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Executive Function & Self-Regulation

More than Academics

Students have a lot on their plate. They navigate a complex terrain, not just academically but also in their social and emotional lives. The modern schooling system places substantial academic demands on students, and these are compounded by the challenges of evolving social relationships and the quest for independence. Moreover, the digital era, with its social media and online learning platforms, adds layers to an already intricate social-emotional landscape. It is in this context that the role of self-regulation, a key executive function skill, becomes critically important.

Self-regulation can be likened to the conductor of an orchestra. Just as a conductor manages different sections of the orchestra to create harmonious music, self-regulation involves managing one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts to orchestrate a balanced life. For high school students, mastering self-regulation is essential for harmonizing academic responsibilities with personal growth and well-being. According to the American Psychological Association, self-regulation is not just about controlling oneself but also about adapting to situations and making choices that align with one’s deeper goals.

Students lacking in self-regulation may find themselves akin to an orchestra without a conductor, where the different sections — time management, focus, and stress management — are out of sync. They might struggle to resist distractions, leading to procrastination and falling behind in their studies. The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University emphasizes that the lack of self-regulation skills can lead to challenges in impulse control, which in turn can result in unhealthy behaviors like excessive use of digital devices, inadequate sleep, or resorting to unwholesome means to manage stress.

This shortfall in self-regulation often stems from a combination of factors, including the pressures of the digital age and the evolving complexity of the social and academic environment. For high school students, developing self-regulation is not just about achieving academic success; it’s about cultivating a balanced and healthy life, where personal goals and wellbeing are in harmony with educational achievements.

Improving Your Child’s Self-Regulation

Encouraging mindfulness is one way to promote self-regulation in high school students. Mindfulness helps in developing self-awareness and self-control. Parents can encourage their teens to take some time each day to sit quietly, focus on their breathing, and observe their thoughts without judgment. This practice can increase their awareness of their thought patterns and emotions, thereby improving their ability to regulate them. This is especially beneficial in the classroom setting, where concentration and emotional control are paramount.

Another strategy involves creating a system for tracking progress. High school students often deal with long-term projects that require careful planning and organization. By breaking larger projects into smaller tasks and using a system to track progress, such as a project calendar or a checklist, students can stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed. This approach helps in maintaining a clear view of their goals and the steps needed to achieve them, fostering a sense of accomplishment and motivating them to continue working diligently.

Encouraging independent problem-solving is also crucial. When faced with challenges, high school students benefit from thinking through problems on their own before seeking help. This encourages them to consider different perspectives, brainstorm potential solutions, and evaluate the pros and cons of each option. Such a process fosters critical thinking skills and independence, essential attributes for successful problem-solving in both academic and personal contexts.

Finally, modeling self-regulation is perhaps the most effective way to encourage it in high school students. Parents can demonstrate self-regulation in their behavior and emotions, such as taking breaks when feeling overwhelmed or practicing mindfulness. Teens are more likely to adopt these behaviors if they consistently see them practiced at home.

Self-regulation is a vital skill for students, crucial for academic success and personal growth. By promoting mindfulness, implementing systems for tracking progress, facilitating independent problem-solving, and modeling self-regulation, parents can help their teens develop this critical skill. With proper support and guidance, high school students can learn to regulate their behavior, emotions, and thoughts, setting them up for success in school and life.

Self-Regulation & Executive Function

Self-regulation stands as a pivotal component within the broader framework of executive function, acting much like the steering wheel in a car that guides and controls direction amidst various routes. Executive function refers to a set of cognitive processes that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These skills enable individuals to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Self-regulation specifically pertains to the aspect of executive function that involves controlling one’s emotions and behaviors. It’s about choosing actions that are in alignment with one’s goals, even when emotions might urge a different response. This skill is crucial for students in managing their studies, social interactions, and personal growth, serving as a foundational element that supports and enhances other executive functions. By mastering self-regulation, students can effectively utilize their working memory, engage in flexible thinking, and execute tasks with greater efficiency and success.

As students progress through middle school, high school, college, and into the working world, the ability to master critical executive function skills becomes increasingly important. These skills, including organization, time management, learning strategies, and social awareness, enable capable students to perform at their potential. In the modern educational landscape, being a student requires more than just intelligence. It requires the ability to stay organized, manage time effectively, learn efficiently, and be cognizant of the impressions left on others.

These transformative executive function skills can be taught by a well-trained academic coach. At Staying Ahead of the Game, we specialize in providing one-on-one academic coaching and tutoring services for students navigating the complexities of high school and college. We know how to help students develop the proper systems to ensure their results match their potential. If you’re interested in learning more about how our life-changing programs can benefit you or your child, reach out to us today. Let us help you stay ahead of the game!

Andrew Brockenbush


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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