Thoughtful Parenting: Guiding The smart, but scattered child
Executive skills are brain-based abilities, controlled by the pre-frontal cortex, that enable us to perform tasks. They include skills such as organization, time management and task initiation.
Some children innately have stronger executive skills than others. Two children may be born to the same parents and receive the same parenting, yet have very different executive functioning. One may appear organized while the other more scattered. Sadly, the organized child is more likely to receive positive feedback about who they are than the child who functions in a more scattered way.
Scattered is a source of frustration and worry. Scattered is often perceived as broken and lacking intelligence. In 21st century style, we quickly classify it as disorder and seek remedies. In our haste, we completely miss the essence of a child.
We know that organization provides needed structure. It is the template by which societies function. We need organization, but we also need scattered.”
Scattered children are curious, imaginative and, quite often, more intelligent than people realize. They are the budding entrepreneurs and innovators of our society. They are far from disordered.
Scattered has not always been seen as a bad thing. The traits that we deem as problematic today were actually beneficial for survival in ancient hunter-gatherer societies. When put in the cultural context of a different time, distractibility, impulsivity and hyperfocus would have been the underpinnings of a fine hunter. Today, in the absence of productive ways to utilize that scattered behavior, children struggle.
Scattered children are often anxious although it may not be evident on the surface. This anxiety can interfere with the ability to execute tasks. Some believe that scattered children experience more anxiety today due to inadequate amounts of vitamin D, exercise and nutrition, as well as high sensitivity to various toxins.
Scattered children can hyperfocus so much on areas of interest that they are completely unaware of their surroundings. When scattered children are not hyperfocusing, they are often hyperalert to their surroundings and are taking in an inordinate amount of stimuli. The scattered child can also journey so deep into their imagination that they lose track of place and time.
So how do we help the scattered child? I offer three foundational suggestions.
1. We make efforts to shift our own perception. We see our scattered children as whole instead of broken. We focus more on their gifts than their challenges.
2. We teach them about their strengths and challenges. We help them to understand what they need to function at their best.
3. Through modeling and loving guidance, we teach them executive skills. If you would like some strategies for teaching your children executive skills, register for my free workshop, “Guiding The Smart But Scattered Child” as part of the Parent Connection Summit which will be held Nov. 8th at CMC. Register at youthinroutt.org/calendar/parent-connection-summit.
Join me in the movement to honor neurological differences. It is time for a change.
Tina Harlow, MSW, LCSW is the founder of Guiding Bright and the parent of two children. She provides individual and family counseling to children who are bright and highly sensitive. Tina works alongside children and families to help them gain a better understanding of themselves and each other while emphasizing the strengths that lie within their neurological differences. Her website is guidingbright.com.
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