor in life.

When you look at your brain and you look at your feet, you can see your feet are all different sizes and we take a great deal of care to fit our Children's feet with the right size of shoe.

Because we know if their shoes are the wrong size, their feet are going to be hurt.

They're going to grow incorrectly.

There is going to lead to problems.

It can lead to back problems that it can be hard to do sports.

It can hurt them and so we know the consequences, and that's why we take time to measure our Children's feet and fit shoes to them.

And we need to do the same for our brains.

Our brains are different shapes as well, like our feet are different shapes, and we need to fit them with tools with shoes, with equipment that fits the brain and grows with the brain.

And sometimes we need a different pair of shoes for different activities.

We have shoes for going on the pavement and walking down the road to school.

We've got shoes when we go into the sports hall to play sports game.

We've got shoes for basketball.

We've got shoes for running.

We've got shoes for going in the river and doing water sports, and sometimes we go bare feet.

But sometimes we don't go barefoot.

But you know what happens is people who have neuro diverse brains.

Basically, they think differently, and their brains are slightly different shape than the typical shape.

They try the tools that typical thinkers use the typical to do lists, the typical note taking techniques, the typical planning techniques, the typical you met, you name it, what's the standard shoe size for people's brains.

They do that and it often doesn't fit.

So what do they do?

They keep trying and they keep trying until their feet start to bleed, as it were until their brain starts to hurt.

And they're like this.

This just doesn't work for me.

So what do they do?

They take the shoes off and they go barefoot, and sometimes they're walking on gravel and sore and they're like, I don't know why I can't cope, you know?

And they've just not got the right equipment for their brain.

And so I think that's a useful analogy to approach this as a parent, that you're trying to find shoes.

What would you call the equivalent of shoes for your brain?

I don't know, you know, like they're really strategies.

And it's so interesting because I think executive functioning is something that should be taught in schools in elementary school, and it's not really so.

You're right.

So many of these kids are walking around barefoot.

You know, if we're using that metaphor through school and they're not really given those tools, there's so many parents who say, you know what? My children never learned memory strategies.

My Children never learned study strategies.

They just don't even go over that so well, that's interesting.

So if the schools aren't providing the shoes and we're assuming that they should be, then this is the perfect discussion is what can parents do at home to give the kids the tools so that they have their call the cognitive cloak or something like that?

They have cognitive cloaks so that they know how to use these executive functioning skills well, and they can really realize their ultimate cognitive potential.


They need their brain kitted out like they need their feet kitted out.

And that's our role as parents.

I've got a 22-year-old and 24-year-old Children, and there's still my Children, although they're adults, obviously, and I treat them as adults.

But the 22-year-old was what really stimulated me to get into the field of dyslexia.

Neuro diversity ADHD

Now and she's still needing to learn strategies, and I'm still needing to learn strategies and the clients that I'm meeting in the workplace.

I've got dyslexia work clients that they've got dyslexia and many of them got ADHD as well, and we go through workplace strategy coaching to look at typical things that they feel mortally embarrassed by.

You know, there might be a highfalutin lawyer or a quantity surveyor or a doctor or whatever, and their secret shame is that they're like, I'm just on the edge of holding everything together, and it always feels like it's going to fall apart because I don't really have proper strategies to keep myself organized to keep my calendar going to keep my task management going to take notes.

I turn up at meetings barely prepared, and I'm kind of winging it.

And sometimes I get caught out.

Sometimes I don't etcetera and that all that equipment, all that strategy starts from.

When you're a kid, you know you need to be equipped, and the only person who's going to do it is the parent or your child.

Once they grow up and there's plenty of 40-year-old people who are like, oh my goodness, no one equipped me with all of this, and I am now taking personal responsibility for equipping my brain with the tools it needs to function well in society.

And so my biggest advice to parents who are supporting Children with executive function problems.

Number one is Take it super seriously every single day for 10 years.

You know, from the age of eight to the age of 18.

Start taking it super seriously.

Okay, I would maybe dial that back to seven years.

From the age of nine to the age of 16, you've got a window of opportunity to really transform the trajectory of your child's life by taking executive function challenges.


Okay, So I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here.

There's a parent that's listening right now, and their child is struggling and they're 22 years old.

What do they do?

Well, that the parent has lost the window of opportunity to teach their child themselves.

That child has now become an adult, and they have to take personal responsibility.

So I would suggest that they get that child to listen to some podcasts like this or other podcasts and say, look, maybe, you know, you've got some executive function difficulties, and this is a small thing you can do that can have a massive payoff, and that's the key in all of this, you have to re emphasis that executive function has a massive return on investment.

You do a small investment of time and focus and change, and you get a massive payoff for it that pays off month after month, a year after year.

You know, you can spend a huge amount of effort improving your golf swing or improving a certain technique or improving how you understand geography or whatever.

And it will.

I have a payoff and a test or whatever, but after that, it's not going to have much of a payoff.

But if you invest something in executive function, how to capture information, how I think of it in three phases how to show up, okay, how to focus and how to contribute those track to the three phases three aspects of executive function Showing up is capturing the right information and bringing the right showing up with the right information to what you're focusing in on and what you want to contribute.

Now showing up could be as simple as have you remembered what your calendar is, and have you turned up to your class or that event or that thing you promised did you show up and then Okay, maybe you did.

That's great.

Are you showing up consistently?

Most people with executive function difficulties are not showing up consistently on time for the things they promised to be at.

Whether their children in school who still can't remember their calendar after the fourth week of school, when all their friends have it after week one.

Or whether you're an adult who keeps missing appointments and double booking because they're not looking at the calendar and they're just kind of winging it every day as they're going along.

Hands up.

There are tons of people who do that.

You might be one of them.

I am one of them, and I'm still having to force myself every day to look at my calendar and be a grown up, you know.

But how do I get to the point where I really enjoy looking at my calendar?

Is the question and showing up and being prepared for what I'm about to do?

And that's just phase one.

Phase two is staying focused on what the point is, and Phase three, which is the real doozy, is what's your contribution like you could have great ideas in the meeting and so on.

But then someone at the meeting says, oh, that is amazing.

Can we do something about that?

And you're like, Yeah, I'm going to make that happen and so on.

But do you do you deliver?

Do you finish?

Does your child finish on all these projects that have started and never finished?

Hands up.

I am that person.

But I am starting, and I have started to learn how to start something and finish it.

And that's the key in all of this.

Is valuing the skill of being able to show up, focus and contribute consistently and get stuff done right?


And I think you know, when you're dealing with that older population, there's an enormous amount of promise.

It usually means they just haven't developed the right strategies, or they aren't using the right tools.

And I can tell you there are so many tools out there.

I work with lots of kids in their twenties.

They're not really kids, I suppose, but anybody younger than me as a kid.

But it's just amazing to me, just the huge variety of tools and options, and I know I really pay attention to how they process.

And then I give them strategies that are in line with how they process this way.

I connect with them, but then once they trust me, sometimes I'll take them out of their comfort zone and introduce them to different ways of thinking.

And if they trust me, they'll step into it.

And then perhaps it works.

Perhaps it doesn't, but a lot of it is just let's try on that shoe.

Let's see if it fits.

If it doesn't fit, we throw it out the window.

There are different ways that we can measure, and I think that's the use of assessments, which I know.

I use a lot with my students to assess things like Are they visualizing?

What are they visualizing?

Are they doing it well?

Are they being efficient?

And that's when we get into very specific things.

That is a working memory strategy.

So let's talk a little bit about the three components of executive functioning, working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility, because I definitely have some very specific strategies for each of those also knowing that there are individuals with executive functioning issues that really, they just need, for example, working memory strategies.

They're pretty good with the other ones.

So thinking about working memory, I like to do a few things to help kids.

I like to teach them memory strategies.

I like to teach them how to use and manage their inner voice, which is a big one.

And it's so interesting to talk to people about their inner voice.

And sometimes it's inner voices.

They might have multiple and inner voices and really helping them to not only manage it, but to shift it and to change it.

Because sometimes we have a very negative inner voice, and we need to change it to a more calm or supportive inner voice.

And then finally, for working memory.

I like to do activities.

These that strengthen visualization skills because the two the two major players in working memory are your inner voice and your inner visuals really inter visuals and spatialization as well, visualization and spatialization.

But when you use those tools, that really helps to build the working memory, so really bringing that vocabulary into the home, talking about your inner voice, discussing what it talks about coming up with strategies on how to use your inner voice, how to use your visualization skills, how to use your spatialization skills.

Bringing that vocabulary into discussions and thinking out loud with your kids.

And then, if you don't know many memory strategies, learn some because it will probably benefit you as well.

What are your thoughts on working memory?

Do you have any other ideas on ways to for families and parents to support their Children with working memory issues?

Yeah, I agree with all of that, and I think I'd go until a few more practical.

So, for example, I think it's really important to have a white board in your house somewhere where you can and not a white board that's completely full of lots of notes.

And that's it.

But a white board that is blank, a blank whiteboard or a blank part of a white board so that when you're deciding, what are we going to do this today?

As a family, you know, and you maybe instead of telling your child, that's what we're doing next.

And then we're going to do this and we're going to do that, and the child just goes, well, I just do what Mom tells me to do next.

If you want the child to start to become an independent person and an independent learner and an independent adult, they need to learn how to plan their day and what they're going to do next.

And so getting a white board is really helpful.

So you might draw pictures of what you're going to do some doodles of it.

We're going to go to the beach.

If they're really young, you might not use words.

You might use some drawings, etcetera.

You might.

Then everybody brainstorms their ideas down a list on the side and they've got their ideas.

And they're all random.

Yeah, I want to go down to the beach.

Oh, I've got basketball later on this afternoon and what you're doing, or dads doing golf, and I'm going to go and do such and such etcetera.

There's a whole list, and then you go right.

Okay, let's organize this and you make another list.

You keep the original and you put them into order, and you sort of cross them out and you move them across them out.

Move them and the child sees that that is the way that there is a process they have to follow to get to order out of chaos and that even adults need to do that, and the Children see what that process is.

And it comes back to you talking about modelling it for your child.

So I would highly recommend putting a whiteboard in your kitchen.

And whenever you're discussing what needs to do next, even if it's in the next hour talking about what are the tasks for cleaning, we're going to clean up the room.

Okay, right.

You're going to clear the floor.

You're going to put these in the wardrobe.

You're going to put the toys away down in the playroom.

You're going to do this etcetera, and there's a list there, and the child goes to the white board.

So what's next?

And does it?

And that's all to do with working memory as well.

Because sometimes if you're just talking at your child to your child, they've got two or three things going in their head, and they're kind of like, Oh, the first thing drops out their head while they're absorbing the next thing and they've understood comprehended, agreed to all these things but they've forgotten it because they've not put it into their memory now for some people, their memories internal and they're using memory strategies.

But for other people, they just need an external list to write it down and follow that list so that that's, uh, that's just one practicality and how to help a child with working memory is a white board.

It has multiple functions.

Number one.

It helps their immediate working memory while you're talking them through it.

Number two, it models the process that everyone goes through to organize number three.

It leaves them with something written up that allows them to go and do it independently rather than to depend on you to remind them to go and do it.

Do you get my drift?

So all in one go, it's fitted into everyday life.

So I advocate that every family with, uh, neurodiverse children in it needs to have a white board in the kitchen and half of it at least blank.

So whenever you're going to have a quick conversation about something that involves more than two or three things, you start writing up on the whiteboard so they can visualize what you're talking about.

And ideally, with some doodles or diagrams.

Yeah, and I think offering scaffolding is really important.

So maybe initially you're going to offer a lot of support.

And then perhaps you're like, Okay, we're going to the beach.

Do Susie, why don't you draw the beach for us?

So that you slowly pass on more and more responsibility of that task to them.

Another thought that I had when you were talking about the white board and how important this list is sometimes photographs are incredibly important for kids.

And I'll give you a simple example.

And I think of use this in the past and one of our podcasts, which is say you clean their room, and the room looks amazing and it's super organized, and everybody is feeling very satisfied.

Take a picture, take a picture.

Any time you want your child to clean their room, you give them the picture and say, can you make it look like this?

But also bringing joy into it?

If you're going to be doing something like that, cleaning a room, bring in fun snacks, bring in music, dance, make it fun and make it like a weekly thing that you do that you all look forward to because you get to spend time together.

You get your favorite snacks.

You get to dance instead of making it a chore, make it into something special.

If you want your kids to read more, then have a reading time where everybody in the family gets together and they all read together and they share their thoughts, and it becomes something that they really look forward to.

So wrapping all of this and enjoy and patience and pride that even if they're struggling, reinforcing what they're doing right, instead of always telling them what they're doing wrong.

I remember when our children were really young.

They had real difficulty tidying things away.

So let's say there 456 years old, okay, had real difficulty tidying up at the end of the day.

And now I'm looking back, I realized that it was part of, uh, an early expression of their neuro diversity.

And so what I did was I had a technique.

I developed a technique.

I said to them like they would look at the whole room and they would just see this flat floor with small things, big things all over the floor that they've been playing with over the whole day, and it just seems so overwhelming.

Okay, so what I would do is, I would say, Okay, here's what we're going to do.

Let's push it all into the middle and make it one huge pile of all the stuff.


I'm not saying that everyone has to do this, but let's just take this as an example.

We shove, we took everything, and we just pushed it into the middle.

And immediately, 4/5 of the room is clear and clean, and only 1/5 of the room is a problem.

So immediately, it’s kind of like the issue is contained.

I have just one pile, one issue, one thing to deal with that pile.

Okay, so I said, all you have to do is clear This one pile, girls, and they were like, Okay.

And you can immediately see them.

It was fun, you know, just shoving it all together, and then they're kind of like Oh, right.



And they felt a little bit better looking at it, and we could all feel that, you know, and then I And they said, but where do we start?

And I'm like, Okay, one pile and all I want you to do is to take one thing from the pile and they go, What?


I said, well, I've got an answer to that.

Pick the biggest thing from the pile.

What's the biggest thing in the pile?

And they look at the pile and they go, oh, the big teddy and you go.

Okay, take the big teddy.

Where does it belong?

They take the big Teddy, and they go and put it on the bed.


And that pile has immediately got smaller.

And then I go, What's the next biggest thing?

Oh, well, there's this.

There's this big box for such and such right, where does it belong and so on?

And gradually the pile got smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller.

Now I'm not saying that everyone should do that, but that's a metaphor for what we've been saying, which is number one.

We, as a parent took responsibility for teaching our child how to get stuff done.

Number 12.

We realized that it's important to do this rather than just shouting our Children for being lazy and not doing it and not helping.

They just didn't know how to do it.

They were paralyzed with overwhelm, and once they had a strategy, they were quite happy to get stuck in and get it done.

So to I provided a strategy.

And then the third one was it was actually a working strategy that worked with your brain the way your brain worked, which was simplify it, make it into a big chunk one chunk and start chunking down the task and give them principles to follow the principle of Let's just go for the biggest thing I could have said.

Go and choose the smallest thing and they'd be picking up all the little beads and so on one by one, until they went to the bigger thing.

You can do anyway you like.

But I went for the bigger because it has a bigger impact in modern motivation.

But there's an example.

The bigger is the way to go.

The reason why it's the way to go is because you see the fruits of your labor faster.

If you were focusing on all those little details, you get stuck in the details, and you'd give up because you feel overwhelmed.

So I love the idea of going from big to small, because then there is that sense of satisfaction.

There's nothing worse when we then spending a whole day working your buns off and then feeling like you didn't get anything accomplished.

Yeah, so, um, I really liked I like that strategy a lot.

I think it's I think it's excellent, I have to say, mind mapping when it comes to the middle years, you know, 9 to 14, 13 years old helps in all these areas of working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility all three areas.

If you do mind mapping well by hand with drawings, doodles, lines for branching connections and singular keywords within your strategy of mind mapping, you do it properly.

It can help a great deal in terms of schoolwork, and that's one of the big areas where parents can really help their child step back and get a big picture on their own thoughts and their own work and so on.

So I just want to throw that in their mind, Man is super important.

Yeah, I know you've had enormous success with it, and I do use it as well with my students.

So I think it's an outstanding, outstanding strategy.

So if we think more about the next one, which is inhibitory control, there are a number of things that I like to do, and I also like to encourage parents to do, and one of them is to think out loud.

So, for example, meta cognition is a big piece of inhibitory control, and that is the awareness of your own thoughts.

And part of the awareness of our own thoughts is when you think out loud, you are thinking about your thinking.

I think we tend to use our inner voice to think about our thinking.

But there's no reason why we can't use our outer voice to think about our thinking.

And when we do that, that's an amazing teaching tool for your kids.

So if you're thinking about your thinking, they get to hear how you think through things.

And now, of course, you want to be thinking about your thinking when you are being mindful, you don't want them to hear about your thinking when you're dis regulated.

Yeah, if you're teaching them to listen to your dis regulation, then you're teaching them how to be dis regulated.

An example of that is thinking out loud while you're driving the car.

So have you ever been with your parents as a child?

When your parent is thinking out loud by going, oh, look at that guy who's driving along there?

Look at look at what he's doing.

Oh, that he's doing such and such and emotional disregulation.

Oh, the plumbing thing, Guy just coming off and they're swearing.

And so you're basically thinking out loud your emotional disregulation while you're in the car.

That's a perfect example of thinking out loud, um, but the non-optimal way you could do it in an optimal way in the car?

Yes, by talking, say, you're driving a stick shift, right?

And I'm putting my foot on the clutch and, you know, so you could be thinking out loud about what your body is doing and teaching them how to drive a car just by thinking out loud.

So, um, but you could also, you know, be in the car thinking about other things, or what you really want to do is you want to show them your compassionate side.

You want to show them your organized side, um, but it's funny how we tend to share more.

So I think, particularly in the American culture, we share our negative dis regulation more than we share our meta cognitive skills or our ability to manage our emotions.

It's funny we don't talk about how, like, wow, I'm feeling really angry right now, but I choose to let that thought go to because that's not helping me.

We don't do that right.

But that's really what the kids need to hear is our emotional regulation, not our emotional disregulation.

And we want to share with them how we're thinking so many times a child will ask us a question and we give them an answer.

But we don't share with them the thought process of how we got to that answer.

That's what we need to be doing more of.

Yes, and that's where it ties into inhibitory control is teaching your child how to focus on the important things for them and how not to get distracted by the less important things, like their emotional disregulation.

So I think doing this thinking out loud.

Two of the best places to do that are when you are side by side with someone.

Okay, when you're in the car and your side by side, you're not looking each other in the eyes all the time, so there's it doesn't it's not focused in on them.

That's a perfect place for or you're walking along side by side or you're at the dinner table, side by side, dinner table chatting away.

And I think these are often really good places to think aloud and share your medical cognitive approach.

What I find is the car is a great place with your child to do a lot of development.

Work with them.

I think so.

For example, you're driving along the road and you might see a cloud pattern in the sky, and you go, oh, can you see the cloud over there?

And they're like, Yeah, yeah, it's a cloud, you know, you're like, just incredible seeing how the cloud just floats through the sky and how fast it's moving and you can start describing something and they're like, Oh, gosh, yeah, I never have thought of it and I don't know If you've ever been with someone when you're going for a walk, it's a gift where people go, Oh, can you see the bird over there?

Or can you see this?

Can you see that flower?

Did you see that tree and you go, oh, gosh, I didn't see that tree.

Well, obviously I saw the tree, but I didn't take notice to it.

And that’s inhibitor control.

It's about guiding someone's attention to someone and then something, and they go, Oh, gosh, yeah, that's amazing.

I like it.

And so this is part of inhibitory control as well is calling out something.

I remember my dad doing this for me.

We went to go and see Neil Diamond at the Jazz Singer.

You know the movie and it was the first movie my dad took me to.

And when we came out of the movie, what he said was he said, I really liked that film and he said, When I come out of films, what I like to do is to think about how maybe that might apply to my own life, and that is an example of thinking aloud and sharing your own metacognitive approach.

You know, for example, when the jazz singer guy I was speaking to his dad and his dad was saying, you can't make a life out of the this, you know, it was a bit like when my dad said that to me, and that made me think about this and that and so on.

And he started to share some of his own thinking some of his own experience and some of the way he processes.

And I can clearly remember me going away after that thinking, gosh, I had never thought of doing that, and I think I'm going to do the same when I watch films, I'm going to spend a few minutes afterward thinking about how it might apply to my own life.

And that's an example of what you're talking about, isn't it?

Yeah, and another thing that's really important is again making it palatable, making it fun, turning it into a game.

I love how you're like when you're taking a walk, see if you can see something that you think the other person doesn't see and say, and let them know and you can turn into a game.

What do you see or what do you hear or what do you feel or what do you smell so that you're teaching them to zoom in zoom and mute?

We've talked about that in the past, so you mute everything else out and you zoom in and it's really again.

It's practicing that inhibitory control of inhibiting everything else and focusing on that and then finding a new thing.

But you could have a lot of fun taking a walk with something and saying, Okay, so what do you see or what do you hear?

I agree.

What is that?

And I think if you can start early having those kinds of deep and meaningful conversations in that kind of way, and the child just accepts, that's the way parents deal with Children and that that because they've only got one set of parents, that's the way parents behave.

Then you start to earn that privilege of being able to start molding and thinking aloud and modelling how you find it helpful to think about things so that when they're older, you can do it on more important things.

I remember there was a Scottish advert with a mum and son in a car, and the mom and son would have a talk every time going back from school about how school was going, and the mom was talking about X, y and Zed, and the child was chatting away and so on.

And then it flashes to when the sun is 14 now instead of seven and the sun sulking in the corner.

And then the mom starts talking about such and such and plays a song and so on.

And then the sun starts talking as well.

The moral of the story was Start talking to your child in the car on the way back from school when they're young, so that when they're old, they can really share what's really burdening them in their teenage years.

Otherwise, they may commit suicide.


And so it's to deal with bottling up all those ideas, and they need to share that with their parents.

But they need an avenue to do that with, and so if you can open this avenue really early on, and I think this thinking aloud thing and executive function and all of this ties into all of that, because it's really easy place to find something to work on that you've got something in common.

You not necessarily got geography to teach them because their teachers are doing that.

But their teachers are not teaching them how to take control of their working memory, how to take control of their focus and their contribution and cognitive flexibility.

They're not teaching them in that.

That's not their job.

Well, you know, I would say that it should be.

The schools should be doing more of that, but they're not doing enough.

They should be.

But it's not within their current job remit.

That's right there.


What they're literally trying to do is teach them literacy skills.

I remember someone saying to me in primary school, the teacher teaches the class in high school.

The teacher teaches the subject.

What's the impact of that in primary school?

The teachers not necessarily teaching the individual child and often in primary school, the teacher really needs to teach the individual child something, especially if you're a little bit newer, divergent, and then in high school.

The teacher is teaching the subject, not necessarily the study skills to learn the subject.

Yeah, we definitely need.

I mean, that's some area that I feel that I'm doing everything I can to reform education so that we can teach kids these executive functioning skills.

We can teach these study skills, and I do offer a course on that at learning specialist courses, because I just I feel it's such an important tool and I really want to go into the schools and start to do this work.

And that's where I'm going to be moving in the future, for sure.

But I think, you know, I like the idea of also the idea of kind of safe communication, and it goes back to We've talked about this book many times.

Nonviolent communication is such a beautiful thing to teach your kids, and I'm really starting to realize how much nonviolent communication that whole principle by Rosenberg.

What's his first name?

Marshall Rosenberg.

We should put that in our show.


I should say I have been in many nonviolent communication groups and presentations as part of the permaculture network and community.

I'm involved in permaculture, and I have to say most of them don't do it.

Justice and most people who present on this have some sort of maybe their own kind of twist on it, or their own agenda on it or whatever.

And I actually have to say that I was put off by it a great deal when some advocates of nonviolent communication Sometimes I go a bit cringe because it can be used to be passive, aggressively manipulative.

Quite frankly, it's like, oh, I feel that that's violent communication or whatever and you're like, oh, no, you’re completely lost the whole point of what Marshall Rosenberg is trying to do.

It just becomes another stick to hit people over the head with that that I think if anyone's listening and feeling that feeling inside, I get what that feels like.

But then you go and watch Marshall Rosenberg's YouTube video that is, to YouTube videos that are an hour long, each the one with the giraffe.

And he's got a puppet in his hand, a giraffe in one hand and then a wolf in the other.

And he's such a lovely guy, you know, so humble that he takes such profound concepts and then humbles himself to use a simple image like that.

And then you read his book.

You realize Gosh, there's very few people who can properly communicate the heart of what he's trying to do other than Marshall Rosenberg and anyone else who is trying to do some sort of synopsis, which is why I'm not going to do it right now.

We'll do will not do it justice.

So I highly recommend going to the actual source on that rather than I have been listening to his audiobook lately, and he I'm pretty sure it's him.

That's reading it.

I'm certain of it.

He has such a great voice.

He has such a great presentation.

The way he speaks, you feel like he's sitting right in front of you.

It's absolutely marvelous.

I just I hang on every sentence that he says, because there's so much wealth in it.

I mean, I could listen to it very, very slowly.

I'm not, but what I do realize is I want to listen to it many times because there's so many.

There are so many great nuggets that I want to integrate into my life that are just absolutely brilliant.

But with that said, let's hit our last cognitive flexibility.

So cognitive flexibility is the last major piece of working memory.

I'm sorry of executive functioning and let's talk a little bit about how we can help parents or make some suggestions on cognitive flexibility.

And I think one of the things that pops for me the most is to show acceptance to diversity.

The more we can show that we are accepting of diversity.

And that's races, religions, beliefs, ideas, the more cognitively flexible we are more cognitive flexibility.

We are teaching our Children.

What are your thoughts on that?

Well, I diversity increasingly becomes a tool to polarize people and a word that polarizes people, especially in America, again, like nonviolent communication, et cetera.

You know people can use words and then turn them around and you make turn them into sticks to beat people with.

But I sometimes find using certain words that are so have such wide uses now can become less helpful.

So, yes, I agree with you.

But there are also people who might be listening who are thinking, Oh, diversity.

What about if you're not different?

What about if you're very much normal or, you know, am I accepted as well?

You know, I think the showing acceptance for differences you know, like one of the biggest difficulties for differences is probably a bit better.

Take out diversity and let's just put in differences.

Yeah, yeah, And I think, and that's really hard for Children.

So, like when Children are at school, they want to be like everyone else.

They don't want to stand out.

They don't want to be the different one.

They don't want to have a different nose or different ears or a different face or different hair or different anything.

They just want to belong.

Children are often looking for differences, and I think it's an ingrained thing within human beings.

You know, differences can be a threat, like if something is particularly different, it can be a threat.

I think Jordan Peterson is very good at talking about these kinds of backgrounds and understanding people's responses.

Inherent responses psychologically towards these sorts of things, but starting to notice differences aren't that different, accepting differences, but then realizing it's not that different, it's still a knows.

It's still ears, it's still a face, it's still hair.

Maybe it's a bit different, but it's still within a sort of normal parameter, a safe parameter, as it were because there's something inside of us that's wired up to look out for differences in case, they're a threat.

Does that make sense?

And so that's where cognitive flexibility really comes in.

We're getting a bit better on this, but cognitive flexibility is the ability to be flexible and adapt to the real world.

And a whole part of the real world is to deal with threats, things that are real problem and so to stay safe.

Inflexibility can sometimes be a response to.

I feel safe within the parameters of this kind of thinking, and I don't want to go outside of that thinking.

But because I might fall off a cliff and get hurt into a whole new area, it's a natural human condition to stick to what we know because it's safe.

And yet we still need some cognitive flexibility because it allows us to adapt to a changing landscape.

So there's this tension between safety and security and adventure, and that's where that cognitive flexibility element comes in.

I don't have a lot more to say on it than that, but accepting differences is important, but also, I think a big thing in this actually is, is learning how to take risk assessments as you're going along.

Cognitive flexibility.

A huge part of it is dealing with risk.

And what I mean by that is like if you think about the map is not the territory we've talked about this before.

What you think is an accurate representation of the way things are and the way things should be.

You bring it to the world, you look at the world, you get feedback from the world and some of those things.

The feed the world says you're bang on and some of those things the world says, what on earth are you talking about?

That's totally off and you have to adjust and cognitively flexibly adjust to it Well, that is a way of staying safe, because if you don't have an accurate map of the world and you go out into that world and safely and you think the map says right, this is a nice, safe bridge across this river.

But it's not a bridge across the river.

It's just a plank or it's in the wrong place and you fall straight into the river.

You hurt yourself, you drown and die you know, that's kind of what we're talking about in terms of cognitive flexibility.

So the child needs to learn from the parent in many ways that sort of thinking aloud how to deal with changes and the world rather than assume the world is a lovely, safe place.

Everything's everyone loves me, everyone.

I'm the center of the world.

Everyone loves me.

Everyone's going to be nice to me.

Everyone is going to be kind and then you go out to that world and then oh, my goodness, all of a sudden there's malevolence in this world, there's hurt in this world.

You can get wounded in this world.

You need to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents.

As Christ said, you know, you need to have both in you, so you're smart enough to know where threats are, and you still have some purity of spirit inside.

So I think that's another area that starts to develop this continent of flexibility within Children.

Um, that's way down to There are some Children who are like the scout leader has changed the activity you're going to be doing on Thursday, and they send a note in and then the child is like, no, no, no, they can't change the activity He said he was going to do that, and I've got my shoes already packed and he can't change it.

And I'm not going unless it's the same and so on, and you've got that whole range in between that, we, as parents, have to help our Children with yeah, and navigating, being able to handle those situations where there is a switch and helping them to regulate their emotions, which is going back into inhibitory control.

But I think also helping them to manage transitions.

And that's where you can really, you know, set an example.

How do you manage transitions and just slow down?

To me, that's the word that really helps me just slow down, slow down, move through.

It doesn't matter how difficult the situation is.

You'll get to the other side.


Time always pulls us through and trying to regulate that and trying to show them the different ways that you can move through transitions, then recognizing creativity.

Creativity is really a piece of cognitive flexibility that is incredibly important and getting kids to be comfortable to think out of the box so that they can be creative learners, and I think that that pretty much wraps it up for today.

Do you have any other thoughts that you wanted to add?

I think this is such an important area that, you know, there's so much more to say.

Isn't there so much more to say?

I mean, we haven't even scratched on it.

I mean, we could talk way more like cognitive flexibility, how to deal with transitions, how to deal with transitions to sleep, how to deal with transitions to waking up, how to deal with transitions going out the front door, how to deal with transitions to coming and sitting at the dinner table, starting your schoolwork.

You know, we could just go through a whole heap of list, and each one has got different strategies and so on that that we can do for our Children and then help them start doing it independently.

One of the things that I wish there was out there was like a community find a community of parents who are thinking about these sorts of things, and at the very least, get yourself executive function coach.

You know, find an executive conference coach that you can work with that can just drop these thought bombs on you one after the other.

I mean, it's just mind blowing.


People like you, Erica, come up with a solution.

People like me.

I sometimes drop some mind bombs on clients, and they're like, oh, my goodness, that's incredible, Darius, Like I mean, a simple thing like you can copy something on your iPhone and then paste on your Mac.

And it's if you copy on your iPhone and then you click copy paste on your Mac.

You're like it tastes exactly what was on your phone.

And for one of my clients, that was like, oh, my goodness, this is transformed my whole week and my organization just connecting everything, really, simply.

But you know, there's a granular level of solutions to all of these that are so useful to know about and prioritize So I just highly encourage you to value the return on investment that it takes taking some time to find executive function strategies for your child and help them with them and to zoom back in and say, Okay, yeah, it is so big and oh my gosh, there's so much to do to zoom back in and say Okay, but we can make it manageable.

Go back to those general executive functioning ideas of Set An example.

Be structured, be organized.

Plan for events beyond time.

Think out loud, Share your strategies.

Be positive.

Share gratitude.

Be kind.

Find an executive functioning coach.

Allow your kids to create their own strategies.

Yes, And I would add one last thing.

We haven't talked about Doodle doodle doodle draw diagrams, draw diagrams, draw diagrams, draw doodles so that you stimulate your child's strengths, not just their weaknesses.

So whenever I hear people saying Oh, stay, organized and so on, find a way to stay organized.

That is their way of staying organized that fits their brain.

Not your way.

Not always endless words.

But maybe there's pictures involved as well, you know, just throwing that out there.

There are different ways, Erica.

It's been fantastic.

Next week, I'm looking forward to our convo.


Take care.

Bye bye.

Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer Podcast.

This is Dr Erica Warren, and this is Darius Namdaran.

You can check out our show notes for links to resources mentioned the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media.

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