MAINTAINING A PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Executive Skills Needed: 1. Task Initiation, 2. Sustained attention, and 3. Planning.
Steps to take: Activities like dance, music, and sports should be designed more for fun than for skill acquisition, although younger kids do build skills during ballet lessons, soccer, tumbling classes, and the like.
- Ideally, this process should begin when your child first decides on a skill he/she wants to develop that requires daily or consistent practice. Before you and he/she decide to go ahead with this, have a conversation about what will be required to enjoyably master the skill. Talk about how often he/she will need to practice, how long practice sessions will last, what other responsibilities he/she has, and whether there is enough time in the schedule to make consistent practice possible.
- Create a weekly schedule for when the practice will take place. A sample follows.
- Talk about what cues or reminders your child might need to remember to start the practice.
- Talk about how you and your child will decide whether the process is working. In other words, what are the criteria for success to signal that your child should continue?
- Decide how long you will keep at it before deciding whether to continue. Many parents have strong feelings that when a child decides to take up something like a musical instrument or a sport (especially if money is involved, such as buying an expensive instrument), he/she should “sign on” for enough time to make the expense and commitment worth it. Given that many children tire of these kinds of activities within a relatively short period of time, it makes sense to come to some agreement in advance for the minimum amount of time you expect your child to stick with it before you can discuss giving it up.
Fading the supervision: Cue your child to begin the practice at the agreed-on time and to check off on the checklist when he/she has finished. Place the checklist in a prominent place so that it alone can eventually act as the cue. Secondly, use a written reminder and the checklist. If your child doesn’t begin within 5 minutes of the agreed-on time, provide a verbal reminder. If he/she does begin on time, provide positive reinforcement for this.
Modifications/Adjustments: First, you and your child may want to pick a start time that’s easy to remember—such as right after dinner or right after a favorite daily TV program. This way, the previous activity actually serves as a cue to begin the next activity. Second, if your child is having trouble remembering to start the practice without reminders, have him/her set a kitchen timer or an alarm clock (or a watch alarm) as a reminder. Third, if your child resists practicing as much as you originally agreed on, consider changing the schedule rather than giving up. Make the practice sessions shorter, schedule them for fewer days, break them in two with a brief break between them, or give them something to look forward to when the practice is finished (for example, schedule the practices just before a preferred activity). Fourth, if you find yourself thinking you need to add a reinforce to make the practices more attractive to your child, it may be time to rethink the whole process. If your child is reluctant to practice as much as is needed to acquire the skill, this is a signal that he/she may not care so much about learning the skill after all.
Dawson, P., & Guare, R. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York: The Guilford Press. P. 143-144.
LEARNING A NEW SKILL
BEFORE you begin, answer the following questions:
1. What do I want to learn?
2. Why do I want to learn this?
3. What will be involved in learning the skill (lessons/practice) and how much time will be involved?
What needs to be done?
When will this happened?
How much time will it take?
Other: games, exhibitions, recitals
4. Will I have to give up anything I’m doing now to fit this into my schedule?
If you decide you want to go ahead, plan your schedule by filling in the boxes that follow. Write what time each activity will take place and how long it will last. You can use this to keep track of your practices as well by crossing off each practice after you’re finished it.
Dawson, P., & Guare, R. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York: The Guilford Press. P. 145.