Executive Functions are the skills we use to analyze a task, break them down into smaller steps and follow the steps till we get the task done. These cognitive skills help us to manage our time effectively, learn facts, understand what we read, solve problems and help us to organize our thoughts. Though these skills are present from an early age, they can be taught and built up explicitly. It works if we start first by underlining our child’s strengths-good memory, clear focus, interest in activities, flexible, reflective, etc. Once we know these we can look at building the skills the child does not have.
Some strategies for the development of Executive Functioning
Organization- We can teach them how to develop and organize systems and routines. Collaborate with your child and show them the advantages of using organizers, calendars, flow charts, checklists, etc. Follow through with the one that works best for you and your child. Create consequences or rules to remind them of the agreed-upon plan, if they are unable to follow the same.
Plan/Prioritize- Help children learn the process of planning, they should learn to identify their goals and understand ways to achieve them. Break down tasks into smaller parts and guide them to focus on one part at a time. You could use leading questions such as-’How, Why, When, What, Where which would help them think about the tasks some more.
Time Management- Post routines in the form of graphics or checklists, this will help the child get consistency and structure. These will help your child understand time management as well as responsibility.
Control Emotions- Always maintain a positive attitude and relationship, one that is open and respectful. When parents stay connected and invite children in problem-solving or decision-making, it works effectively to teach the children how to deal with situations.
Flexibility- Support flexible thinking, focus on solutions and not on the problem. Discuss with and help your child see the different approaches to solve a problem. Encourage them to be flexible in their actions which helps to fix problems.
Skill- Building- It’s important for children to have skills that can be effective in problem-solving situations- naming the problem, brainstorming, self-management, reasoning to name a few. Encourage them to take responsibility and teach them the value of these skills
Persistence- Goal-driven perseverance can be an opportunity for success. Encourage their efforts and constantly show them the cause-effect relationship. They understand that their actions can have different effects and perseverance is an important value to follow.
Executive function skills are malleable in Early Childhood. They help in establishing positive relationships with others as they contribute to every person’s behavior.