On Friday morning, Mr Hare (aged nine) had the option of being organised and riding to the bus-stop with Craig in the work car or being less organised and me walking with him. The work car has Navman. The bus-stop is around the corner. They use the Navman to find their way. Mr Hare loves it.
Mr Hare had around 30 minutes to do everything he needed to do and was not in a very organised space. He came to me in the bedroom and said, “I’m going to do all my other chores and then have some more breakfast because I’m still hungry and finish by doing my teeth and face.”
I said, “OK, call me when you’re ready to do your piano practise.”
He left the room and then called out, “I’m going to eat first, I’m starving!”
I said, “OK.” All the while thinking, how much can one child eat in one morning?
He went and ate. He came to me and said,” Right, now I’m going to do my curtains, bed and face and teeth. Then can you come to the piano?”
I said, “Sure.”
He did his other chores and got dressed to shoes (thanks flylady.com). He completed his piano practise. He got to ride in the work car and be navigated around the corner to the bus-stop by Navman. All done. No frustration. No raised voices. No aggression. No tantrums. No stress.
Key One: He organised the order of his tasks and manipulated the order to suit himself.
Key Two: He was highly self-motivated.
Key Three: He has been doing the same chores every morning since the start of the year, and many of them for four or five years.
Key Four: They are all simple tasks, which he can manage easily without help. (Apart from the piano practise, for which he organised when he needed me to be there.)
Key Five: I didn’t prompt him or ask him to plan his morning, he just did it and spoke to me to clarify his own thoughts. He wasn’t asking me for a better or quicker way to do things, he had that under control – me saying anything substantial at this stage would have interfered with his own processing. And could have made him feel that his own ideas/planning was not to be trusted – resulting in a lesser sense of self-assurance.
Key Six: He knows that I won’t rescue him and do the jobs for him. He knows that he still has to sort these things out regardless of what else is going on. Craig would have left without him if he hadn’t been organised.
Key Seven: We have been actively passing responsibility for planning these tasks over to him during the last few months. (By not giving directions but saying: What do you need to do to get out the door on time?)
Executive Function is our ability to plan and organise ourselves. To set goals, break the steps to those goals into manageable chunks and then to complete them. Jane Katch is quite right when she said in her comment that organising our own play, as in planning, playing and re-assessing, with blocks is EF 101 – but from the age of nine or so, I believe, EF also needs to used in real-life personal organisation. There are plenty of clever kids who never succeed as adults. There are plenty of hard-working kids who never succeed as adults.
It’s the combination of:
enough smarts +enough hard work +
high levels of executive function =
For more on executive function you can go here: Preparing for Real Life – Mindful Disconnection Pt Seven(!).
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