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November 8, 2020

[EP011] Interesting Facts You Did Not Know About Executive Functioning


Have you ever sat in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting and heard the term " Executive Functioning" being used? It's a term used a lot by therapists and educators. But what is it really? Most importantly how does it affect your child's ability to function in school and life? In this Episode, Genie talks about Executive Functioning and provides some easy tips to support them at home.


How can you help your child build their executive functioning muscles:

  1. Accountability

  2. Make time external ( use clocks, apps, timers, and my fav Alexa)

  3. Incentivize ( Ascend Goals)

  4. Frequent breaks

  5. Hands-on learning

Key Takeaway

  • What is Executive Functioning and how doe sit affects your child ability to learn?

  • How to help your child build Executive Functioning Skills

  • What are the skills related to Executive Functioning?


Additude Magazine


Ascend Goals

If you’d like to hear Genie’s favorite song “ ADHD” by Joyner Lucas click on the playlist below

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Genie 00:08

Welcome to the Parenting Cipher, where each episode we'll give you the tools and resources to help your child thrive in school and in life. Please rate and review this podcast. I love to hear your feedback and also hit the subscribe button so you don't miss any upcoming episodes.

Genie 00:23

Hello, hello everyone! So today, I wanted to talk to you about executive functioning and before we really get into the tea of that, I want to start off with a little story. So my son, who is 13 years old, is on the computer. He's in class and he's in morning meeting or group.

Genie 00:45

But in this class is where they catch up for work or the mentor decides what he wants to talk to the kids about. So in this particular morning, the teacher decides that he wants to show informational videos to the kids about ADHD and executive functioning.

Genie 01:04

So as I'm walking past my son, I see like he's whipped out his phone. I'm like, "Why are you on the phone? You need to know this." His like, "I don't even know about that. I don't have ADHD." I said, "Well, you know, people who have ADHD, you might be able to help them." "Pssh" I was like, “Well your sister", "She's an adult. She can handle herself."

Genie 01:26

I was like, "Oh, okay, so then I walk away but I said, he still have to put away the phone." Like, I don't even know yet, do this. I am like, whatever, "Dude, put the phone down." So then as a while back then, I hear on the screen you're talking about executive functioning and I'm like, "Yo! You need to listen to this one." He's like, "No, I don't." I was like, "Dude, yeah, you do. You need all the executive functioning skills."

Genie 01:53

He's like, "I don't need that." So as they're going down the list of what executive functioning is, I'm over his shoulder. Like, "Psst, you need that, that right there. Pay attention right there." He's like, "Ma!" and I'm like, "Don't tell me you don't need executive functioning."

Genie 02:14

And this is the moment that what I love about the teacher actually creating the space for the kids is you have children with diagnosis and you may tell them once, yeah, we're going to this special program or you're in this class because you have ADHD or you have dyslexia or you have autism, you might go into the need of it. You might not.

Genie 02:36

Right? But if you're not doing it, how is that actually helping them as they get older, take ownership and actually cultivate skills that support them? And that's a space that I had been becoming more and more aware of as my son gets older. There's a difference between you managing their diagnosis or their skills versus teaching them how to manage it and it also starts with what's the diagnosis? 

Genie 03:05

One of the things I like to say is like see your child beyond a diagnosis and what that means is diagnosis is a diagnosis that they have created based on so many people. These are the symptoms or this is how it looks, but it's always going to look different in different people.

Genie 03:22

So when you have a diagnosis and you have your child, you have to actually start to see those pieces in your child so that you can actually figure out how to support them with skills to manage those pieces. So when you look at your child, it's the same thing. When I'm listening to them talk about executive functioning and he's telling me he doesn't need it. Yeah, you're not locked into what executive functioning is.

Genie 03:48

So because the child in me, because we all have the child in us who is like super petty all day, all day as the day was going by, like here and there, I would see different things and I would be like, yeah executive functioning. It's so like fun, it's like my stuff so let's dig into what executive functioning is. I know possibly I'm not gonna say everyone has heard it.

Genie 04:21

It is a term that's thrown around a lot, especially if you're sitting in IEP meetings and if you're like myself, I do look up a lot of things from the meetings, but a lot of times we just get the meaning from something from context. Like if a person talks enough, you kind of like, ah yeah, I got it, you got it, but did you really got it?

Genie 04:42

So executive functioning is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, self-control, and basically the skills that you use to manage your daily life. We use these skills all the time. Do we call it executive functioning?

Genie 05:00

No, but that's what they are. So the skills that are included under executive functioning is paying attention, organizing and planning, starting tasks and staying focused on tasks, managing your emotions, self-regulation, keeping track of what you're doing. These are the skills that help our children in life skills and academic skills and what's happened is usually we learn executive skills more of what we tell our children, like this is where you need to be. This is what you need to do.

 Genie 05:34

But as they get older, we have to start teaching them how to set up those things for themselves and that leads into the three areas of executive functioning. One is working memory. What is that? That's the ability to keep the information in your mind and to use it in some way.

Genie 05:51

Now, if your child has no, I'm not going to say ADHD because children are children, so it's being able to retain the information and then be able to use it in different ways so that is an executive function, cognitive flexibility, being able to think out the box is part of executive functioning, being able to, for instance, let's use this podcast, for example.

Genie 06:17

So it was supposed to be another episode, right? Flexible thinking. What can I do instead? For your child, it's they're sitting there doing their homework and they don't understand the problem. They're not getting it. Flexible thinking in this instance really would be being able to say, I've tried the way that the teachers told me to. Let me look on YouTube, flexible thinking or let me ask my parent for support. Another area is self-control, the ability to ignore distractions and resist temptations.

Genie 06:48

Now, let's talk about self-control real quick, especially if your child has a touch of ADHD or anywhere in that realm but some kids are just kids, so he doesn't have to be a specific diagnosis so when it comes to self-regulation, self-control, sometimes what happens with children is their body moves before they can reflect on the consequence of that action, someone brushes against them and all of a sudden, a fifth glass, an elbow comes out.

Genie 07:19

Now, unless you're really looking at the child, you may not even see that as soon as the elbow came out, they regretted it. Oh my God. The regret is because it was not an active - I'm going push this little kid. I'm going to do it. It really is a lack of self-control and self-regulation in the ability to reflect. Yeah, it's part of executive functioning. Impulse control, as you may hear in meetings but knowing this, how can we support our kids?

Genie 07:51

The reason I kept telling my son that day was right now, we're doing virtual learning and his school, have put things in place where they were teaching them self-regulation and taking them executive functioning skills but once he came out of that setting, he's kind of like lost and I'm trying to figure out like, well, why can't you do it? How are you going from A to B student? And now you're struggling.

Genie 08:14

And this because they had the executive functioning support in his school. So what does that look like for me? That looks like I have to do things differently and you have to start listening to your kids and that's like beyond what you think. So at one point, my son said to me, I need you to sit with me and I am like "To sit with you? Why do I need to sit with you?" I just really couldn't understand this.

Genie 08:41 

So  the first time we did it, I was like, man, you got this. You don't need me to sit with you but that's not why he wants me to sit. He wants me to sit with him because when he starts to hit a wall and he's not able to be flexible and figure it out, I am right there for him.

Genie 08:59

So, for instance, he's doing history and they're using electronic books. He's having difficulty getting on electronic books, so he just wasn't doing the work. I asked him, I said, "Well, why are you not asking for help?" "I don't need help." Yeah, you do, but he is asking for help, but he's not asking in a way that I'm used to him saying, "Mom, can you come sit with me while I do my work" is actually him asking for my help, right?

Genie 09:24

When it comes to classes so we all know online classes, middle school, high school. It's like what you were getting up before, but it's different so just to, like, really spell out how we can help our kids with executive functioning, the first thing is accountability.

Genie 09:43

If you're like myself, we have a million of things to do. Accountability looks really tight when stuff is wrong and it gets looser as it gets better but one of the things that helps me with accountability is I use this program cause and goals, and we put the goals in there.

Genie 10:04

He chooses his own goals and I get email alerts to provide support for him if he's not signing in on that, it really helps that piece. Accountability also doesn't have to be that hard. "What are you doing? What are you doing? Are you doing it?" It doesn't have to be that way because you want them to build that muscle, that muscle of actually being able to do it themselves

Genie 10:26

And that's a fun space because I don't know about you but I tend to go all in or only now. So being in the middle is kind of shaky for me but I'm learning. Having a conversation about it in setting goals is accountability and it really works. The second thing is make time external and what the hell is that means?

Genie 10:50

Use your clocks, use your apps, your timers. My favorite is Alexa, especially with my youngest son with comes to his classes. He has breaks and sometimes I get lost and it breaks your own lining. I get lost. But what I have started to teach him to do is when he steps away from the computer to tell Alexa, set the timer for five minutes. Do you understand that when Alexa tells him it's time to go back to class, he's like, "Okay", when I tell him, it's like this whole conversation.

Genie 11:20

So think about different ways that you can make time external because they're doing other things like real talk, as an adult, I get lost in time. Oh, I'm going to do this by fifteen minutes. Yeah, you know, an hour has passed so make time external. The third one isn't about us. Now, I have been using incentivizing for years. I had two older children and it's changed over time. I used to just pay for grades, A's and B's. Now I do big incentives and small incentives.

Genie 11:55

Now if you're one of those parents, it's like, why should I pay you for grades? This is the thing. Incentivizing isn't just about the reward, it's about what you're creating, what are you planting for your child. So one, most often if the goal is to go to college, most times they don't even have those conversations to high school. Well, yeah, you get a restart in ninth grade.

Genie 12:18

But what if they're already working at their highest potential because you have been incentivizing it? What a good grades equal to when it goes to college? It equals to scholarships, it equals to money. So that's why you're incentivizing the grades, because at the end of that tunnel, that's what you want. You want those scholarships, you want to go college.

Genie 12:39

So it could be small things. It could be big things. It depends on the age. It depends on the goal but my nine year old, I incentivize him staying on task, participating in the classes, doing the work, because sometimes he just feel so over it and it's not things. We don't eat junk foods.

Genie 12:56

I'm like, you know, I'll get you McDonald's if you do all your work, you participate. You do everything you have to do. Sometimes every two weeks, I have like twenty dollars. What do you want for twenty dollars? For my oldest son, he's in middle school, so it's a little bit different but actually, he says he's into sneakers. While sneakers cost so much. But anyway, so he had summer packets to do and I kept trying to get him to set up times for himself loosely, you know, because I wanted him to feel the repercussions.

Genie 13:26

So they had given him an outline of how things could be done. You could be on an eight-week program. You could be on a four-week program. You could be on a two-week program, which means you're doing several assignments a day and as time came by, I kept giving was gentle reminders, it's in game and we talked about this at the beginning of the summer. You said that you wanted to get these sneakers.

Genie 13:48

Don't ask what they are, guys. I think it's like LeBron eighteen something. I just know they like too flat out maybe three hundred and I say, here's the thing. Do you need an extension? Well I mean, I have done anyway, you do have do anyway. So listen, you're going to have to do it because it's required or do you want to have an incentive? Do you want to actually get something that you can see for it?

Genie 14:11 

So he was like, "Yeah, I do. I need an extension." Why give him an extension? Because that's flexible and depending on what's going on for your child in the future, especially when they get to college, they need to know that that is an accommodation. That is something they can ask for. Why not start with your parent? Anything that they could do with us first? It makes it easy for them to somebody else, just as facts. So I had been using those ways to incentivize depending on your child school.

Genie 14:38

In school, they use these dojo points for my youngest son, which he told me he was like they ain't real and that's why we have real instances in my home with both of them and with the middle schooler, I'm just learning different ways to incentivize him while building his executive functioning skills. He has to tell me when he's going to get the goals done. He has to tell me how he's going to get the goals done. We talk about breaking down tasks and even for this, I use a singles again and I use that program because for a parent like myself, it makes everything seamless and it's also a contract.

Genie 15:15

They set up the goal. You look at it, you tweak it, talk about what is it that they're going to get after they finish the goal. You get the alert and then you provide it. It's a contract and I don't know about you, but I'm the parent. Well, I'll say something in the air and boom! And I'm like, did I say that? Now, because I'm in a charity, I still provide it.

Genie 15:40

But I'm like, did I say that? And I shouldn't even have to have that space but because we're not writing things down and a lot of parenting specialist programs, we always talk about goal setting. They will talk about contracts, writing stuff down. Awesome. I write that down and they get resources.

Genie 16:02

So number four, frequent breaks. So here's the thing. With kids or with people, frequent breaks helps them refresh. It could be a ten-minute break, 50 minute break. If they're behind on something, they're doing their homework. You see that they're struggling. You can ask them if you need ten-fifteen-minute break? It really helps them recharge and refuel and most importantly, refocus. I touched on that with my youngest son like they have breaks in between each class and he uses his breaks to the fullest extent to live his best life.

Genie 16:35

But it helps him stay on task. It was tough for him to go back. Number five, hands-on learning. Depending on the test, depending on the child, sometimes it's easier when they work with their hands, so that's something for you to think about. I know with both of my kids, they like to do mental math. I'm laughing because I don't get it. Like that so we all must go but they love to do mental math. When they were learning the foundations of it and even though they like to do mental math, a lot of times with their classes, they will tell the students like, go around your house and find a circle, isosceles triangle, go in, look at 1/3, 1/4.

Genie 17:15

So it's tangible, it's real. Instead of it being an idea of a thing, as if they can see, feel, and hear it. A lot of people learn that way. Those are the five ways that you can support your child with executive functioning and I will put in the notes all of the resources that I have discussed and of course, because this is the Parenting Cipher with the hit and not to hiphop. This episode is dedicated to a song that I like called ADHD by Lucas Joyner and it's actually on the playlist for the birth of the Parenting Cipher.

Genie 17:54

Because when I heard it, I was like, Oh, this is so good. And one of the lyrics I like is "My mind is racing. I've been paranoid over thinking maybe there's a void. Don't cut me off like I don't have a voice. I think I was born different. I ain't really have a choice" and the entire song is it really touches on how someone feels who has ADHD.

Genie 18:22

And it touched me because my daughter has ADHD and my time where I was not aware of what goes on in her mind and I heard this song. I was like, oh wow. So check it out, give it a listen especially if you have a child with ADHD, like give it a listen. I mean, it is adult lyrics which you know, it's adult lyrics, but it's always the words. So if you don't want to hear it, check out the lyrics ADHD by Lucas Joyner.

Genie 18:51

Always remember you're doing the best with what you have. Remember to be patient with yourself and your child. Did you know you can support the show on patreon so the Parenting Cipher can keep bringing you great content and guest, just click on the patreon link in the show notes. 'Till next time!

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