When kids struggle with poor executive functioning skill it is important to give them very specific strategies so here are the 5 best tips to improve executive functioning.

Students who exhibit executive functioning challenges need to prioritize what is the most important thing to complete assignments.

They need to plan ahead, thinking about the steps necessary to organize their time, and estimate how much time each step may take to complete assignments. 

According to The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, executive functions allow us to manage ourselves and access our resources in order to achieve a specific task.

What is Involved in Executive Functioning?

Executive functioning involves both mental control and self-regulation.

“Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully”, according to The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard.

It depends on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility and self-control:

  • Working memory allows us to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time.
  • Mental flexibility helps us to sustain our shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings.
  • Self –control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or response.”1

Students who exhibit executive function challenges will benefit from organizing their materials. 

5 Best Tips to Improve Executive Functioning

  • With long term assignments, students will benefit from initiating a plan in a timely fashion. The time between initiation and completion of tasks requires multiple steps and great diligence on the part of students which is often daunting and overwhelming. 
  • Students must to be persistent, mindful of each section of a specific task, forging forward completing interim steps along the way.  

Use the ‘Smash the Task’ Approach

When students are confronted with frustration and performance anxiety, it is helpful to keep their cool by regulating their emotions and applying a ‘smash the task’ approach. 

  • This is one of the 5 best tips to improve executive functioning and allows students to break assignments down into manageable components finding a way to lessen their angsts while demonstrating progress towards the completion assigned tasks. 
  • A good way to do this is for students to monitor are they on the right track? Students should ask themselves, ‘is what I am doing working?’ Practicing metacognition affords them the opportunity to understand the ‘gestalt’ of the assignment.

Students also benefit from the ability to think flexibility in their approach to their assignments employing the ability to change their strategies when needed. 

  • Exhibiting inhibition allows them to think before they act and keep things in check. By stopping, thinking and then acting, students are able to assess their options allowing them the opportunity to make sound decisions. Make sure you include this as one of the 5 best tips to improve executive functioning.

Transitioning from one task to another allows for the completion of assigned tasks and the initiation of others. 

  • Understanding how to navigate and negotiate assignments permits students to work efficiently and effectively from initiation to completion of tasks. 

By employing the above 5 best tips to improve executive functioning, you will quickly notice improvement in executive function skills.

Ultimately, this will enhance your children’s ability to complete assignments to the best of their ability.

As parents, it is good to know what tips are helpful to children with poor Executive Function skills.

 This topic on the 5 best tips to improve executive functioning can be explored further in The ABCs of Learning Issues, written by educational expert Dana Stahl, M.Ed. who has a history of being learning disabled. 

She became a learning specialist to assist children with learning issues find compensatory strategies to reach their social-emotional and academic potential. Her practice, Educational Alternatives LLC, focuses on educational advise, advocacy and school placements. 

The ABCs of Learning Issues, which has won the NAPPA and the Parent Teacher Choice Award from HowtoLearn.com, is a practical guide for parents to help them further understand their children’s learning, attention and anxiety issues.

The book bridges the home-school gap by demystifying areas of concerns and captures how parents and educators can work together guiding children to reach their full potential. Click here to find The ABCs of Learning Issues and it is available in English and Spanish.

Reference: “Executive Function & Self-Regulation.” Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Related articles