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How to end the executive function coaching relationship with a difficult or non-compliant family

Navigating the complex dynamics of executive function coaching often involves working with a diverse range of families.

As coaches, we occasionally encounter challenging scenarios: from parents with unrealistic expectations, such as expecting instant results without adequate involvement or understanding the process, to children who are resistant to engaging with the coaching process, perhaps due to lack of interest or motivation.

These situations can create an environment where effective coaching becomes nearly impossible, impacting not just the progress but also the well-being of both the coach and the client.

In this blog, we'll explore how to professionally and ethically conclude a coaching relationship in such circumstances, ensuring the best outcome for all parties involved.

What are situations in which you may need to consider ending the coaching relationship with a family?

Ending a coaching relationship with a family is a significant decision and typically considered in specific situations. Here are some scenarios where this may be necessary:

Non-Compliance with Agreed Terms

If the family consistently fails to adhere to the agreed terms of coaching, such as missing sessions, not completing assigned tasks, or ignoring guidelines.

Unrealistic Expectations

When parents have expectations that are not aligned with the coaching process or the realistic outcomes that can be achieved.

Lack of Engagement

This includes situations where the child or family members are persistently disinterested or unwilling to participate actively in the coaching process.

Conflicting Values or Goals

If the family's values or goals are in direct conflict with the coach's methods or ethical standards.

Boundary Issues

Situations where boundaries are consistently disrespected, such as inappropriate behavior, demands outside of agreed-upon hours, or other forms of overstepping professional boundaries.

Safety Concerns

Any instances where the coach feels their safety, or that of the child, is at risk.

Lack of Progress

In cases where, despite best efforts, there is little to no progress, and it appears that the coaching is not beneficial for the family.

Financial Issues

If there are ongoing issues with payment or disputes about fees that cannot be resolved amicably.

Ethical or Legal Concerns

Situations that involve ethical dilemmas or legal issues, such as requests to engage in unethical practices.

Coach’s Competence

If the coach feels they are not the right fit for the family’s needs or lacks the expertise to address specific challenges the family is facing.

In any of these scenarios, it's important to approach the situation with professionalism, clear communication, and empathy, ensuring that the decision to end the coaching relationship is in the best interest of both parties.

How can a coach avoid clients who are not a good match?

To avoid clients who are not a good match, a coach can implement several strategies that help in setting clear expectations and understanding client compatibility from the outset. These strategies include:

Involvement of Student in Inquiry Call

During the initial consultation, involving the student is crucial. This step allows the coach to assess the student's engagement level and willingness to participate in the coaching process. It also provides insight into the family dynamics and whether they align with the coach’s approach.

Mandatory Monthly Family Team Meetings

Requiring monthly family meetings helps in establishing a collaborative environment. These meetings ensure that all family members are on the same page regarding the student’s progress and coaching goals. It also encourages active participation and commitment from the family, which is essential for a successful coaching experience.

Clear Terms of Service and Agreement

Before beginning the coaching relationship, having clear terms of service that the family must sign and agree to is essential. This agreement should outline the expectations, session frequency, confidentiality terms, and any other relevant policies. A clear agreement helps in setting boundaries and ensuring that both parties understand their responsibilities.

Upfront Collection of Payment Information To avoid issues with payments, it’s advisable to collect credit card or payment information upfront. This practice ensures that the coach can focus on the coaching sessions rather than chasing payments, and it also signals a commitment from the family to the coaching process.

How do you terminate the coaching relationship when you've had enough?

Step 1: Evaluate and Document Concerns

Carefully evaluate and document specific concerns or reasons why the relationship is not working. This could include non-compliance, lack of engagement, or misaligned goals. Clear documentation will support your decision and provide a reference for any discussions with the family.

Step 2: Communicate Concerns Clearly

Arrange a meeting with the family to discuss your concerns. It’s important to communicate in a clear, professional, and empathetic manner. Explain how the issues are impacting the coaching process and provide specific examples from your documentation.

Step 3: Offer Alternative Solutions

Before deciding to terminate the relationship, offer possible solutions or alternatives. This could include adjusting coaching methods, setting new goals, or even suggesting another coach or service that might be a better fit for the family’s needs.

Step 4: Formal Termination Notice

If the issues cannot be resolved, provide a formal termination notice. This should be done respectfully and professionally, ideally in writing, outlining the reasons for ending the coaching relationship. Ensure that this step is in line with your contractual agreement and professional ethical standards.

Step 5: Assist with Transition

Offer to assist the family in transitioning to another service or coach. Provide resources or referrals if possible. This step demonstrates your commitment to their well-being and maintains a professional demeanor throughout the process.

Sample letter to terminate the coaching relationship


[Parent's Name] [Address] [City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Parent's Name],

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to address our ongoing coaching relationship concerning [Student's Name]. Over the course of our sessions, I have had the opportunity to understand and work towards [Student's Name]'s executive function needs. It is always my goal to provide effective and supportive coaching tailored to each student's unique requirements.

However, after careful consideration and reflection on our recent sessions, I have come to the conclusion that I may not be the best fit to meet [Student's Name]'s specific needs at this time. This decision has not been easy and comes after thoughtful consideration of various factors including [list specific reasons - e.g., "non-compliance with the coaching plan", "difficulties in aligning our goals", "lack of engagement from the student", etc.].

Please understand that this decision is made with the best interests of [Student's Name] in mind, as I believe they would benefit more from a different approach or style of coaching.

I want to ensure that the transition from my services is as smooth and supportive as possible. Therefore, I am more than willing to provide assistance in finding another coach or educational support that may be better suited to [Student's Name]'s needs. [Optionally, include any referrals or resources here.]

Please note that our final coaching session will be on [Date], after which I will no longer be available to provide coaching services. I will ensure that our last session aims to provide [Student's Name] with guidance and support to continue their progress.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with [Student's Name] and your family. Your dedication to [Student's Name]'s development is commendable, and I have no doubt that with the right support, they will continue to make strides in their executive function skills.

If you have any questions or need further assistance regarding this transition, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you once again for the opportunity to be part of [Student's Name]'s educational journey. I wish you and your family all the best in your future endeavors.


[Your Name]

[Your Contact Information]


Navigating the complexities of a coaching relationship, especially when it involves making the difficult decision to end it, is an integral part of being an effective executive function coach.

While these situations are challenging, handling them with professionalism, empathy, and clarity is crucial for the well-being of both the coach and the client. Remember, the goal is not just to address immediate issues, but also to ensure the long-term success and growth of the students we are committed to helping.

For those seeking to deepen their understanding and enhance their skills in this rewarding field, the Executive Function Coach Academy offers comprehensive training and resources.

At the academy, you can learn from experienced professionals, gain access to a supportive community, and access a wealth of knowledge and tools that are essential for navigating the unique challenges of EF coaching.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to refine your approach, the Executive Function Coach Academy is an invaluable resource in your journey to becoming a more effective and impactful coach.

We encourage you to explore the opportunities and support available at the Executive Function Coach Academy. Join us in our mission to empower coaches and, through them, transform the lives of students around the world.

Ready to elevate your professional journey? Visit our homepage to become a part of our thriving EF Coaching Academy. We're here to help you succeed!

How can I learn more about the executive function certification course?

The program is not available for purchase. It is run throughout the year as a live course and to get updates on when the next enrollment window will be opening, you can subscribe to this email list.

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online EF coaching business that guides students to overcome procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He is also the founder of UpSkill Specialists, a coaching organization dedicated to supporting adults in enhancing their EF skills to create rewarding careers.

Last, but not least, he founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.

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