Executive functioning is a term that teachers use to describe a child’s ability to plan ahead, be on time and prepare or organize for the day. It sounds like an adult issue, but you don’t have to be a CEO to improve your executive functioning! Teachers know that children who struggle with executive functioning are challenged with everyday tasks like time management, learning from mistakes and managing frustrations. It is different from self-regulation, but when properly functioning is complimentary to the overall well being of your child. When children are not able to manage these essential functions of daily life they are referred to as having an executive dysfunction. Their desk at school might look a little like this:
Executive functioning seems to come naturally to some and is hard won by others. It is no accident that highly efficient families and teachers have a few tricks up their sleeves to make daily life easier for everyone, and that kids from those families seem to be calmer and more prepared for the learning they will do that day.
How to Improve Executive Functioning
As we head back to school this Fall, you may have promised yourself that everything will be better this year if you could just get more organized! It does help to have an overall system in place, but if you are feeling overwhelmed start with one small thing: labelling your kid’s stuff!
The best part of labelling everything your kids wear or carry is that you are helping develop the basics of a lifelong skill set in executive functioning. Skills like time management (not wasting time searching through the lost and found), managing frustrations (no arguing with siblings or friends about whose stuff is whose) and being prepared for the day. We know, from experience, that when everything is labeled, you are preventing the loss or arguments that evolve during transitions when kids are responsible for packing their own stuff. The bottom line is, labelling ends the “not mine” and “it’s mine!” agony of parenting!
Another easy trick to implement is the use of visual schedules. Local mom, Elaine makes a great set called Easy Daysies and they make a world of difference in getting kids out the door easily. You can pick up a set here.
If you would like to know more about executive functioning, I highly recommend Late, Lost and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn. It is an excellent read and parent’s guide on how to help their children with executive dysfunction.
If you are looking for more ideas on organizing your family life, please do come follow me on Pinterest: