header print

How to Encourage Executive Functions in Children

Is your child struggling to manage their time efficiently and often leaves their homework until the last minute? Do they throw tantrums when they're not allowed to play their favorite game? To prevent these situations, it's crucial to educate them at a young age and equip them with the necessary skills and tools to lead a successful life.

One effective approach is to help them develop executive functions, which are critical for their future success. These functions include appropriate distraction, task initiation and completion, scheduling, self-motivation, self-control, decision-making, mental flexibility, self-esteem, memory, and information retrieval. This guide will provide you with the information you need to help your child develop these essential functions. 

executive functions for children

What ARE executive functions, anyway?

Executive functions are a set of cognitive skills that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. They are crucial for successful adaptation and performance in real-life situations. These functions include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations.

  • Inhibition: The ability to stop one's own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.

  • Shift: The ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.

  • Emotional Control: The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings.

  • Working Memory: The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.

  • Planning/Organization: The ability to manage current and future-orientated task demands.

Children need strong executive functions for various reasons. These skills help them stay focused, remember information, understand different points of view, engage in group dynamics, and make plans - all of which are critical for success at school and in social situations, even before our world became so technologically complicated. It also lays the groundwork for their adult lives, as strong executive functions are vital for achieving goals, maintaining relationships, and managing day-to-day tasks effectively.
executive functions

How do we help kids develop executive functions?

If you want to help your child develop executive functions, here are seven ways to do it:

1. Establish a consistent routine

Establishing a regular routine is just as important for children as it is for adults. To help your child maintain a routine, you can create two rituals - one to start the day and one to end it. The morning ritual can include tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, preparing a bag, and having a nutritious breakfast. The evening ritual can include tidying up the room before going to bed. To make it easier for your child to remember these tasks, you can create a visual schedule on a page or magnetic board. Older children can be taught to use a diary or calendar to plan their own day, week, or month to become more efficient in their daily activities.

2. Allowing time for homework

It is not uncommon for children to delay doing their homework once they get home. However, if your child is among the few who immediately start doing their assignments, then you've hit the jackpot. If your kid keeps procrastinating, it's essential to teach and remind them from a young age to prioritize homework. To start with, you should establish a specific time frame within which your child must complete their homework, say between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Let them know that they can only play after finishing their schoolwork. This habit will help them appreciate the value of free time and effectively plan their day in the long run.
executive functions in children

3. Making rules and being crystal clear on consequences

Rules are essential for both home and outside settings, and they play a vital role in guiding children on how to behave appropriately. To ensure that your child understands the rules, experts recommend that you establish permanent places for their belongings and set clear limits for activities such as computer use and recreation time. Writing down these rules makes them more accessible and helps to create a family contract. It's also crucial to establish age-appropriate consequences for breaking the rules. For example, failing to complete homework may result in the loss of game time for two days. These rules and consequences can help your child develop essential skills such as planning, organizing, scheduling, and self-control.

4. Dividing big tasks into smaller ones

As adults, we sometimes struggle with handling large tasks and projects, and the same can be true for small children. If your child finds it challenging to tackle a particularly demanding task, you can help by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Treat it like a puzzle that needs to be pieced together into a beautiful picture. For instance, if your child needs to prepare a research paper, divide it into various stages such as topic research, information gathering, and writing. Decide together how much time to allocate to each task, note down all your decisions, and keep them within plain sight. This way, your child will be able to track their progress and know what remains to be done.
puzzle pieces

5. Improving memory through games

Playing memory games is a well-known way to enhance memory and recall abilities, which makes them an excellent option for parents who want to help their children in this area. Apart from these, there are other games that children enjoy and can improve their memory, such as hide and seek or arranging things based on pictures or sizes. Learning to play an instrument or memorizing song lyrics are other activities that can greatly enrich children's memory.

6. Organizing the household

Learning how to be organized, keeping track of belongings, and following a schedule can be challenging for children, especially when they live in a messy house. If your child struggles with staying focused, involving them in household activities such as folding laundry, doing dishes, or tidying their room can help. Once they understand where everything belongs in the house, from toys to cutlery, it will be easier for them to stay organized and complete tasks in other areas. Additionally, an orderly home makes it easier to maintain a regular routine, which can benefit both children and adults in the future.
executive functions

7. Asking questions for higher self-esteem

Children who struggle with low self-esteem might find it challenging to cope with failure and may react with anger. Hence, it is crucial to boost their self-esteem from a young age. If your child is experiencing this issue, it's essential to teach them how to handle failure effectively. Instead of telling them they deserved to win, try asking them questions that encourage self-reflection and improvement. For instance, ask them how they think they performed, what they learned from the experience, how they feel about the outcome, and if they can find something positive from the situation. By guiding them to arrive at their answers, they can learn to cope with failure and improve in the future. These techniques will help them build resilience and achieve success in life.


Next Post
Sign Up for Free Daily Posts!
Did you mean:
Continue With: Facebook Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy
Sign Up for Free Daily Posts!
Did you mean:
Continue With: Facebook Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy