Parent-Teacher Conferences Were Challenging

Parent-teacher conferences can be brutal. Having a child with executive functioning challenges isn’t for the faint of heart, especially on conference night. When most of the conversations begin with, “Your child is intelligent, but…” It can make for a long evening. 

Here are a few reminders after an evening of “your child can’t seem to sit still, doesn’t follow through with turning in assignments, and doesn’t engage in the class.”

1. Establish Routines for Success 

A routine can be a lifeline for children with executive function challenges. Consistency can provide the predictability they need to thrive. Even though there will be many issues after conference night, pick one routine to implement to address several other issues. For more information on how to stick to that routine, see the Lead Domino.

Here are examples:

Morning routines: A consistent and enjoyable wake-up time, breakfast routine, and prep-for-school system can set the tone for the day. The morning routine is successful when most of it is completed the night before.

Homework routines: Designate a regular homework spot and time. If possible, have a space that is only associated with productivity. Make sure all necessary materials are easily accessible. 

Bedtime routines: Sleep hygiene is crucial for cognitive functioning. Limiting blue lights before bed increases sleep quality, attention, learning, and retention.

2. Set Clear Expectations 

Children with executive function difficulties may struggle with abstract concepts. Make your expectations clear, concrete, and concise. Side tangents and vague wording can cause distraction and confusion. Keep things black and white, children with executive function challenges struggle with the “grey.”

For growth to be made, positive reinforcements and consequences must be clear. For example, “if you complete your homework for the week, you are allowed 30 extra minutes to hang out with friends next Friday.” 

3. Set Mini-Goals and Celebrate Small Wins 

Large goals are daunting. Break them down! Instead of having one major task, piece apart the overall goal. Breaking a project into a step-by-step task list helps focus attention and gives the student a feeling of accomplishment with each completion. Celebrate the small victories. If your child remembered to write down their assignments for a week, that’s a win! 

4. Take Care of Yourself

Remember, just as your child may struggle in the traditional academic system, you too might find navigating this path challenging. You’re playing the long game. It’s essential to prioritize your well-being. Seek Support: Connect with other parents, join a support group, or consider speaking with a counselor. Take Breaks: Remember, it’s okay to step back and take a moment for yourself when things get tough. Stay Informed: The more you understand executive function challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child navigate them. 

6. Teach Your Child How to Advocate

Following a challenging parent-teacher conference, teaching children to advocate for themselves is pivotal to improved behavior, self-regulation, and academic success. It also improves the relationship with their teacher, and students begin to see the teachers as allies rather than adversaries. 

Why students don’t advocate

As adults, we consistently tell our students to advocate but get frustrated when they don’t. Generally, students don’t advocate because:

  • They are intimidated 
  • They don’t know what to ask for
  • They don’t know how to ask for what they want or need
  • They feel there’s a stigma around needing help
  • They are unaware other students aren’t experiencing the same struggles as them

Roleplaying to advocate

For our students to learn to advocate for themselves, they must practice. Remember to have patience when roleplaying and that this is a life-long skill. Here is an example of a situation and a script we use with our students. Customize it based on your situation. 


You’re confused about the second part of your project, and the due date is approaching. Instead of waiting until the last minute or not doing it, what do you do? 

Possible Response

“Hi, Ms. Webb, I’m unsure how to complete the second part of the project and can’t stay after school to see you anytime this week. I was wondering if I could check in at lunch or before school so you could explain it to me?”

Every child’s journey is unique. It’s essential to remember that with patience, persistence, and a plan, you can help your child overcome executive function challenges and succeed in all aspects of life. It’s all about taking one step at a time and remembering that progress is just that. Progress.

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More:

9 tips for talking to your child’s teacher about executive function challenges

Executive Function: Activation Routines

Celebrate small successes and watch your student grow

Surviving the Difficult Parent-Teacher Conference

7 ways to teach your child to self-advocate

Setting Clear Expectations: The Key to Fostering Good Behavior in Children

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