As a child, one of my favorite movies was the Wizard of Oz. Throughout the story, we follow Dorothy, lost in a tornado and taken to another land as she searches to get home with the help of the All Powerful Wizard. At times, Dorothy is terrified, hopeful, tearful, strong. But in the end, will she ever and get home to Kansas?
The big reveal at the end was the illusion of the Wizard himself. When she finally arrives in Oz to meet the “All Powerful Wizard” we hear a bellowing voice, see a grand stage filled with smoke and sound effects. The Wizard created a powerful illusion of himself, meant to push away others and demonstrate control. Terrifying! Until the smallest of the group, Toto, pulls back the curtain to find a small man, with microphone in hand conducting the show, including the special effects. The illusion is exposed.
Students exhibiting disruptive behaviors are similar to the Wizard. Using behavior as a protection tactic is common to adults and children. Sometimes it seems easier to push others away than to admit we have a problem; fears of failure or what others might think when we ask for help can paralyze us. Behaviors often mask what’s happening inside, how students are really feeling about themselves and their struggles.
What behaviors are we talking about?
- Hiding missing work
- Denial – how’s that river in Egypt?
- Being overly busy
- Excuses for not addressing assignments
- Avoidance of teachers
When students exhibit BIG behaviors, I imagine they are like the Wizard, afraid, protecting themselves and distracting attention away from what’s really behind the curtain.
Dealing with executive dysfunction in kids
So, how can we shake the illusion and really get through to these kids? At Effective Students, we follow three simple rules…
- Be Curious – Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Be Relatable – Kids are amazed when adults share their own struggles because they also don’t feel alone or marginalized. Imagine if your mentor said he/she struggled with the same things you do!
- Be Safe – Perfection is the enemy of learning, failure is a great teacher. Embracing challenges is a sign of a growth mindset.
Developing executive functioning skills requires setting the right example as an instructor. Remember: Learning trumps success.
Overcome executive dysfunction with Effective Students
As parents, it’s helpful to remember that sometimes our teenagers are like the Wizard, putting up a big show to push others away. Knowing there is something behind the curtain (feelings) helps us focus our attention safety first then solutions.
If tensions are high or if your student just needs a leg up, we’re here to help. Contact us today if you’re ready for a helping hand!