Does it ever seem like once your child or teen gets started on a project that they struggle to sustain their interest and complete it? Sustained-attention and goal-directed persistence are two key executive functioning skills that work together to help a student cross the finish line. Sustained attention refers to the ability to maintain focus and extended efforts over time. Goal-directed persistence means the ability to set a realistic goal and follow through on it without being waylaid by distractions and interruptions. These skills mature slowly as a child develops into adulthood and require repeated, targeted support in the face of intense frustration, fear of failure or lethargy. Rather than anxious hovering or distressed reminders, though, you can help your youngster establish do-able goals, improve work continuity and nurture competence by shifting to collaboration and compassion.
When students struggle with setting appropriate goals and paying attention to what needs to happen to finish them, they often feel ashamed. While neurodivergent kids have natural challenges in these areas, other students who don’t meet the criteria for ADHD may just have weaker capabilities. Either way, they often feel bad about themselves as a result of comparing themselves negatively to peers who don’t have these challenges. They may wind up with low self-esteem and low motivation.
GRIT is more than the ability to persevere toward a goal in spite of compelling obstacles and practice self-regulation in the face of disappointment or frustration. I think GRIT is a process for motivation and goal-directed persistence that can be applied to any task to boost concentration, steadfastness, and confidence. It’s a map for success for all types of learners. Here’s how it works:
G — Go-For-It Goals: Work with your student to discuss the Big Picture before the details. Assess the forest and pick a trail before beginning your hike through the trees. Collaborate on the overall goal and then what needs to be done first, second, and third in working on it, keeping the tasks simple and clear. Together you are creating a map or flowchart of how to get from here to there. If you make it too complicated, you will lose your child’s buy-in. Remember, they may already feel overwhelmed or dejected. Later, when these initial goals are completed, you can reassess and set new ones for the Big Picture. Above all, mutually set goals can accomplish and offer incentives. You want…