The one thing that the COVID Pandemic has re-enforced for children and teens is the sense that they have no control over their own lives. The idea that they choose their behaviors is a foreign concept to most students, regardless of their backgrounds. Children and teens often feel that they are controlled by adults. They have rarely been given permission to see themselves as unique individuals who have made choices that result from who they are, who they think they are, and how they have reacted to their life experiences. This attitude persists whether the child’s environment or demographic is urban or rural, or affluent or poor, and regardless of the child’s race or ethnicity. Almost all students respond to the sense of power they experience when they discover that they do, in fact, make choices that allow them to exercise control over aspects of their own lives. Parents and teachers sometimes must learn that they cannot control a child’s response. Self-control is the only real control over behavior. Parents and teachers guide; children act or react.
Learning Metacognitive Skills
By mastering the metacognitive skills of self-direction, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-correction, children and teens learn to make choices about their behavior and correct those choices when they prove ineffective at getting what they want or need. Because these metacognitive skills are so tightly interrelated, children and teens need sufficient command of them to know which skill to select for a given situation and which skill to use next in a different situation.
Specifically, they need to learn:
· To self-monitor their behavior to determine what their current behaviors are objectively and the consequences of those behaviors.
· To self-direct their behavior by choosing behaviors consciously that are necessary to obtain desired outcome.
· To self-evaluate their behavior to determine whether those behaviors have been effective in achieving the desired outcome and avoiding undesirable consequence in their unique environment.
· To self-correct their behavior to improve the outcomes for themselves in their unique environment.
Of course, the guidance of parents and teachers is vital to the help students understand fully the consequences of their choices, especially long-term consequences. During the pandemic, parents have had a unique opportunity to increase their intimacy and interaction with their children. This situation, though challenging, provides an opportunity to model through actions but also to think outloud about their own experiences with self-evaluating and self-correcting behavior that led to undesirable outcomes. (See “A Sense of Self-Control in the age of COVID” blog for a discussion about outloud thinking.)
Applying Metacognitive Skills
Children and teens learn to make better choices through self-monitoring and self-evaluating their own behavior. Then, they begin approaching a new situation by self-correcting ineffective behavior that led to undesirable outcomes, and by self-directing their behavior to achieve the desired outcome.
These metacognitive skills are taught to children and teens in the Metacognitive Approach to Social Skills Training (MASST-R). In essence, the parents and teachers are shown how to guide children and teens to a discovery of the control that each one exercises over his or her own choices and behaviors. This process empowers students to take control and responsibility for themselves, and to exercise that control with skill across situations and settings.
For more information about how to help children develop these skills, see the MASST-R Modules at:https://www.sheinkereducationalservices.com/modules.
Access the accompanying Module workbooks for children and teens at: https://www.sheinkereducationalservices.com/student-graphic-organizers. The student graphic organizers (workbooks) are currently available free of charge.