What are executive functions?
These are processes that take place in our minds and help us function effectively and correctly in many areas of our daily lives, as well as implement a variety of skills and abilities such as:
- Appropriate distractions
- Giving proper attention to things
- Starting tasks and completing them while managing a proper schedule
- Sound decision-making and mental flexibility
- Memory and information retrieval.
The skills related to executive functions are not innate, but rather need to be learned and honed throughout one's life. It is recommended to start training in these skills at a young age. This is because those who possess them tend to fare better in various areas including academics, employment, social life, and personal relationships. Conversely, those who lack these skills may encounter numerous difficulties throughout their lives, some of which may be undiagnosed.
How do we help children develop executive functions?
To assist children in developing executive functions, there are seven methods to follow, including establishing a consistent routine:
1. Establishing a consistent routine
A regular routine helps many to maintain order and predict the future - and it works the same way for children. Your child can maintain it by holding two rituals, one of which requires them to get dressed, brush their teeth, comb their hair, prepare a bag, and of course, eat breakfast.
The second routine will conclude the day, during which your child will need to tidy up his room before heading to bed at night. If you know that these tasks are difficult for your child, you can create together a beautiful and designed table on a page or magnetic board, which will contain the tasks they have to do - and just before you leave for kindergarten or school, or before they go to bed, you can make sure together that they have all been done. If your child is older and already going to school, teach them to use a diary or calendar to plan their day, week, or month. Explain to them that such a method will help him see what he must do and accomplish, and conduct himself more efficiently.
2. Allotting time for homework
Most children tend to delay their homework after school, but if your child is one of the rare few who immediately starts working on it, you have hit the jackpot. However, if your child keeps procrastinating, it is crucial to teach and remind them about the importance of completing their homework at an early age. It is recommended to set a specific timeframe for your child to finish their homework, such as between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Clearly communicate to your child that they can only play or engage in other activities after finishing their homework. This habit will help your child appreciate their free time in the short term and learn how to plan their day effectively in the future. Additionally, it may be necessary to define consequences and enforce them through laws to encourage your child to prioritize their homework.
3. Making rules and common definitions
Rules are essential for both home and outside functioning, whether they are strict or not. Children need to learn how to behave appropriately. Experts suggest that certain rules and instructions, such as assigning permanent places for a child's belongings, specifying computer usage, and return time for recreation should be clearly communicated. It is recommended to write them down and establish a family contract.
A child must also understand the consequences according to his or her age and the importance of the rule. For instance, if the child fails to complete homework, game hours may be canceled for two days. Such regulations and consequences assist children in developing skills like planning, organization, time management, and self-discipline. Additionally, dividing a large task into smaller ones is another useful skill.
4. Dividing a large task into smaller ones
Similar to grown-ups, young children may have difficulty handling large tasks and assignments. If your child also gets overwhelmed with challenging tasks, you can help them break them down into smaller tasks that are easier to manage. You can approach it like a puzzle, where each task is like a piece that should be put together to create a beautiful picture. For instance, if your child has to prepare a research paper, you can divide it into multiple tasks: finding a topic, gathering information, and then moving on to writing. To make it more effective, you can mutually decide on the time required for each task. You can note down the decisions, and keep them on the table so that your child can keep track of the progress made and the tasks remaining.
5. Improving memory through games
It is a well-known fact that memory games can enhance memory and facilitate information retrieval from the brain, making them a valuable tool for parents who want to assist their children in this area. Apart from traditional memory games, there are other games that can aid a child's memory. These include hide and seek or games that involve sorting items based on size or pictures. Another beneficial activity for memory improvement is music-based, like learning to play an instrument or memorizing song lyrics.
6. Organizing the house
When children grow up in a disorganized and messy environment, it becomes challenging for them to learn how to stay organized, manage their belongings, and follow a consistent routine. If your child struggles with getting easily distracted, it can be helpful to involve them in household activities that require organization skills. This can be for example, folding laundry, washing dishes, or tidying up their room. Once they become familiar with the location of their belongings, toys, shoes, and utensils in the kitchen, it becomes easier for them to maintain order and complete their tasks efficiently. By establishing a sense of orderliness in the house, children can also learn to plan their schedules and maintain a consistent routine, which can be beneficial for their self-esteem and future success.
7. Asking questions to boost self-confidence
To prevent children with low self-esteem from becoming angry and frustrated when they fail, it is crucial to nurture their self-confidence from an early age. If your child struggles with this issue, it is advisable to avoid telling them that they deserve to win or succeed as other parents do. Instead, gently guide them by asking questions that will help them learn and grow. Encourage them to evaluate their own performance, identify areas for improvement, and consider how they can do things differently next time.
Additionally, prompt them to reflect on their feelings of disappointment and encourage them to find something positive to take away from the experience. By arriving at their own conclusions, children will develop a better understanding of how to handle failure and will be better equipped to succeed in the future. These techniques can help children develop a more positive outlook on life and achieve their goals.