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Metacognition Issues And How To Help Your Kids Overcome It

Metacognition is referred to as the way we think about our thinking. Children leverage metacognition to carefully consider the right steps to solving a problem or completing a project. This can be observed in puzzle-solving when they say things like “I’ll sort out the pieces first” or “I’ll connect the edge pieces before going to the centre”. These phrases are called “think-alouds”, and they are a good sign of healthy metacognition.

Children with learning disabilities or challenges typically show signs indicating learning strategies and metacognition issues. They may also have difficulty organising their thoughts or reaching critical learning objectives.

For instance, a child with metacognition problems often gives up easily on their assignments or does not start them in the first place. They may have a hard time with long-form projects like research papers or book reports. Moreover, they often forget that the first step to these tasks is to plan out the steps necessary to complete them. As such, it is common for their school days to be filled with frustration and failure, with their teachers commenting that they “don’t do their work” or are “unmotivated”.

Causes of Metacognition Issues

There are several reasons why children can have problems with their metacognition, such as:

Self-monitoring and self-regulated learning problems

Children with metacognition difficulties might say that they read an entire passage yet cannot recall what it was about. In these cases, they are likely not “thinking about thinking” by asking questions such as “what is this sentence trying to say?” or “does this paragraph make sense?”

Becoming overwhelmed

Children with poor metacognition are easily susceptible to getting overwhelmed by the number of tasks piling up in their minds. Their teacher may assign a new set of assignments, and they immediately think it is impossible to complete everything.

Problems affecting general executive functioning

Children with metacognition troubles may find completing the tasks much more challenging than their peers. For instance, they may have a hard time getting started with their homework, finding the tools they need to do it, remembering the steps to complete the task, and coming up with a plan to implement said steps. These are all executive functions, with metacognition being one of the most important on the list.

Tips and Strategies for Poor Metacognition

1. Provide visual checklists

Creating visual checklists, concept maps, and graphic organisers is one of the best ways to help a child develop their metacognition and avoid getting overwhelmed. This is because making a list of tasks more tangible can do wonders to take the pressure off. Moreover, this type of “scaffolding” can also help improve their sequential processing skills.

2. Try model strategies

A model strategy is a technique often referred to as “thinking aloud”. For instance, when making breakfast, a child can list out the necessary steps aloud “I will get the recipe first and the ingredients and cooking supplies I need. Next, I will prepare the ingredients and start preheating the pan.” In this way, they can see a problem-solving approach.

3. Start with the easy jobs first

Starting with quick and “doable” tasks is a good way to help children who are hesitant to start a task become more confident in getting started. For instance, when working on a school paper, they could start with the easiest step of listing out topic ideas that they can explore. That can suffice for the morning, and they can work on the next step of choosing their favourite topic from the list and making an outline later in the afternoon or evening.


Since metacognition is among our many executive functions, it is set to develop until adolescence. If you notice your child saying they often feel lost in class or when reading books and see that their grades have steadily been dropping, it may be best to seek professional help and enrol them in cognitive development training in Singapore to turn things around.

If your child is ready to boost their metacognition and other cognitive functions, The Brain Academia’s reliable enrichment classes developed with an outcome-oriented methodology will give their brain power and abilities a significant boost. Whether you are looking for a reading enrichment program or Singapore Math enrichment program, you can count on our effective cognitive brain training programs to help your child unlock their true potential in a fun and engaging way.

Simply fill out this contact form to get in touch and begin your child’s journey with us!