Executive Functioning, the Developing Brain, and SEL

By August 1, 2017July 23rd, 2020No Comments

Marlize Adair, Development and Marketing Intern

Throughout my 10 years in the classroom, parents consistently expressed concerns about their child’s ability to manage emotions. Parents experienced challenging behaviors and even witnessed aggression from their children at home. My research on this topic has led me to understand the importance of executive functioning.


Executive Functioning Skills are the FOUNDATION for Success!

Executive functioning emerges early in a child’s life and matures during early adulthood. Children start out with the most basic skills such as paying attention, thinking flexibly, and keeping information in mind. In time, they develop more complex skills such as how to plan, focus, organize, and manage emotions.

Taking control of emotions and actions, like monitoring thoughts, are cognitive abilities that children and adults exhibit when they develop executive functioning skills. Children aren’t born with these skills, they must be developed. However, all children do have the potential to develop them.

What Can You Do?

Start with encouragement! This can be done by recognizing their feelings when they control and manage their emotions or resist impulsive behavior. Help children complete challenging tasks. Then, gradually step back and let children manage the process independently and learn from their mistakes. Practice reflecting on experiences by talking about what they are doing and why; consider next steps and evaluate their decisions.

These techniques provide them the opportunity to become adults with both a higher level of thinking (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ).

My Favorite Resource!

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child created activities to enhance Executive Functioning skills in infants to adolescents. Even though this is a complex issue, there are many resources and strategies that improve executive functioning in all of us.