Importance of Executive Functions in Children

Some time ago, I overheard a teacher comment to the school’s Principal. She said a student did not possess executive functioning skills after evaluating the child’s poor academic performance in school.

What are executive functioning skills in kids?

Executive functions or executive functioning skills in kids refer to children's ability to make decisions (think), carry them out (act) and solve problems. These set of skills show their brains’ facility at directing and controlling their entire brain map, which also happens to be goal-oriented activities.
Executive Functioning Skills Graphic
According to Dr.Gerard A.Gioia, the attributes of executive functions consist of:
  • Planning/Organizing
  • Organization of materials
  • Working memory
  • Shift
  • Inhibition
  • Self-monitoring
  • Emotional Control
  • Initiation

Children need to be equipped with executive functioning skills appropriate for their age in order to lead meaningful and rewarding lives.

So, why are executive functioning skills important?

Executive functioning skills help children to complete tasks, make suitable decisions and regulate emotions on their day-to-day lives.

Completing a task depends on our children’s methods and manner of doing things. Teach them these executive functioning skills can spell success or failure at achieving a goal.

The ability to respond to unplanned and unusual events quickly is also one of its benefits. Our children will be better equipped at managing stress arising from different aspects of their lives, be it in their studies or relationships.

Executive functioning skills regulate our children’s behaviors. It helps children to fit in socially by not annoying or offending others. Being an outcast may affect their self-esteem and even develop depression.

If our children are lacking in some aspects or the entire set of executive functioning skills, it’s likely to be a stumbling block in their academic, social and emotional lives.

The lack of executive functioning skills will become a handicap when our children progress to higher institution of learning. This is the time when they need to learn, work and think independently.

Good executive functioning skills are not foolproof indicator of accomplishments in school and relationships. But its absence is a predictor of problems and frustrations at some stage of one’s childhood and/or adulthood.

Have the right support and experience are indispensable to the improvement of these skills. With experience, our children are better adept and proficient at learning from their past, recall these information and use it to solve their problems on a daily basis.



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