Yet, it has occurred to me, how do we talk with children about the benefit of making mistakes in a manner that improves their cognition? How do we help children become empowered thinkers, learners and revisionists of their previous actions? How do we calm the brain, reduce the anxiety and bring out the joy when the learning is so tedious and difficult for these children? Musical Thinking Cueing is a kind start.

My thinking was inspired by a sweet child with whom I work.

This child was practicing her writing skills and was bothered that she wasn’t touching the writing guidelines perfectly with each swoop of her pencil. She was quite focused on her pencil grip and letter formation.

I then thought about how many words I have written and typed in my years and told her, “In your life you are going to write letters millions of times. This moment, right now, is just one time. Let’s embrace this moment, have fun in this moment and know that all the moments together will add up to beautiful writing. It will happen as all your writing moments combine with one another over time.” “You will be a beautiful writer one day, for now, it’s important to enjoy the writing, make it your friend.” Not an easy concept for a 9-year-old right? But she got it. Her eyes brightened and she smiled.

Then I moved to the Motivation Cueing questions we use in Musical Thinking and I asked her things like.

  • “How can we look at making just one letter more creatively?”
  • “Could we make it bigger or smaller?”
  • “Could we carry it two centimeters below the line?”
  • “How would we know what two centimeters look like?”
  • “Would we measure them out?”
  • “Would we draw another line below the line, perhaps in a different color?”
  • “Once we did that, could we write an entire word two centimeters below the line?”
  • “That would be just one way we could enjoy the creativity in this moment and play with our writing instead of struggling with it.”
  • “Let’s think of other creative ways we could write our letters in and around the guidelines.”

“When we become friends with the writing process and struggle against it less, we allow what we thought were mistakes to be opportunities to create more interesting letters. All that practice adds up, so fear not about perfectly drawn letters, let’s just keep writing them, they will grow into letters you love over time.”

Executive function training has many parts.

The first part is to reduce the child’s anxiety so that they will engage in the process. That’s why the relationship matters so much. The next part is to teach the child how to think, problem solve and approach a challenge in a new way. This is how we build better planning, previewing, initiation and cognitive flexibility skills.

Sometimes Executive Function training is about bringing joy and creativity to a table that is often wrought with frustration and shame. Make the moments engaging, thought-provoking and fun.


Millions of children face challenges with inattention, impulsivity, cognitive inflexibility and disorganization, yet strategies and solutions to address them are elusive. We expect kids to alter their behavior when we say things like, “Just slow down,” “Think it out,” or “Use your creative problem-solving skills,” only to see the children look up bewilderingly. We often get caught in the trap of telling them what to do without telling them how to do it. This results in children who become disorganized thinkers, using trial and error to try to meet the expectations of teachers, parents and those whom they love. Musical Thinking, 5 Simple Steps To Teaching Children How They Think – The Quick Start Manual, is Dr. Lynne Kenney’s creative response to empowering children to take charge of their learning and behavior by teaching children HOW their brains work, not simply what to think. Musical Thinking is available at