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What is Executive Functioning Skills Training?

Is this your typical day…

“Hurry, the bus is coming!”

“How did you not know this project was due?”

“Your room is disgusting.”

“I’ve called your name three times, can’t you hear me?”

“For the love of God, stop touching your sister!”

Are you frustrated, confused, and feel like you don’t know what to do to light a fire under your bright but seemingly incapable kid? Then you aren’t alone. 2019 data from the CDC shows that amongst kids ages three to seventeen, almost nine percent of the US population of kids is diagnosed with ADHD. 

  • Percent ever diagnosed with ADHD: 8.8% (2019)
  • Percent of boys ever diagnosed with ADHD: 11.7% (2019) 
  • Percent of girls ever diagnosed with ADHD: 5.7% (2019)

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Fact Sheet, CDC, 2019

How to Improve Executive Functioning in Children and Teens

Even though what you are currently doing isn’t working, I promise you that when we use neuroscience to change behavior, any behavior can improve including difficulties listening, keeping their room clean, and getting their tasks done in a timely manner. 

Learning how to improve cognitive control is central to creating that change that helps kids self-regulate their behavior, thinking, and attention. 

Strategies to Improve Executive Functioning 

It is important to focus on strategies that improve executive functioning skills

Whether you need executive functioning strategies for elementary students or executive functioning strategies for middle school and high school students, as a parent you want to focus on the same foundational skills. 

In my blog, What Skills Do You Need to Have Good Executive Functioning?, I go into an in-depth explanation about what skills kids need to develop good executive functioning for school, home and life. So what are the foundational skills needed for good executive functioning?

Foundational Executive Functioning Skills

  • Response Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional Control
  • Flexibility
  • Sustained Attention
  • Task Initiation

Focusing on these foundational skills is the key to helping our smart but often disorganized kids who lack those critical skills that define success in high school, college, and beyond. As you already know, without independent skills, your kids over rely on you and teachers to cue them to what is next. You inadvertently become the organizational part of their brain and at a deeply subconscious level, they have a “learned helplessness,” as their brain forms a habit of allowing someone else to guide them. Ah ha moment here!

Please know that your child or teen isn’t doing this on purpose and instead their brain has come to rely on adults setting up the environment and providing external scaffolding so to speak for them to get organized. The brain has no need to develop those skills when others constantly provide cuing and organization for them.

So now that you understand the neuroscience behind how and why executive function dysfunction happens, what can you as a parent do about it? After helping thousands of parents of kids with executive functioning issues, whether or not they have clinical issues such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, anxiety, OCD, PANS/PANDAS and Lyme, or other special needs, it is clear that parenting is a powerful tool to build executive functioning skills in our kids.

Executive Functioning Skill Building Parenting Tips

Even though we think medication for ADHD is the only way to improve attention, executive functioning and cognitive skills, medication is really just a band-aid that never gets to the root issue.  In the case of a lack of executive functioning skills, no matter how alert your child’s brain is, you still have to teach them the skills. Yes, executive functioning is a set of cognitive skills that can be directly taught and you as a parent or caregiver have the power to help them. 

Parenting Executive Functioning Strategies 

  • Use future language and help them see the end result and then work backwards
  • Ask more process questions, do less talking
  • Encourage self talk (metacognitive strategies) 
  • Implement visuals and kinesthetic tools
  • Praise effort not just the end result
  • Be patient, new habits take time 

It is important for parents to hold the vision of where they want their children to go but at the same time be present and celebrate those microsteps. It requires a lot of patience and consistent verbiage and reinforcement on your end. It is about working smarter and not harder and breaking that yelling-frustration-shame cycle that you and your kid experience. 

 Thinking about the future, you want to ask yourself…

  •  “What will look different when you feel your child’s executive functioning skills have improved?”
  • Have your attempts  to support your kid been successful? Why and why not?
  • Do you understand what executive functioning is?
  • How important is it that your child strengthens their executive functioning skills?
  • Do you think your child will experience less stress and feel better or more self-confident about themselves if their EF skills  improve?
  • What can you do to be more consistent to help achieve that vision?
  • What is the ONE GOAL you should focus on?
  • Do I have the resources to support my child’s or teen’s executive functioning? (If you don’t, please watch my FREE webinar on how to improve EF skills!).

Dr. Roseann’s Trademarked Executive Functioning Program For Children and Teens

Over my 30 years in mental health and working with kids and their families, I see very clearly that most people (including school and mental health professionals) don’t really understand what executive functioning is and they certainly don’t know how to turn it around in a way that creates lifelong skills. That is what I created, The EF ACTION PLAN™, which is designed to give kids the brain tools they need to develop those mental skills needed to be independent strategic planners, be organized, and self-regulate. 


A – Assess 

C – Connect to the Real World

T – Train New Skills

 I – Identify Microsteps

O – Optimize Performance

N – Navigate Life

Central to the my trademarked EF ACTION PLAN™ is neuroscience that tells us that executive functioning is a complex cognitive process that impacts all of your thinking and that in order to get kids to internalize and learn a new way to respond, that we have to show them the end goal and work backwards. By starting backwards, we get the brain in an active state and therefore is more able to be more alert, be more engaged in learning and process more efficiently.

We work with kids and families in our one-to-one premier BrainBehaviorReset™ program at our center that combines neurofeedback to regulate the brain and parent coaching to give you an EF ACTION PLAN™ that breaks families from the nagging cycle and gets kids confidently independent. If you are ready to see your kid be successful, you can apply to work with us

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. 

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your child or teen struggling with executive functioning? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions for kids with EF issues who need blossoming, so you are in the right place! 

Register for Dr, Roseann's FREE webinar, 5 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Executive Functioning and Attention at School, where Dr.Roseann will show you how to help your child or teen be more alert, listen, develop skills to be independent and self-sufficient and improve task completion.

Need help parenting a child with executive functioning issues, there are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 

You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

Are you a professional who wants more training from Dr. Roseann? 

Purchase her book, Teletherapy Toolkit™: Therapist Handbook for Treating Children and Teens

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2021

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