EFD has wide reaching effects on metacognitive skills and behavioral skills in adolescence and young adults. If the deficits are not addressed at an early age then patterns of thought and behavior can become more entrenched and harder to rewire. Furthermore, without direct consequences to help shape patterns of thoughts and behaviors, children will continue to perpetuate the same cycle of poor metacognitive skills and poor coping strategies.
EFD can be sectioned into two dimensions, behavioral regulation and meta-cognition. Children who struggle with behavioral regulation tend to react, or over-react to their environment in a negative way. They tend to appear stubborn, moody, over-reactant, and/or impulsive. Their coping strategies are the bi-product of poor self-regulation skills and an inability to think about their own reaction beforehand. These behavioral challenges are exacerbated and perpetuated by the metacognitive challenges that hinder effective decision-making, regulation, and planning.
Meta-cognition is the internal thought process of thinking about thinking. It is what happens with we turn on our internal ‘filter’ and refrain from doing or saying something, and when we say ‘I better start my homework because I know I have a lot to do’. Therefore, children with EFD struggle with monitoring their own activity, such as checking their work or reviewing their mistakes. They struggle with organization of their personal items. They struggle with goal setting and following an action plan to achieve a long-term outcome. They can be absent-minded and struggle with managing multi-step tasks. Finally, they also struggle with initiation, which can result in procrastination and a ‘couch potato’ behavior.
Metacognitive skills are developmental and evolve as the brain becomes more mature. That being said, there are essential skills that every young adult needs to demonstrate as they mature through high school and prepare for post-secondary education. Many children and young adults with EFD will find themselves lost and without a purpose or plan for after high school, if they go through high school without the proper training and tools.
Overcoming these challenges is not easy, but it can be done. Motivation to change is a critical aspect of the change process. Without a child’s motivation to change and work on effective skills to compensate for these challenges, there is little hope. There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. All of us possess variations of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because we all have our own wants and needs that guide us to act and behave.
One’s personal or internal interests and desires define intrinsic motivation, and just like external motivation, can ebb and flow based on one’s desire to achieve or prevent a certain outcome. For example, a student can have a high level of intrinsic motivation to learn math or be a good person, because they value their education and they believe in being a decent human being. Intrinsic motivation comes from a child’s internal drive and desire to meet their own expectations. With higher levels of intrinsic motivation, students will persevere in learning a tough math concept, asks a parent to edit a paper, stay after school for extra help, or simply double-check their assignments for accuracy. Unfortunately, for children with EFD, overcoming their cognitive and behavioral challenges requires such a high level of intrinsic motivation, coupled with a belief that they can do it, that many don’t even try. Or if they try, it is intermittent and does not form lasting habits of thought or behavior. If left alone, they tend to establish lower expectations, and meet those expectations with as little effort as possible.
On the other side of the motivation continuum is extrinsic motivation. This type of motivation comes from the external factors in life, such as grades, parents, or social pressures. For example, an extrinsic motivator for working adults is the desire to produce money. The possibility of earning more money is what motivates many adults to work harder and longer hours, and take on more duties and responsibilities. For students and young adults, the external expectations from parents and society can be a powerful extrinsic motivator in pushing students with EFD to overcome their challenges, learn to compensate for their deficits, and develop better patterns and habits.
Typically, children and young adults with EFD require far more extrinsic motivation in order to effectively overcome their learning challenges. Since it is easier and safer to settle for the way things are, most children and young adults with EFD will not persevere long enough to instill better habits of thoughts and behavior, without increased levels of extrinsic support.
So what can parents do to support their child?
What if the fear of failure is not enough?
This parent training video delves into effective strategies to support children with EFDs.