One of the big executive functioning skills is the ability to self-monitor oneself. Self-monitoring strategies play a part in the ability to notice what is happening in the world around us and what is happening in our own body. The ability to “check” oneself and monitor actions, behaviors, and thoughts as they happen play into our ability to problem solve. Use the tips below to help kids learn how to self-monitor and problem solve. These self-monitoring strategies for kids are applicable in the classroom, home, sports field, or in social situations.
Related read: Here are more executive functioning resources to fill your therapy toolbox!
What is self-monitoring
Self-monitoring is a process of metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to plan for and execute a task, monitor one’s actions, analyze a problem, apply a strategy, maintain attention, and evaluate or monitor completion of an activity. Ideally, metacognition should occur naturally and instinctively as we engage in an activity.
The ability to self-monitor is made up of two main areas:
1.) Observation- In this stage, a child is able to identify a specific behavior, thought, or action that occurred. This might happen during the action or afterwards.
In a child who struggles with talking out in class, they may catch themselves as they are interrupting. Another child may realize they spoke out of turn only after the teacher mentions the interruption.
In both cases, the child is able to identify what behavior has occurred through self-assessment. This level of self-monitoring is a real struggle for some students and working on the ability to notice the behaviors or actions that are inefficient or inappropriate for the situation. The ability to observe and recognize behaviors or actions is a skill, and that self-monitoring ability requires a lot of reflection, as well as the ability to recognize an ideal response or appropriate behavior for a specific situation.
2.) Recording- This stage of self-monitoring is a means for moving from an awareness of actions and behaviors to function. In the recording stage of self-monitoring, children are able to note their actions and make changes based on what happened in specific situations.
Having a set of strategies in place to address self-regulation needs, attention needs, or emotional supports is beneficial for use in the moment. Jotting down deviances of targeted behavior can help kids to become more aware of what happened in a specific situation and how they can make adjustments in the future to avoid specific behaviors, or how they can use accommodations and self-regulation tools to respond and react more appropriately.
3.) Look at what needs addressed to get to a future that is desired- So often, kids know they are making poor choices, but don’t know how to stop the routine of those poor choices. If they can use introspection to identify how and what they are feeling and why, they can respond to those choices with a plan in place.
This letter to future self is a great tool to identify areas of change and to start breaking down goals. Follow up with our goal ladder as another strategy to make step by step progress toward that future visualization.
In talking about self-monitoring skills, let’s first discuss what exactly self-monitoring is and what it means for kids to self-monitor their actions, thoughts, and behaviors.
Observation, or self-assessment may require work in order for the child to understand targeted behaviors.
Recording or measurement of actions can occur through several methods:
- Parent/Teacher/Student communication sheets (where the child inputs behaviors throughout the day)
- Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
- Data collection sheets
- Frequency collection forms
- Lists of appropriate actions or behaviors
- Simple strategies to impact self-control
- Visual cues
- Verbal cues
- Reminder notes
- Goal setting
- Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
- Role-playing practice
- Modeling from peers
The goal of this stage is to get students to move from a teacher/parent/therapist/adult support of self-assessment to a self-assessment status where the child identifies behaviors and actions that are off-target.
A child’s ability to stay organized can make a big impact on self-monitoring. Use the organization activities and strategies identified here.
Why is Self-Monitoring important?
When children self-monitor their actions and thoughts, so many areas are developed and progressed:
- Problem-solving abilities
You can see how each of the executive functioning skills play into the ability to self-monitor and how self-monitoring skills play into the development and use of each of the other executive functioning skills.
The ability to self-monitor actions, behaviors, thoughts impacts learning, mindset, social and emotional skills, and functional participation in everyday tasks.
Self-Monitoring Impacts Function
There are also functional skills that are developed and improved through self-monitoring:
- Task initiation
- Task completion
- Social-emotional interaction
- Follow-through on learned skills
Below, you will find additional self-monitoring strategies that can help children with the ability to identify and self-assess and self-adjust behaviors that may occur within the classroom, home, or other environment.
These strategies should be viewed as supports that can be used independently by the child following instruction and input to teach strategy methods.
- Make an outline for writing tasks, homework assignments, or multi-step assignments in order to keep the child on task.
- Utilize a self-monitoring schedule- Ask the child to stop and self-check their actions, behaviors, or thoughts to make sure they are on-task.
- Try an index card or other visual reminder on desks for a list of appropriate behaviors.
- Use social stories to teach appropriate actions and reactions to specific situations in the home or classroom.
- Incorporate a schedule of self-regulation strategies to address sensory, attention, and focusing needs. A sensory diet can help with this.
- Teach the child to check and recheck- Teach children to stop and check and then re-check their behaviors.
- Teach the child self-talk strategies.
- Teach students to look at their finished assignment from their teacher’s eyes. This can help them have an outside view of completed work or actions in the classroom and adjust as appropriate.
- Sensory or coping strategies scheduled throughout the day for sensory input or movement breaks.
- Use a timer for scheduled self-assessment and self-reflection of behaviors or actions and recording of data.
- Work toward fading self-monitoring visual and physical cues as well as data collection means.
- Teach the child to journal experiences. The Impulse Control Journal can be a helpful tool for children who are able to write or dictate to an adult.
Related read– Find many strategies and activities to boost attention in kids here.
Want to access this article as a printable PDF to use as a handout? Use the printable version in education to parents, teachers, therapists, and other professionals. Simply print off the printable version and add it to your therapy toolbox.
Note: In order to access this file, you will need to enter your email address. This allows us to send the PDF directly to your email. This is a 5 page printable self-monitoring strategy outline for educating those who work with kids with self-monitoring skills in kids.
The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…
When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…
When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…
When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…
When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…
Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.