The Ten Most Important Questions to Ask About Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills | Chicago North Shore Moms

By Heidi Condrey & Norrine Russell, Russell Coaching for Students

Executive functioning or executive function skills have become buzzwords in the field of education over the past few years.  These buzzwords are making their way to parents’ ears as well.  So just what do we mean when we refer to executive function?  We can think of executive function skills as a set of cognitive managerial skills.  Our executive function skills are what allow us to regulate our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and actions.

Thanks to executive function skills we can create and follow through with plans, organize our thoughts and spaces, set and achieve goals on a timeline, self-evaluate, make decisions, and regulate our emotions. Without this set of cognitive skills, we would have difficulties regulating our emotions, initiating or completing tasks, maintaining and shifting focus, retaining information to complete a task, or remembering details.

As a parent, what do you need to know about executive function?  Fortunately, you won’t need to go back to school and earn a degree in neuroscience. All you really need is a basic understanding of executive function and what questions to ask.  Here is our list of the top ten most important questions to ask about executive functioning skills:

1. What EF skills should I expect to see during the preschool years?  Using imagination, increasing independence in self-care routines, playing games with others.

2. What EF skills should I expect to see during the elementary school years? Planning ahead, completing all steps of assignments/projects, playing on a sports team.

3. What EF skills should I expect to see during middle/high school? Increasing ability to manage their own schedule independently, managing competing priorities, setting goals and taking necessary steps.

4. Should I be worried if my child seems behind?  This depends on how long your child has been behind, how serious it is and how much of an impairment it is causing.

5. Who should I talk to if I have concerns about my child’s EF skills? Talk to your child’s teacher, pediatrician, school counselor or therapist. Consider an academic coach.

6. I help my son/daughter stay organized, remind them of deadlines and tell them to study.  Is that a problem? The goal is to scaffold executive function so that your child can strengthen their skills. Consider ways to gradually shift the responsibility to your child.

7. How can parents help kids learn EF skills? Check out the Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare.

8. What if I’ve tried and they still don’t get it?  Executive Functions Skills coaching, not therapy or tutoring.

9. Does a problem with EF skills automatically mean my child or teen has ADHD?  No. However, nearly all kids with ADHD have noticeable executive function deficits.

10. Does a problem with EF skills mean there is something wrong with my child? No, we all have stronger and weaker EF skills. However, when weaker EF skills impact our success in life we may need some extra help.



To learn more about your child’s executive functioning skills, ADD or ADHD management and coaching, contact Russell Coaching.


Norrine Russell, Ph.D.
Russell Coaching LLC
Academic, ADHD, & Life Coaching for Students
Parent Coaching & Consultation

Office: 212-716-1161
Direct: 813-508-2367

[email protected]

At Russell Coaching, student well-being is our passion. We make it our mission to meet the individual needs of students by providing life-changing coaching relationships. Our vision is a world where every student is understood, encouraged, and motivated to achieve their potential, both in school and in life.

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