The 11 Thought Leaders That Parents Should Know

When your child is born, so is your parenthood journey.

These days, as a parent you may find yourself working harder than ever as you adapt to , work, and social life.

That’s why I want to provide you with a cheat sheet of thought leaders who can support you with the cognitive, emotional, social, academic, and character development of your children.

When given the awesome responsibility of parenthood, you have no idea where this journey will take you… whether your child will show signs of anxiety or depression…whether they’ll have trouble organizing themselves, making transitions, staying focused, or self-regulating.

In your commitment to caring for and nurturing your child unconditionally, you rely on the level of knowledge and skills you have at the time. If you’re like me, much of the knowledge I had was inaccurate, incomplete, or misunderstood. I honestly didn’t know what I didn’t know.

One of my biggest discoveries as a parent and educator was learning about the brain, especially the connection of emotion to learning and the power of environment in developing mindsets, habits, self-talk, and skills. You can’t change your kid’s genes, but you can shape their environment.

So, I am here to empower you.

But I can’t do it alone.

Let’s meet 11 thought leaders that changed my life and learn ways they can enhance your parenthood journey.

Judy Willis,

Author of How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Based Ways to Ignite Learning and Increase School Success.

“ I [we] wake up with a new brain everyday and it is up to me to figure out what it is going to be.”

After one of my sons suffered multiple concussions, I found myself attending Learning and the Brain Conferences and was introduced to Judy’s amazing work on the impact of stress on learning. Judy explained how a virtual stop sign goes up in the brain when you experience negative emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, boredom, or lack of relevance to what you’re learning. This shed light on my own worst learning experiences and why my four sons loved learning but hated school.

I was so impressed by Judy’s work, it inspired me to and make it my mission to empower teachers, parents, students, and coaches with practical ways to decrease stress and boost learning, motivation, and performance. If your child experiences negative emotions toward school or learning, Judy’s work will enlighten you with ways of how the brain learns best.

Carol Dweck,

Author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”

I was that kid who only put myself out there when I knew I would succeed. That attitude continued even into my adult years. It wasn’t until I read Carol’s book that I developed a healthy understanding of failure, mistakes, praise, and feedback. If not for Carol’s work on fixed and growth mindset, I don’t believe my book would exist. Her work inspired me to build and “live” a growth mindset, one that values perseverance and a resilient approach to facing obstacles and challenges.

If your child has fixed mindset tendencies — an unhealthy understanding of failure, mistakes, and challenges, thinks of intelligence or ability as carved in stone and resists feedback — Carol’s work can help facilitate the development of a growth mindset and shed light on the unintended effects of certain ways we praise children.

Angela Duckworth,

Author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

For years, IQ was considered a top determinant in academic, job, and life success. Angela’s research found another major factor that separates successful students from those who struggle: grit, a trait combining self-control, ambition, and resilience.

I love Angela’s work on character development and find her suggestions about anticipating and responding to obstacles during a task or goal as highly valuable vs. thinking the process will happen without a hitch or setback.

Lynn Lyons,

Author of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents

“Anxiety is like a cult leader. It has rules it wants you to follow.”

I appreciate Lynn’s practical, no-nonsense approach to anxiety and how she injects it with authenticity and humor. Lynn helped me realize my knowledge and understanding of anxiety needed an upgrade. I was working off misunderstandings that inadvertently led me to “feed the disorder!”

If your child avoids anxiety-provoking situations, feels stuck or uses catastrophic language, Lynn offers practical and playful ways to begin a new relationship with anxiety and interrupt its vicious cycle.

Jessica Minahan,

Author of The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students

“We are 50% of every interaction with a child.”

Jessica deepened my understanding of factors contributing to reluctant, uncooperative learners who exhibit challenging behavior issues. Bad behavior doesn’t equal a bad kid. Her practical interventions are game-changers and empower parents, teachers, and kids with ways to decrease anxiety and build underdeveloped skills needed to change problematic behavior, learn, and succeed.

Sarah Ward,

“When coaching students to develop executive function skills we help them to go from intention to action by teaching them to perform a mental dress rehearsal or to do a “dry run” of the task in their mind before they begin to carry out the plan.”

If you have a child with ADHD or , “time blindness,” situational awareness, difficulty getting started, or following through with tasks can be stressful and problematic. Sarah’s simple and practical applications for home and school are all about skill-building and getting children to build mental blueprints in their minds of how to complete tasks and develop more independence.

Kathleen Kryza,

Author of Inspiring Elementary Learners

“Mindsets +Skillsets=Results!”

Another great resource for practical and quick ways to integrate and build executive function and a growth mindset, I’m also a fan of Kathleen’s reminders to be intentional and transparent when teaching strategies or skills: parents and teachers need to know why they’re doing what they’re doing (intentional) and kids need to know why they’re doing what they’re doing (transparent). This promotes “more of them, less of you” and increases the chances students will use the strategies in future situations.

Jon Kabat-Zinn,

Author of Full Catastrophe Living

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

I was immediately drawn to Jon’s work on mindfulness meditation but was skeptical. I couldn’t fathom how to slow down my gerbil on a treadmill brain or not judge my imperfections. It wasn’t until I saw brain images that showed changes in the emotional part of the brain that I decided to give it a shot.

With some practice, I started to “get it” and noticed I was better able to allow and accept uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. By switching my attention to my breath, I was able to slow the game down, reset, and respond vs. react. And I began to give myself a break for my shortcomings and mistakes.

If your child deals with impulse control, attention, anxiety, and/or depression, can help calm the mind and body, so your child can pivot and move forward.

Christopher Willard,

Author of Alphabreaths

“The best way to foster stressed out, reactive, checked-out kids is to surround them with stressed out, reactive, checked-out adults. BUT. The best way to foster mindful, present compassionate kids is to surround them with mindful, present, compassionate adults.”

What I find most helpful about Chris’s work is his ability to take mindfulness research and make it practical, relevant, and playful for kids and families. Think: Alligator, Butterfly, or Hot Chocolate Breath. While these breathing techniques won’t take away your child’s distress, they offer different ways of responding to anxiety, anger, or stress — i.e. to go from clenched fists or bodies slumped over a desk to fun movements or hands placed on the heart or belly. Chris also has great suggestions for mindful uses of technology or social media and how to gain kids’ buy-in.

Daniel Goleman,

Author of Social Intelligence

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.”

Daniel’s work brought the importance of social and emotional intelligence to the forefront and connected it to success in relationships and jobs. In his analysis of executives at close to 200 companies, he found EQ — self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, effort, empathy, and social skills — twice as important than IQ and technical ability in driving performance. Luckily, your child can learn to develop EQ with activities that activate parts of the brain related to feelings and impulses.

Joan Sedita,

Author of The Key Comprehension Routine

“If students learn that strategies are tools for understanding the conceptual context of text, then the strategies become more purposeful and integral to reading activities.”

In my first year as a classroom teacher, I hit the jackpot when Joan was assigned as my supervisor. I learned firsthand about the power of a great mentor. Joan taught me about the importance of helping all students see themselves as readers, writers, and learners and the need for strategies to help them succeed.

Joan has a particular knack for taking difficult tasks such as taking notes, finding main ideas, or writing a summary and turning them into step by step, manageable challenges. Her trainings and free, downloadable resources on reading, comprehension, vocabulary, and writing equip teachers, parents, and students with tools and strategies they can use to make learning less stressful and more meaningful.

I am so grateful to these thought leaders for the ways they positively impacted my life, and I hope they will yours. Their skill specialties — executive function, mindset, literacy, and social and emotional learning — top every list that employers seek in their candidates.

Admittedly, these skills can be challenging to develop. Given their connection to success in school, relationships, sports, jobs, and life, they’re worth the time and effort, and these leaders can show you how to get the ball rolling. While your initial “buy-in” might be driven by your desire to help your child or enhance your parenting journey, you might be surprised at how much you learn about yourself along the way.

Neuroeducational Consultant Noel Foy, commonly known as Neuro Noel, is a former classroom teacher and Learning Specialist whose mission is to empower teachers, parents and students with practical ways to decrease stress and boost learning, executive function, engagement and a growth mindset.

She is the founder of and the Author of , a children’s book that provides an actionable approach to managing anxiety and includes tips for educators and parents. and be sure to engage on , , , , and .

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