Podcast Playlist: Executive Function

I’ve attempted to read at least three different titles about kids and executive brain function. They all have very snappy claims, from “Skills Every Kid Must Learn” to “How to Raise Successful Kids” to “Understanding the Kid Brain”. Yes, these are total clickbait headlines.

Of course, as a parent, you want to be able to teach your kids the secrets to adulting early. But it’s not like you can just hack their brain function. Executive function skills include: Focus and self-control, communication, planning, self-regulation, self-direction and motivation, collaboration, problem-solving, adjusting to social situations, etc. A lot of these we didn’t actively learn until we had to take a study skills class.

The problem with all of these books is that they are…super…boring. I can power my way through classic literature, rambling biographies, and philosophy; but these really did put me to sleep.

When we are talking about parenting books, authors really need to consider their audience. And my parenting self wants this information quick, concise, and practical. Which all lends itself perfectly to that awesome Millennial medium: the podcast.

I rounded up a handful of podcast episodes on executive function that get the point across in a quicker, much more relatable way. All of these links go through Apple Podcasts, but feel free to click through and listen on your own platform.

This is a great intro, especially if you think your student isn’t meeting their potential academically.

Raising Good Humans is a favorite parenting podcast and this episode talks about building executive function from toddlerhood throughout childhood. Heavy emphasis on building autonomy and mental flexibility. I like that this gets parents thinking about creating thoughtful, formative experiences.

This episode shares easy things you can do to set up your kid for thinking critically instead of triggering anxiety. Think of it like coaching your kid though their routine, instead of telling them what to do. These are applicable to all kids, not just those with ADHD diagnoses. It also touches on mindfulness and challenges with online learning.

This episode is baby-specific and skews very Montessori. It advocates for a lot of one-on-one time with your baby. Good if you are a new parent and trying to begin modeling behavior for your infant.

This episode breaks down the entire set of executive functions skills and how they can apply to your young child. The hosts are occupational therapists, so they also share some tell-tale signs if your child has some executive function struggles. They also run through a list of games and songs that help build EF in the toddler-elementary years.

Whenever I read about Executive Function, it somehow winds back to the Marshmallow test. You tell a kid they can eat one marshmallow now, or if they can wait and not touch the treat, they can have two marshmallows later. The end result is that kids that can delay gratification turn out more successful/higher achieving as they get older.

So what do you do? You can’t just teach the Marshmallow test. That’s cheating.

What I like about these episodes is that they aren’t introducing something completely new to your parenting. You aren’t trying to be a teacher. Instead, you’re a coach and role model. Executive function also isn’t something that is taught in a traditional way. These skills are acquired and sharpened over time and don’t peak until your twenties, same with most higher-level brain development. So, you have plenty of time to plant these seeds. You are not tragically behind.

Happy listening!

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