7 Executive Functioning Skills Your Child Should Have

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned” – Benjamin Franklin, activist, author, humorist, and scientist

Executive functioning skills facilitate the behaviors required to plan and achieve goals. The fundamental skills related to executive function include proficiency in adaptable thinking, planning, self-monitoring, self-control, working memory, time management, and organization. These competencies are essential to a child’s growth and learning ability, and though development begins in early childhood, these skills continue to progress well into adulthood. Struggling with many executive functions may be a symptom of a learning difference, such as ADHD or dyslexia. By early adolescence, your child should begin exhibiting most of these executive functioning skills below.

Adaptable Thinking

Adaptable thinking gives a child the ability to problem solve or adjust to situations when necessary and overcome instantaneous obstacles. This skill also applies to a child’s ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. A child who exhibits this type of cognitive thinking isn’t stumped by everyday hurdles or a difference in opinion. An example of adaptable thinking is a child who encounters a roadblock on their walk to school and devises an alternate route.


A child’s ability to think about the future, create a plan of action, and prioritize the different working parts is a strong sign of cognitive development. Planning skills allow a child to make a list of operations designed to effectively accomplish a task and to adequately determine which aspects are the most important. Some examples of planning are making a packing list, giving directions, or writing a recipe.


Self-monitoring involves a child’s ability to self-evaluate or comprehend how well he or she is performing a specific task. Self-monitoring helps children track and reflect on their progress regarding a specific assignment and understand that adjustments may need to be made to accomplish the task at hand. An example of positive self-monitoring is when a child identifies that a mathematics formula isn’t producing the desired results, and checks their work to discover the error.      


Self-control addresses a child’s ability to restrain from physical or emotional outbursts. Impulse control keeps a child from reacting or acting without thinking, while emotional control helps a child to remain calm and resist the urge to overreact or shutdown due to criticism or obstacles. An example of effective self-control in terms of executive function is when a child receives a disappointing score on a test, but maintains focus and absorbs the constructive criticism while staying level-headed and learning from the mistakes.

Working Memory

Working memory involves a child’s ability to retain and store learned information and then later put it to use. This skill is crucial to a child’s success in the classroom, as it is responsible for short-term memory and execution. A strong working memory is exhibited by a child who successfully remembers and executes the instructions for a step-by-step drill in gym class.

Time Management

Time management concerns a child’s ability to properly organize a schedule, complete tasks on time, and maintain patience throughout assignments. Time management is imperative for a child in an array of scenarios as it facilitates the ability to jump from task to task and enhances productivity, punctuality, and goal setting skills. An example of good time management is the completion of a multi-step project before the deadline without rushing or compromising on quality.   


Organization skills addresses a child’s ability to efficiently arrange materials or thoughts in an orderly fashion. Organization is vital to a child’s growth and development as it allows them to tell a succinct story or keep track of possessions. Efficient organization is displayed when a child designates a distinct folder or notebook to each school subject or consistently maintains any sort of systematic method.  

How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step. Interested in learning more about executive function? Read our Executive Function E-Book

Sources: ADDitude, Understood

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