What is Executive Function, and Why Should Every Parent Care?

This blog post originally appeared on WootTutor.com

As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to reach their potential and thrive in the world.

Fortunately, science now helps us understand what gets in the way of some people being able to achieve their goals, large and small. You may have heard the term “Executive Function.” It is part of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex, and it is the last part of the brain to develop. Executive Functions are the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner — and current research shows that these functions are responsible for how effective we are at managing ourselves.

Executive Function

While children are young – it is generally the parents and teachers who act as the CEO of the brain. Our goal is that as our children develop and mature, they gradually become their own CEO’s.

I like to think of each of the Executive Functions as being a manager, and the overall manager is the CEO, Chief Executive Officer, of the brain captured in the table below. I am going to describe what our Executive Functions are briefly, and you will see why being weak in a particular area can impact performance, regardless of how intelligent and motivated, we are.

When we think about each of these Executive Functions as skills, then we realize that some kids need more direct instruction and support to develop confidence and proficiency. Understanding what Executive Functions are and how they impact learning, motivation and behavior are the first steps parents need to take knowing how to best support their child’s development.

At Woot Tutor, we believe it is essential that all children learn about their brains so that they can become their own best managers.

Note: If you have a child who seems to be struggling in many of these areas more than would seem expected for their age, you may want to seek an evaluation from a professional to see if ADHD or learning challenges are impacting their ability to perform