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How to manage disengaged parents as an executive function coach (evidence-based approaches)

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Many parents think the best way to teach their child with ADHD how to be independent is to remove themselves from the coaching process and let the coach do everything.

Unfortunately, this does not work and actually has the opposite effect -- it makes the student more dependent on outside supports, rather than less so.

Here is an email from an EFCA coach about this topic I want to walk you through how to manage this situation.

I am needing some support around a family wanting to do FTM's without their teen. This has come up since he started falling behind again with late assignments this past 3 weeks. I had suggested a FTM. Instead they both wrote me emails and didn't want me copying the student on my responses.

Explain the importance of the Family Team Meeting

A Family Team Meeting (FTM) is crucial because it unites parents, educators, and other key figures in a structured, collaborative environment to focus on a child's comprehensive needs.

This meeting transcends traditional communication barriers, fostering collective decision-making and problem-solving that directly impact the child's development.

By engaging all stakeholders, including the child when appropriate, the FTM harnesses the power of collective efficacy, which is highly effective in improving student achievement.

According to John Hattie's research, collective teacher efficacy is one of the top factors for increasing student achievement.

With an effect size of 1.57, it ranks extremely high among various influences on educational outcomes. (Hattie, J. (2015). What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise. Pearson).

John Hattie research on collective efficacy
Research on the impact of collective teacher efficacy

The FTM shifts the focus from individual efforts to a united, supportive front, ensuring that every aspect of the child's well-being is addressed, making it an indispensable tool in their growth and development journey.

If you want, you can also share with them this article explaining the Family Team Meeting process.

What if they still do not want to participate in the FTM?

If parents or stakeholders are reluctant to participate in Family Team Meetings (FTM), the coach should first strive to understand their concerns and address any misconceptions about the purpose and benefits of FTMs.

It's important to communicate the proven impact of such meetings on student success and offer flexible arrangements to accommodate their schedules. Sharing success stories and proposing less formal initial meetings might also encourage participation.

However, if reluctance persists, you face a critical decision: whether to continue providing services without this key element or to set a boundary and pause services until the parents are willing to engage in this collaborative process.

This decision should be made considering the best interests of the child and the effectiveness of the coaching without the full involvement of the family and other key stakeholders.

I will sometimes frame it like this for a parent:

If you choose not to participate, it will be harder for us to leverage to power of collective efficacy to achieve your desired coaching goals. Are you ok with that?

Email template for Scheduling a Family Team Meeting

Subject: Let’s hold a Family Team Meeting

Hi (parent),

I hope you are doing well.

We'd like to schedule the next family team meeting this month. This meeting will be an opportunity to identify what is going well, what needs to change, and who does what by when.

To learn more about this process, check out the article, “Why hold a Family Team Meeting?”

Do any of the following times work for us to meet?

  • (date/time 1)

  • (date/time 2)

  • (date/time 3)

The meeting will be approximately 60 minutes. We would like to invite any other key members of (student name) support team to join, such as his school case manager and any mental health support. Would you please connect me to them via email so I can invite them?

Please let me know if you have any questions and we look forward to connecting soon.


(Your name)

Ensure you require Family Team Meetings during your inquiry calls with prospective clients

During your initial inquiry calls with prospective clients, emphasize the necessity of Family Team Meetings (FTMs) as a core component of your coaching process.

Explain that these meetings are critical for collaborative support, ensuring everyone involved in the child's life — parents, educators, and other professionals — works together to foster the child's development.

Highlight the benefits of FTMs, such as:

  • Improved communication

  • Shared responsibility

  • and tailored strategies

Then, make it clear that their participation in these meetings is essential for the effectiveness of the coaching program. This approach sets clear expectations from the outset and underscores the collaborative nature of your coaching methodology.

To be sure they are onboard, ask them this question point blank:

As part of our process, we require parent particiaption in the Family Team Meeting process -- can you commit to this?


Family Team Meetings are vital in Executive Function coaching, especially for children with ADHD. They foster a collaborative environment where parents, educators, and professionals unite to support the child's development.

While some parents may be hesitant, it's crucial to highlight the benefits and offer flexible participation. Coaches must sometimes decide whether to continue coaching without this key collaboration.

For those seeking to enhance their coaching practice, the Executive Function Coaching Academy (EFCA) offers valuable resources and training, providing tools and knowledge to better support your clients and grow your practice.

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 coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He also 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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