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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Executive Functioning, the CEO in your kid's brain

In Paul Tough's How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, he reveals that while IQ is more or less maxed out by the time our kids reach 3rd grade, executive function can be improved well into adolescence and beyond.  What is executive function you ask?  Well, according to Webmd.com
"Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain's frontal lobe. "
Now it is clear, right? No?  Let me elaborate a bit.  Webmd.com goes on to say that executive function is that little bit of our kid's brain that is responsible for helping them to: manage time and attention, switch focus, plan and organize, remember details, curb inappropriate speech or behavior, and integrate past experience with present action.  Basically just about everything they are going to need to do well in life.  Kind of like a CEO for your brain.

As parents we can immediately see how a higher level of executive functioning in our kids would make life easier for the whole family.  Homework would get done on time, past consequences would contribute to current appropriate behaviour, they would not forget their lunch, ever!

Applied to work and preparation for work these attributes become even more critical.  Assuming the goal of passing the job interview for our kid's dream career out of college, we can start from grade school.  Executive functions will help our kid's to develop the appropriate study habits and (hopefully) stay out of trouble in school.  Even with an average IQ, the work ethic and discipline from a mature executive function will help them to progress.  The higher grades resulting from those same study habits in high school along with being able to present oneself with maturity in the admissions interview (speech and behaviour) increase our offspring's chances of getting into the college of their choice.  College, with its myriad distractions, tests the executive functions to the limit but our young heroes survive which brings us to the job interview.

Take off your parenting hats now and put on the hiring manager hat for the company your son or daughter is applying to.  Who do you think is going to do better in your firm?  The genius with the high IQ but has difficulty staying organized (perhaps late for the interview) and makes the occasional inappropriate comment?  Most jobs and organizations will require the full complement of executive functions to not only succeed in their given job, but also to get along with their co-workers.  Read that list of executive functions again: manage time and attention, switch focus, plan and organize, remember details, curb inappropriate speech or behavior, and integrate past experience with present action.  Isn't this what companies want?

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