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Executive Function Problem or Just a Lazy Kid: Part 2

Executive functions can be engaged by putting thoughts and feelings into words, creating routine and structure, and invoking strategies which create a pause and encourage children to stop and think (Diamond, 2010). When children feel seen and loved as they are, not who we need them to be, we provide them with the psychological software to feel secure, value themselves, and persevere. A calm, rather than pressured environment (most of the time), where children’s natural strengths and interests are encouraged, is key to enhancing their ability to thrive.

Tips for Parents

  • Have your child evaluated with neuropsychological testing and be sure that the school is providing the proper resources.
  • Consult with a specialist on executive function problems and learn how to create structure, cues, prompts, and reinforcements that will be helpful to your child.
  • Notice and support your child’s strengths. Work on having realistic expectations. Assume that your child is doing the best he or she can do.
  • Recognize when you are having anxious overreactions and imposing them onto your child. When you have fallen into a dysregulated state, you will know it because you will feel overtaken by intense feelings and pressure to react.
  • Try to talk to your child in a neutral tone and give simple directives without judgment.
  • Set an example for your child by being mindful of your own state and emotions. Practice learning to pause, stop and think before reacting.
  • Plan ahead and predict situations that are triggering for you and decide how you will respond. Take easy opportunities to practice.
  • Before reacting, consider how you would respond if you weren’t upset. Think about your goal – what you are trying to achieve – and the best way to achieve it.
  • Help your child understand what is happening when things get difficult at home. Put your own feelings and your child’s into words and help your child do the same
  • Own up to your reactions and take responsibility for them without blaming your child for your feelings.
  • Take the pressure off your relationship with your child. Relieve yourself of being the primary one responsible for helping your child with homework. Get a tutor and possibly an “organizational tutor” whose job it is to help children keep track of their assignments and organize their work.

Missed the first part? Read Part 1 here.

Disclaimer: The characters from the vignette above are fictitious. They were derived from a composite of people and events for the purpose of representing real-life situations and psychological dilemmas which occur in families.


Barkely, R. (2010). The important role of executive funcitoning and self-regulation in ADHD. In Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. The Official Site. Retrieved August 8, 2010, from

Diamond, A.(2010, May). What Do We Know About Child Development and the Brain That Can Help Promote Resilience and Help More Children Be Strong and Joyful? Paper Presented at the Annual International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA.

Zelazo, P.P. (2010, May) Executive Function and Emotion Regulation: A Developmental Perspective. Ph.D. Paper Presented at the Annual International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA.

Ford, J.D. (May 2010) Developmental Trauma-informed Treatment for Children and Adults: The Next Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy. Paper Presented at the Annual International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA.

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Cox, A.J. (2007). No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control–The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive. New York : A Perigee Book/Penguin Group

Executive Function Problem or Just a Lazy Kid: Part 2

Lynn Margolies, Ph.D.

Dr. Lynn Margolies is a psychologist and former Harvard Medical School faculty and fellow, and has completed her internship and post-doc at McLean Hospital. She has helped people from all walks of life with relationship, family, life problems, trauma, and psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and chronic conditions. Dr. Margolies has worked in inpatient, outpatient, residential and private practice settings. She has supervised others, and consulted to clinics, hospitals, universities, newspapers. Dr. Margolies has appeared in media -- on news and talk shows, and written columns for various publications. Dr. Margolies is currently in private practice in Newton Centre, MA. Visit her website at

APA Reference
Margolies, L. (2018). Executive Function Problem or Just a Lazy Kid: Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.