7 Essential, Life-changing Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills help students of all ages and all academic levels to manage an array of skills, including paying attention, self-control, impulse control, organizational skills, time-management skills, memory and recall skills, and the ability to be flexible. 

Many executive functioning skills are developed during childhood. Students who develop the following 7 basic skills tend to have stronger executive functioning skills. 

1: Develop Routines. Daily routines help students establish order. Young children appreciate and thrive on predictability. By developing routines, students are fostering positive habits from an early age and developing essential executive functioning skills. 

Easy routines that promote positive behaviors and strong executive functioning skills include having your child make his/her bed, preparing their backpack for school, and tidying up their rooms before school and before bed. 

If your student struggles to get things done in the morning, create a chart. Let them check off their tasks as they complete them. This makes them accountable and responsible, again, establishing positive behaviors.

2: Foster Internal Motivational Skills. Most students are not born motivated. They must be taught that their hard work will pay off in the end. 

Praise and rewards are positive motivators, as long as they are not overdone. Teaching your student that he/she will feel stronger, more confident, and more independent if they become internally motivated is the best way to help them to develop internal motivational skills. 

3: Implement an After School Homework Schedule. By setting aside a block of time during which homework should be completed, students develop stronger self-control, planning, and time management skills. 

Establish rules. Homework should be done before students watch television or play video games or FaceTime with friends. Students will appreciate these boundaries as they will help to establish good habits and strong executive functioning skills that will help them throughout life.

4: Keep an Agenda. By teaching students the importance of organizational skills at the earliest ages, parents are setting them up for a lifetime of success. Keeping an agenda gives students a sense of responsibility, builds planning skills, and helps foster organizational skills and executive functioning skills, and supports motivational skills. 

Keeping a weekly agenda, rather than a daily or monthly schedule, also gives students a reasonable, fixed time over which they must pay attention to deadlines and plan accordingly. 

5: Make Large Tasks Smaller and More Manageable. Starting at a young age, it helps students to have a graphic organizer that they can use to make big tasks smaller. Students should approach every assignment step by step. Set deadlines and goals for each step. 

If a student is writing an essay based on a book he/she read, he/she should set a schedule for reading, a schedule for organizing his/her thoughts about the book, and a schedule for writing. By breaking down these larger tasks, the student will gain confidence, meet deadlines, and feel greater motivation rather than feeling overwhelmed. 

Making large tasks smaller will also make these large tasks less intimidating and stressful for students. Moreover, as a student grows, he/she can build endurance, adding a little bit more to each step of the project. 

 6: Teach Students to Assess Their Own Abilities and Achievements. Developing a realistic view of your own abilities is crucial to building confidence, managing interpersonal relationships, and impulse control. Finding ways to self-evaluate will strengthen a student’s executive functioning skills. 

Rather than feeling overwhelmed or destroyed by every loss, students should assess their own performance and consider what they could do differently next time. Ask your students meaningful questions to help them dissect their performance, including:

  • What do you think you did well?
  • What would you do differently in the future?
  • What is one thing that you would do to improve your performance going forward?
  • What did you learn from this experience?

7: Build Memory Skills Through Play. Starting at an early age, students should play memory games regularly. Matching games, spelling games, singing songs, and sorting games. Memory requires endurance, and building these skills is essential to successfully mastering other executive functioning skills. Activities that require memory recall help students develop this crucial executive functioning skill and will help make lifetime learning more accessible. 

From an early age, students can learn to strengthen executive functioning skills, building stamina and giving students more control over and success with their health, interpersonal relationships, academic success, and career success. 

GAMECHANGER has executive functioning specialists available to help students build these and other essential executive functioning skills. 


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