Executive functions in everyday life – Self-monitoring

Self-monitoring is an important part of self-regulation. It lets you keep track of your thoughts, emotions and behavior. It helps you check to see if you’re meeting standards and sticking to your goals and plans. Self-monitoring means you’re checking in on yourself – “am I doing okay?”, “did I stay as calm as I wanted?”, “did I use the plan I’d made?”, “did I remember …?” 

You’ll notice children with weak self-monitoring. They need lots of prompting to stick with an activity. Their work quality is inconsistent – sometimes quite good and other times not. Self-regulation of their behavior, thinking and emotions is inconsistent. That’s because they miss mistakes or warning signals that things are starting to get out of control. They also don’t get a feeling of progress. That’s because they don’t have a clear idea of where they starting, how they’re doing, and how far or close they are to the goal. They don’t see the need to ask for help or don’t know when to ask. Children with weak self-monitoring will be genuinely surprised when they find themselves in trouble, when they didn’t pass a test, etc.  

Self-monitoring uses a lot of working memory. You have to keep your goals and standards in mind and then compare them to what’s happening now. Self-monitoring also requires a lot of self-awareness. You need to be mindful of the goals and standards but also of yourself. Children may just cruise along unaware that they’re behavior, thinking or emotions are getting out of control.    

Here are some things you can do with your child to work on Self-monitoring:

– Help your child decide on the standards and steps. Work with the child to decide, in clear simple language, what the standards are. What does self-regulated behavior look like in church, synagogue, or temple? What steps should your child take to complete homework, washing dishes, walking the dog …. What is your child supposed to look out

 for? Start simple and be positive – don’t use terms like “don’t run” – say “use slow feet” or “walk”. You and the child might decide that using a quiet voice is a good first standard – it’s simple, you can practice at home, it’s just one thing. Add more things as your child progresses. Make sure it’s do-able – it’s within your child’s ability to do it. Depending on the child and situation, checklists for self-monitoring can get more complicated. Have a look at the “Taking a test” checklist to the right.   – Have children watch themselves – you can simply use a mirror so your child can see what they’re doing. It can improve self-awareness in a really simple way. Taking videos of your child can be more effective. You and your child can watch and see where things might be changed.  – Use checklists. Make sure the standards and things to check are visual. You might identify one behavior, way of thinking, or emotion. Have the checklist so your child can check progress or check how well they’re doing.  
– Make ‘checking-in’ a consistent routine. Checking-in is just like taking your pulse – you take a moment to see how you’re doing. You might have your child check every two to five minutes to see how they’re doing or feeling. Set a timer or mobile phone so check-in times can be consistent.  

– Model your own working self-monitoring strategies. Talk out loud in front of your children about how you help yourself check your ongoing behavior. Ask yourself questions – “how am I doing?”, “did I ….?” Make slip-ups and show your child how to stop, check and recover.

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