What are Executive Functioning Skills?
Executive functioning skills are the mental processes that allow us to plan our everyday life. From simple tasks like packing a lunch, or more complex tasks like writing an essay, executive functioning skills are what allow us to focus, organize, and problem solve when completing tasks.
Practicing executive functioning skills during childhood has lasting impacts on learning and development. If given the opportunity to practice and grow their executive functioning skills, children are able to maintain those skills into adulthood which fosters positive and healthy adult behavior.
Executive functioning skills are controlled in the area of the brain called the frontal lobe. Within this part of the brain, executive functioning skills are related to three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. All three functions work hand-in-hand together; thus, effective executive functioning skills require them all to work together in tandem.
- Working memory is our ability to store small amounts of information to be used over a short period of time.
- Mental flexibility is our ability to change our thoughts or actions depending on the demands of a specific situation.
- Self-control is our ability to prioritize and restrain our impulses.
Are Executive Functioning Skills a Skill We are Born With?
Executive functioning skills are not skills we are born with; however, we are born with the capacity to develop these skills during childhood and adulthood. Some children require extra help to develop these skills, especially children in stressful environments. It is crucial to provide children with support to develop these skills at home and in school to allow them to reach their highest potential.
How Can I Help My Child Build Executive Functioning Skills in the Home?
There are a variety of ways to help children build executive functioning skills. A useful method is showing children techniques to help organize and manage their time, such as using an agenda and/or check lists for their everyday tasks. It is also helpful to set time limits for certain tasks, like watching TV or playing video games, to avoid getting distracted from other important tasks. Lastly, creating and maintaining a daily routine is an effective method to help children focus on their tasks at hand, such as working on homework or completing daily chores.