Brain development is at the core of a child’s challenges with getting things done. Everything that a parent might ask a child to do — homework, chores, getting ready to leave the house, etc. — requires using the executive functions in of the brain. Executive function is a brain process that helps people take purposeful action to get tasks done.
Just as siblings look different, each brain’s executive function skills are different. Perhaps one child has no serious struggles with sitting down for homework, staying focused, or planning and completing projects. That child makes a parent feel powerful and competent. And then there is the other child, who, though he has the same parents and same rules, never gets anything done. A brain that lacks the executive functioning skills of time management, planning, and prioritizing creates a life full of stress, often bordering on chaos.
Time management educator, Marydee Sklar, notes, “The differences are in their brains. Stop blaming the struggling child. Blame his brain. If your child has problems with time management, the child may be a visual learner, which means the parent should help the child draw his weekly plans, rather than using a calendar system or to-do list.”
She adds, “I understand the chaos from executive functioning deficit. I had read all the best-selling time management books, tried a multitude of calendar systems and had pages and pages of lists. None of these strategies stopped me from doing things like showing up for a birthday party, gift in hand, children in tow, only to have a confused mother open the door and tell me that the party was TOMORROW. I did this twice.”
It was 1996 when Sklar’s relationship with time changed. Dr. Ellyn Arwood, a professor at the University of Portland, had a theory that was pretty radical at the time. She said that some people were visual thinkers and that their visual thinking affected their behavior, including their awareness of time. She identified Sklar as a visual thinker, one whose strength is in thinking in pictures. To get a handle on Sklar’s time-challenged brain, she told Sklar to go home and draw her plan for her week.
Sklar continues the story, “I drew my plan for the week. It looked like a mindmap that was completely out of control. It was chaos. I would write down part of the plan, scribble it out, and rewrite it. I would draw lines connecting items together, then have to redraw them because they didn’t connect appropriately. Needless to say, it was not a tidy picture. And it took me TWO HOURS to complete!”
Sklar has since refined her drawing of her week. “I created a template in which I use icon images for each of my roles and the tasks that take up my time,” says Sklar. “In essence, it is my foundation picture for the week, showing me what I need to do. It is part of the process I use to plan my time, to be balanced and in control of my life. It all takes about 20-30 minutes once a week, which is a much improved and much more efficient process. I can clearly see what I need to do, laid out nice and orderly on my weekly plan template.”
Sklar encourages parents of children with time management issues to help their child in drawing their weekly plan and keep that drawing in sight. By taking this action weekly, the child can get much done with less stress and improve that child’s overall executive functioning.
As a time management educator in a private practice, Marydee Sklar has helped families struggling with time management for almost twenty years. Her unique approach to teaching time management comes from her experience as reading specialist as well as her own experience with executive function deficits.
She is the author of three Seeing My Time books, including the Seeing My Time workbook and its companion, Seeing My Time – Instructor’s Manual, which were designed for professionals to use in therapeutic or educational settings.
Sklar is a popular speaker for conferences at state and national levels where she addresses how to teach the executive functions of time management, planning, and organization. As the founder of Executive Functioning Success, she is creating a network of trained professionals to teach the Seeing My Time course to their clients and students through live webinar sessions.
Sklar offers two free resources explaining the role of the executive functions in a child’s struggles and successes, in school, the workplace and beyond at http://www.BlametheBrain.com