Like any parent, the thought of school closure sent chills down my spine. I considered the possibilities of my child either being left-back or having to play catch up during the summer. Neither scenario is ideal due to my long held dream of my son following my footsteps to Duke University. How am I going to keep him away from video games, television, and Youtube?  What carrot and stick will I employ to get him motivated about reading and math? Once the initial fear passed, I reflected on the opportunity working from home and school closures presents to impart valuable skills and promote traits that will benefit him as an adult.

Typically, the only extended time we are in the same place are planned family vacations. During this time I am more focused on recovering from the stresses of life than teaching life lessons to my son. Commuting. A demanding boss, An uninspired workforce. I relish a vacation as my time to unwind. I realize it has been a long time since my son and I were both home and I had the ability to actively engage.

Research shows that valedictorians go on to do great in college academically, but lead relatively average lives. They are no more likely to change the world than any other students; so why are we so focused on grades? Additional  research shows that there are other traits and skills that are proven predictors of future success in all facets of life. One of the most well-known skills is the ability to delay gratification, as demonstrated through a 1972 study using the Marshmallow Test. The marshmallow test shows that children who were able to delay gratification and wait for two marshmallows as opposed to one now. Other traits that correlate to success can be summed up as executive function. Executive function is the collection of skills needed to acquire process and use information and control behavior. I plan to use my time effectively and work on executive function with my son. How can you do the same?

The first step is to get educated on executive function in children. I suggest reading articles, researching, and watching videos to learn about your child’s brain development. 

The key to promoting the skills your child will need as an adult is not what you are doing but how you are doing it. 

The second step is research games and tasks you can do with your child. Games like Connect 4, jigsaw puzzles, and chess promote executive function naturally, but a wrong approach to each can erase all the natural benefits.

The third and final step is to think about all the traits and skills you need in your life today to be successful. Does your child possess these traits?  If they do not, then invest the time and work with them.

Have fun. Stay safe. I wish you and your family the best.