Understanding Executive Functioning: 

A Key to Helping Kids with ADHD

Understanding Executive Functioning: A Key to Helping Kids and Teens with ADHD

Today, we’re delving into a topic that can significantly improve the lives of children and teens with ADHD: executive functioning training. Executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive processes that help us manage ourselves and our resources to achieve a goal. For children and teens with ADHD, strengthening these skills can make a huge difference in their daily lives. Let's explore self-understanding, organizational skills, time management, emotional control, behavior control, flexibility, initiative, attention, working memory, and persistence.

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive functioning skills are crucial for managing everyday tasks. They include a variety of abilities that help us plan, focus, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. For children and teens with ADHD, these skills can often be underdeveloped, leading to difficulties in many areas of life.


Self-understanding involves recognizing one's strengths and weaknesses, understanding how ADHD affects them, and developing self-awareness. Children learn to identify their triggers and understand their behaviors. This self-awareness is the foundation for making positive changes and advocating for themselves.

Organizational Skills

Organizational skills help children keep track of their belongings, assignments, and responsibilities. Techniques include using planners, color-coded folders, and checklists. Developing a routine for organizing materials can reduce chaos and help children feel more in control.

Time Management

Time management abilities are essential for children with ADHD. They often struggle with estimating how long tasks will take and staying on schedule. Training involves teaching them to break tasks into smaller steps, use timers, and create daily schedules. This helps them manage their time more effectively and meet deadlines.

Emotional Control

Emotional control is another critical area. Children with ADHD can experience intense emotions and have difficulty regulating them. Techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk can help them manage their emotions and respond more calmly to stressors.

Behavior Control

Behavior control involves managing impulses and behaving appropriately in different situations. This includes learning to wait their turn, think before acting, and follow rules. Through role-playing and practice, children can develop better self-control and improve their social interactions.


Flexibility, or cognitive flexibility, is the ability to adapt to new situations and changes. Children with ADHD often struggle with this. Training involves teaching them to develop alternative plans, think creatively, and remain calm when things don’t go as expected.


Initiative is about starting tasks independently and taking action without needing constant reminders. Children learn to recognize when it’s time to start a task and how to motivate themselves to begin. This can significantly improve their productivity and sense of accomplishment.


Attention is the ability to sustain focus on a task, despite distractions. Techniques to improve attention include setting specific goals, reducing environmental distractions, and using tools like fidget toys to help maintain focus.

Working Memory

Working memory involves holding and manipulating information in the mind over short periods. Exercises like memory games, using mnemonic devices, and practicing mental math can help improve this skill, which is vital for following instructions and completing tasks.


Lastly, persistence is about staying with a task until it’s completed, even when it’s challenging or boring. Children learn to break tasks into manageable chunks, set realistic goals, and develop a growth mindset that encourages perseverance.

The Role of Behavioral Therapy

Each of these skills plays a vital role in helping children and teens with ADHD manage their symptoms and succeed in various aspects of life. Behavioral therapy with a focus on executive functioning training provides a structured and supportive environment where these skills can be developed and reinforced.

Parental Involvement

Parents are also a crucial part of this process. By being involved and using consistent strategies at home, they can reinforce what their children learn in therapy and provide a supportive environment for growth.


If your child or teen is struggling with ADHD, consider exploring behavioral therapy with a focus on executive functioning training. With the right support, they can develop the skills they need to lead a more organized, fulfilling life. Contact us at Healthy Endeavors for more information.

Additional Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Create a Routine: Consistency helps children with ADHD feel more secure and understand what is expected of them.

Positive Reinforcement: Encourage and reward efforts and improvements to build confidence and motivation.

Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: This makes large projects feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

Create House Rules: Create a visual aid to remind your child of standard house rules that must be followed at all times or daily.

Make Consequences and Rewards Known: Predetermined consequences and rewards help children make good decisions and motivate them to make decisions leading to your desired outcomes for them and your family/household. 

Use Visual Aids: Charts, checklists, and visual schedules can help children understand and follow routines more effectively.

Stay Patient and Supportive: Progress may be slow, but with patience and support, children can develop these critical skills over time.