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Building Character Through Executive Function Development


I spend a lot of time in the teacher’s lounge, I often hear about students not turning in assignments on time, being late, or not seeming to understand how to do the class. Even though educators often have kids’ best interests at heart, they equate these behaviors to a kid being “disrespectful,” “lazy,” and having “poor character.”

I also spend a lot of time with parents and hear the same comments.. Instead of focusing on improving executive function skills, they want their students to “care,” “have direction,” or be “motivated.”

Executive function refers to cognitive abilities enabling individuals to plan, organize, prioritize, and manage their thoughts and actions. These skills include attention, memory, flexibility, and self-control, all essential for navigating the demands of school, sports, jobs, and daily life. 

Children with executive function challenges, such as those with ADHD, may struggle with tasks that require these skills. However, it’s important to recognize that these challenges do not reflect a lack of character or motivation. All children can develop and strengthen their executive function skills with the right support and guidance.

Character traits such as responsibility, perseverance, and adaptability are closely tied to executive function skills. For example, responsibility involves prioritizing tasks, managing time effectively, and following through on commitments. Perseverance requires maintaining focus, overcoming obstacles, and regulating emotions in the face of challenges. Adaptability necessitates cognitive flexibility and the willingness to adjust strategies when needed.

By improving executive function skills, you’re also helping your child develop character traits that influence others’ perceptions. Research has shown that strong executive function skills are associated with better academic performance, improved social relationships, and increased resilience in adversity.

Strategies for Fostering Executive Function and Character

As a parent, you can support your child’s executive function development and character growth through various strategies. At Untapped Learning, we consistently emphasize the importance of routines, planning, goal-setting, self-reflection, and modeling in nearly all our material. These strategies improve executive function skills and academic performance and enhance perceived character. The information below shows how each intervention improves both executive function skills and perceived character. 

Establishing and Sticking to Routines 

  • Executive Function: Helps children develop time management and organizational skills
  • Character: Promotes a sense of responsibility

Having Goals 

  • Executive Function: Teaches children to prioritize, plan ahead, and break down complex tasks
  • Character: Fosters perseverance and determination in pursuing objectives

Engaging Self Reflection

  • Executive Function: Enhances metacognitive skills and flexible thinking
  • Character: Encourages accountability, empathy, and adaptability

Modeling Desired Behaviors

  • Executive Function: Demonstrates effective strategies for organization, planning, and self-regulation
  • Character: Showcases responsibility, persistence, and integrity through actions and attitudes

Remember, developing executive function skills and character is an ongoing process that requires patience, consistency, and support. 

The Long-Term Impact of Executive Function Skills

Strong executive function skills are associated with greater academic achievement, higher career success, and improved overall well-being in adulthood. Traits fostered through executive function development, also improve responsibility, perseverance, and adaptability. These are highly valued skills in the workplace and contribute to personal and professional success. 

Seeking Additional Support

If your child could benefit from targeted support in developing executive function skills, consider exploring resources such as Untapped Learning (https://untappedlearning.com/). Our mentorship program offers personalized guidance and strategies to help children strengthen their executive function skills and build strong character foundations.

Remember, every child’s path is different, and progress is rarely linear. With patience, understanding, and consistent support, you can help your child develop the executive function skills and character traits needed to thrive in school, sports, future careers, and beyond.

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More:

The Role of Executive Function in Children’s Development

The Importance of Executive Function Skills for Success in School and Life 

Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function

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