Troublemaker, lazy, daydreamer - probably not so much
Here's what is known about executive function skills (EFS). It's entirely a cognitive process that begins to develop before birth. After birth, most children develop in a gradual and clear progression for the next 20-years. If a child is at the appropriate developmental age level, yet lacking in the necessary skill development, practice and experiences can improve abilities.
Included skills being developed are the ability to plan and direct activities, starting and finishing tasks, working memory, ability to focus their attention, performance monitoring, delayed gratifications, and goal persistence.
That's correct. These functioning skills, while so important for success in school and social relationships, finally reach full developmental potential usually in the early twenties of a young person.
Important - while children generally develop these skills together on a chronological time frame, think of grade levels, there are differences in rate. Usually months. Often a year or more, especially boys. This means that many children cannot meet the homogeneous false expectations imposed on them, via school and family.
EFS vs. expectations
And this is the rub.
There is little tolerance for differences in developmental progressions in our society. Especially in our public schools where labeling teens as troublemakers, lazy, and out of control is common practice.
For example, if your 15-year-old daughter talks about becoming a medical doctor, yet her studies are lackluster because she often slips into a daydreamer mode in class, she might be lacking developmental progress in one or more of her EFS. If her complaints are that school is boring, hard to focus and pay attention in class, misses classroom instruction, like notes, it's probably that the expectations of school are exceeding her skill level(s).
Except for those 3-5 percent of the population with profound ADHD, ADD, and/or Autism Spectrum Disorders, teenagers can eventually reach the necessary developmental levels of EFS to function successfully in society. At issue is the psychological damage to their self-esteem along the way that does not easily rebound from prolonged and repetitive experiences of failure in public education over the years. Our K-12 schools cannot individualized its educational programming for the masses.
Therefore, as parents, your number one priority is to protect your child from profound and catastrophic failures - grade retention, academic tracking, stereotyping, misdiagnosed and failure to properly identify, bullying (peers and teachers), incompetent teachers, unreasonable classroom expectations (math instruction always comes to my mind), and condition of school building. All the while, keeping your teen's self-esteem intact, in spite of public educations attempts at uniformity and standardization.
This is why successful parenting is so difficult.
Photo Credit: Renato Ganoza via Flickr.com