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4 Ways to Nurture Executive Function Skills

The first semester’s about to end in our school, and I have yet to face adolescents who seem to not be able to complete their tasks despite extra time given, despite unceasing reminders, despite kind prompts and impossible bribes from all sides.

These teens fall under the category of behaviorally not completing their tasks instead of being unable to- skill-wise.

Brace yourself, parents of 2s and 3s, executive functions’ foundations are laid out this early.

Executive functions, what are they anyway?

I tell you what: staying on-task to complete a goal, self-control, focusing and planning, and organizing, and all other cognitive skills with a big job of ensuring a goal is set and completed.

The three pillars include working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.

Executive functioning in the school setting would look like these: children who are able to break down a task into small, doable steps until completion, children who may not like the tasks but still stick to it, controlling oneself from automatic or strong reactions when provoked, knowing which ones to do first or noting which tasks are easily and quickly done, adjusting behavior to fit a situation.

Children would eventually (and are expected to) outgrow their impulses. And we can aid this by giving them tools like positive communication. This groundwork, although demanding as it may sound, will help build the path to our child’s holistic health- healthy sense of self, nurturing relationships, success in school and in their chosen career. I am not at all surprised when research time and time again says that these are all better predictors to academic success than IQ.

Here’s what we can do:

Be emotionally responsive.

If you’ve gone through most of the blogs, I am sure you’ve seen positive communication over ten times. This is the main message of Present Parenting Solutions, that we can equip our children for healthy and successful living when we nurture them with positive communication. Consistently done, being emotionally responsive to our kids helps them be aware of themselves, their emotions, and the effects of their actions. As I always say, let not how you deal with your child be dependent on how your day went, or how you feel. Our kids need us to be ever present and mindful with our thoughts, words, and actions.

Encourage play.

Play is the best way our kids learn, AND the only way our kids learn how to learn. Get it? Play gives endless, fun opportunities to practice these executive function skills while they organize and line objects, build and crash blocks, pretend play, and many others that are too many to mention.

Support independence.

Our #mindthemilestone movement last year has helped us share with families and childcare professionals what to expect roughly at every phase. When kids are ready (when they show age-appropriate signs), go ahead, lean in, or let them do their stuff.

Keep present.

Be available and ready; make sure not to miss instances like when your child wants to show you something, or is going through his or her emotions. Being ever-present means we are mindful of what happens in and around us, and that we let our child know he or she can come to us anytime.


Watch out, we may be preparing a shallow well of standards when we let our kids achieve “pwede-na-basta-natapos”. It takes so much to make our little ones realize that a job well done should be really done well and meaningfully.

You and your child will be good to go in these early years and beyond. All the best, present mom and dad!

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