Why Do Kids Need Executive Function?

Greg and I recently met Yulia Rafailova, executive function coach and creator of MindFull Education and host of The Alpha Parent Podcast. We had a wonderful conversation about helping children develop executive function, the state of our educational system, and the problems facing the world today. The following brief post about why kids need executive function in today’s world was inspired by that conversation.

an organizational primer

Why do kids today need stronger executive function skills? What’s the value in learning to be organized, productive, and self-disciplined?

The standard answer is so they can get good grades, get into a good college, and get a good job. But this misses the mark in much the same way as the typical answer to “What’s the point of school?” And any kid who’s aware of the state of the world today should have some serious doubts about these notions of conventional success.

Kids, let me be frank with you.

Adults have left you a number of big messes: climate change, wealth inequality, the destruction of wildlife, political division, and our dismal response to the pandemic. These problems are not your fault. But just because you’re not responsible for them doesn’t mean you’re not response-able. You can do something about the state of the world. And you don’t have to wait until you’re a “grown-up.”

To be sure, there are some adults working to build a better world for tomorrow, but collectively, grown-ups have proven that they’re unwilling to take the necessary action. They spend nearly all their time working to maintain the status quo.

So when you work to create a better future for humanity, you’re actually engaged in positive rebellion. Building a better world is an act of defiance. Don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t wait for permission.

a climate change protest sign

Greta Thunberg didn’t wait for an invitation to speak out against climate inaction. Malala Yousafzai didn’t wait for permission to fight for her right to go to school. Begin now, in spite of all the obstacles adults have created for you. Join the likes of Indonesian activist Melati Wijsen, whose platform Reach Not Preach is helping the world’s youth organize and collaborate to make real change.

So why should you bother developing stronger executive function skills?

Because the world needs you to. Because your future depends on it.

Humanity isn’t going to make it through the next century unless people who get it – namely, young people – take decisive, organized, effective action. And doing that requires executive function skills.

P.S. Stay tuned for more collaborations with Yulia Rafailova.

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