Identify the areas for initial improvement based on their interests and your own strengths and weaknesses

We recommend accomplishing and praising them for a few "quick wins" early on, in order to build their confidence in the Wristlist concept. No longer losing stuff alone will help but now let's focus on the executive function aspect.

Now that you've completed the questionnaire(s), you should have a good understanding of their executive function strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. All executive functions can be developed through clear instruction, repetition, correction, and ongoing support with adjustments. Prioritize an initial focus area that that could use just a bit of help and is also an area of strength for you.  This way, you can subtly role model the ideal behaviors and help guide them to improvement.  The Wristlist user should participate in selecting the focus areas, as the ability to choose is empowering and helps them to take ownership of the outcomes.  

Coaching Strategies:

Every situation is different and there are no full-proof strategies but having a consistent schedule is a good foundation on which to start building. On a broad level, we put ourselves in a position to be most successful by following the same general routine daily with regard to sleeping, eating (whole and unprocessed foods with limited additives), drinking enough water (1/2 of body weight in ounces), getting plenty of exercise, and limiting the number of unexpected situations.  

There are plenty of different strategies to address each of the executive functions, that you can try on your own or with the help of a professional support team.  Here are a few proven strategies for each executive function, that have proven to work with Wristlists™ users, as well some recommendations (and links) for "Step-By-Step" Badges that can serve as reminders for that focus area:

 

Emotional control 

The ability to manage emotions for achieving goals, completing tasks or controlling and directing behavior.*  

It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions.  The key is to be able to manage them according to the situation or the task at hand. Strategies can include:

  • Identify and role play acceptable ways to express emotions based on the circumstances
  • Deep breathing is the best way to hit the reset button!  Pretending to blow up a balloon or blow out candles on each finger of an extended hand are equally effective. 
  • Little waves can’t slow down a big ship! This approach requires training to help kids distinguish the magnitude between a “little wave” (such as an ice cream cone falling) and a “bigger wave” (such as the death of a pet). You could ask the question: “Is this something that I’ll remember or that will affect me in a year from now?"   

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

 

Response Inhibition

The capacity to resist urges while allowing time to evaluate a situation and the impact of an action.  

Although many lessons need to be learned through the natural consequences of our actions, parents attempt to proactively teach as many lessons as possible within an environment made safe for their kids, much like they did when “baby-proofing” their house.  Our top proven strategy is:

STOP-THINK-GO 

Teach your child how to STOP before acting on impulse, then THINK about consequences with two simple questions:

  •  "Is it going to hurt anyone?"
  •  "Is it going to hurt me?"

It is important that they understand that "hurt" can include physical, emotional and social damage. Then they can GO with the best choice. It’s great reinforcement if the child can verbally share an example when they applied the strategy and it led to better outcomes. That discussion presents you an opportunity to evaluate how other choices may have played out. Role-play is always a great practice method. 

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • S T G  (Stop-Think-Go - looks like a vertical traffic light)

 

Organization 

The ability to create and maintain systems that keep track of mental information or physical materials.  

Organization affects day-to-day activities and learning in so many ways. Whether it’s mental information or physical materials, effective organization positions us to store and later retrieve things when needed.  Poor skills will make learning harder but not impossible, so we aim to improve end-results, by simplifying and making things easier.  Key strategies include:

  • Keeping their room, backpacks and work areas organized. Empower them to sort things and have assigned places (trays and boxes are invaluable). The use of labels is also effective.  
  • Using calendars to keep track of events, important dates and which days have unique activities
  • Preparing in advance. We promote the idea of “sharpening the saw”, which suggests that taking the time to prepare in advance will enable more effective and efficient production later.  
  • Physical checklists are incredibly effective 
  • Verbal checklists are effective when giving instructions. For example, “you need to do 3 things upstairs, which include…” or “before leaving practice, always ask yourself if you have your 3 things, which include…”.  Having the student repeat these checklists back to you exponentially multiplies success rates.

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

 

Task Initiation 

The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem solving strategies.  

Simplified processes are better than complicated ones, so keywords or acronyms are useful when multiple steps are involved.  An example is G.U.E.S.S. (what you need to do to complete a job):

  • Goal - What is the objective?
  • Under a time limit?  
  • Establish the different steps
  • Step 1 - Do it!
  • Step 2 - Do it and repeat the "do it" process for all following steps until completion.  

Other strategies:

  • Establish routines
  • Use a timer often and discuss how long different jobs will take based on the time needed for each step required.
  • Give tasks that are inherently self-motivating but also educate on why it’s necessary to do routine tasks that seem unpleasant or boring, such as taking trash out so that the house doesn’t smell.
  • Come up with a phrase for getting responsibilities done before it’s appropriate to play, such as “First Things First”.  We like this one because it can take on multiple meanings.

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

 

Working Memory

The ability to hold information in memory while simultaneously performing another operation.  It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning and experience and apply that knowledge in current and future situations.  

Emerging around only 6-months of age, working memory is among the first executive functions to develop, with information constantly coming in through all senses. People learn and recall things in different ways, with some being better visually, some auditory, and others not being able to internalize information or skills unless they use their fingers or apply it in real-life activities (kinesthetically). Identifying your childs' best learning method will be valuable in devising the right strategy. 

Generally, this is another area where strategies like repeating or paraphrasing back instructions and having visual cues or acronyms, are going to prove especially effective. Others can include:

  • Playing memory or category games is good mental exercise
  • Making eye contact when giving them simple and clear instructions
  • Making “connections” between things that they need to learn with things that they already know
  • Teaching others the things that you need to learn or remember 
  • Writing down or drawing a picture of what needs to be memorized

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • Pencil - write down (or draw if necessary) what needs to be remembered - such as homework assignments

 

Sustained Attention

The capacity to keep paying attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue or boredom.  

Improving this skill requires breaking down tasks into more manageable segments while working to increase the overall attention span. It’s helpful when distractions can be limited during those segments.  Other strategies that can limit jumping from task to task without completing any, include:

  • Having a phrase for staying focused on the current segment. Our clients do well with sayings like: “What are you supposed to be doing right now?” or “Have you completed the task at hand?”  
  • Attempt to have interesting and stimulating tasks follow the mundane ones.
  • Encourage activities that require full attention and focus at all times.  
  • Use a timer to establish baselines and gradually increase segments over time.

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • F◎CUS - use in conjunction with a lesson on: “What is the task at hand?” or “What are you supposed to be doing right now?"  
  • Off-Track - Road sign with railroad tracks and arrows showing going off track and getting back on.

 

Goal Directed Persistence

The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal, and not be put off by or distracted by competing interests.  

Mastering new skills takes time, much like getting back on a bike after falling. The goal doesn’t change just because it’s challenging. It’s helpful to have clarity on the reward for accomplishing the goal, which in this case could be: riding with their peers without the training wheels. It could also apply to buying a highly desirable item that takes time to save up for and especially when that purchase requires some construction once acquired.  Strategies include:

  • Caring for a family pet, which teaches daily responsibility over a sustained period.
  • Inspiring them with tales of those who achieved great things against challenging circumstances. 
  • Empowering them to verbalize why they’re doing something and what the end goal means. Identify areas they’ve improved through practice and use these to encourage them to accept new goals.  
  • If they use technology, encouraging applications that require extended effort in overcoming obstacles in order to succeed.  

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

 

Prioritized Planning

The ability to create a roadmap to complete an objective while deciding what information is important to focus on.  

At home, practice, and school, kids of all ages are being taught the most fundamental ways to put themselves in the best position to be successful with any task or activity. A baseball coach teaching how to stand in the batters box before a pitch or simply watching a parent start to prepare dinner before setting the table are teaching moments about what comes first.  This skill works hand in hand with the task initiation skill when there are complex objectives that require many steps or if there are many ways to solve the problem.  We like to keep it simple, so our G.U.E.S.S. acronym could be reapplied with a slight adjustment in what the letters represent:  

  • G.U.E.S.S. (what you need to do to accomplish this objective):
    • Goal - What is the objective?
    • Under a time limit?  
    • Establish the possible solutions and choose the best path forward 
    • Specify the steps and prioritize them in order of importance
    • Step 1 - (Task Initiation) Do it and complete each step before beginning the next until completion

Other strategies include:

  • Having kids help when making checklists for errands or packing before travel
  • Identify and post house rules and responsibilities. Come to an agreement that responsibilities need to be prioritized over other activities. 

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

Time Management

The ability to estimate how much time you have, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines.  

Time management can be a big source of frustration for families.  It can create more nagging than anyone prefers, especially when parents are strong in the skill and can’t understand or relate to the childs' weakness.  On the other hand, adults who are weak here have difficulty keeping to a schedule themselves and are chronically putting the kids in a position to be late. Once kids learn to read time, helping them estimate the amount of time that different activities take will position them to be more independent.  Strategies for developing the skill of time management include:

  • Maintaining a predictable routine - the repetition helps gain a sense of timing
  • Reading a clock and having a sense of how long 15 minutes lasts, are two very different things. Using timers or playing “sense of time” games is great for developing time analysis. Ask them often how long they think it will take to do activities or each step in a process.  
  • Help older kids to be aware of and help them find tools to prevent “time-sucking” activities that could eat up huge chunks of time without them realizing it.  
  • Help them understand the amount of time it takes to prepare to do something.  For example: instead of just saying that they need to leave for the bus stop at 7:30am, use a timer to demonstrate that if it takes 15 minutes to eat breakfast, 5 minutes to stuff backpacks, 5 minutes for final grooming, and another 5 minutes to get shoes and coats on.  So they actually need to start the process at 7:00am in order to be ready to leave by 7:30am!  

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • Clock - you can teach the concept of looking at the clock and asking themselves, "What is coming up next? Have I done everything to be prepared for it?"

 

Shifting & Flexibility

The ability to move from one situation to another and revise plans in the face of new information or challenges.  

Many parents can relate to the frustration of having a child who doesn’t deal with change well, whether it’s a toddler throwing a tantrum over a new babysitter or a teenager throwing a similar tantrum over not getting their first choice of roles on a team. Fear not, as there are many strategies for developing this skill, including but not limited to:

  • Try not to change too many things at once when possible.  Ease them into a major change.
  • Give them choices whenever possible.  Inflexibility can arise when people feel that others are trying to control them.  
  • As this skill goes hand-in-hand with Emotional Control, consider distinguishing magnitude between a “little wave” (such as an ice cream cone falling, a friend cutting in line, or not getting picked first) and a “bigger wave” (such as the death of a pet), where they can ask the question: “Is this something that I’ll remember or that will affect me in a year from now?”.  When you involve complex questions as to whether something is an issue worth standing up for, it can be a worthwhile challenge!  
  • Explain the concept of how easy it is to turn a sour lemon into delicious lemonade, by just balancing it with some water and sugar.  Role play scenarios on how they can turn their common negative situations (little waves) into positives.  

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • "NP plan B" - this is a fun saying that our clients love that translates to "no problem, let's try Plan B or another solution to the problem.  
  • Lemons ➡︎ Lemonade - when a negative thought is experienced, consider how to turn it into a positive

 

Metacognition

 The ability to observe how you problem solve.  

It includes self-monitoring and self-evaluation skills:

  • Self-Monitoring - Recognizing what is going on inside your own mind, body, environment and relationships
  • Self-Evaluation - The capacity to evaluate how well you did and to make good decisions about how to proceed.

Metacognition is important for success in many capacities, including interactions with others, as it supports the ability to interpret feedback and reactions from others and adjust accordingly. As described, all of the executive functions work together but rely more on some, much like metacognition works with Response Inhibition. There we used the proven STOP-THINK-GO strategy, which can be built upon here in addition to a few others:

  • STOP-THINK-GO-CHECK - simply add the CHECK by asking: “How did I do?”, “What could I have done better?” or “What will I do differently next time?”. 
  • Reflect and Revise until happy is another winning method that is simple to remember and apply in many circumstances, including social situations, school tests / work, sports, arts or other performances.  
  • Metacognition includes the proper treatment of others.  The Golden Rule has certainly stood the test of time and there is no downside to treating others the way that you want to be treated. 

Step-by-Step Badges available for your Wristlist:

  • S T G ☑️ (vertical traffic light with Stop-Think-Go and checkmark on the bottom)
  • RULE - The Golden Rule
  • Reflect 😄  Revise (with circular continuous arrows)