Taking turns, following instructions, getting along with others and dealing with distractions—all of these are components of an important set of skills that help children succeed in school and later become independent, self-sufficient adults. These self-regulation, or executive function, skills are key to making good life choices and building healthy relationships. Children aren’t born with these skills, but they are born with the potential to develop them, says Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.
Shonkoff likens executive function skills to an air traffic control system at a busy airport that simultaneously manages arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. Our brains must focus on many streams of information at the same time, and adjust plans as necessary.
Researchers tell us that executive function skills begin to develop shortly after birth, and rapid growth occurs between ages 3 and 5. Adverse early experiences in a child’s life can seriously impair or delay development of these skills, says Shonkoff. Children who are struggling with executive function skills often look like they are not paying attention or are deliberately misbehaving, which often leads to punishment in a classroom or child care setting, creating additional stress that further inhibits growth of these important skills.
With professional guidance in the development of executive function skills, child care providers and teachers are better equipped to understand and address behavioral and learning challenges, which is why First Five Nebraska supports LB944.
Today the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is conducting a public hearing on LB944, which would expand funding for an existing program—Nurturing Healthy Behaviors. Nurturing Healthy Behaviors provides grants to private organizations in Nebraska that provide social and emotional development training and support to child care providers and teachers. Training includes how to assess behaviors, classroom evaluations, teacher consultations and more intensive interventions as needed.
The investment proposed in LB944 will help child care providers and teachers know how to encourage positive behaviors and address challenging behaviors as they occur.
Visit First Five Nebraska’s Current Legislation page to follow developments on LB944 and other bills impacting children ages 0-8.