Executive Function Strategies Blog

Inside a Master's Mind: How Chess Builds Executive Function Skills

2020 was a year filled with discovering (or rediscovering) new activities to keep us occupied in a COVID world: the joy of baking banana bread, learning a new instrument, decluttering long-neglected areas of our homes - and, more recently, the mental workout of playing chess. Thanks to the popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit,” chess has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. And unlike the extra pounds you may be carrying from those kitchen endeavors, it turns out that chess is one of those “good for you” activities - especially when it comes to building Executive Function skills.



1000 Calls in 2020: Insights from Frontline Executive Function Support

Moments of quiet and calm - and eruptions of tears and frustration.

At night, a tangle of worried thoughts instead of restful sleep. 

While this could describe daily life for many of us in 2020, our team has been particularly attuned to the new challenges that parents and professionals have been facing this year. How have we kept our fingers on the pulse? 

During the past year, our Client Services Coordinators have had conversations with over a thousand individuals looking to learn more about Executive Function coaching and to determine if it’s a good fit for themselves or their kids. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time to begin the coaching journey. There may be mental health or other challenges that need addressing first, before a coach can have a positive impact. Most of the time, though, the folks we talk to have the right combination of frustration about their current situation and interest in making a change for the better that unlocks the real potential for coaching to be life-changing. We love those moments. That’s when we can hear the change in their voices that signals a hopefulness and optimism that had been hard to come by in the months - or years - prior. 

As we reflect on this year, what are some of the themes that our team has observed in these phone calls during 2020? Let’s get a fly-on-the-wall perspective to learn more from our Client Services Team and their 1000+ conversations they had this year - and their best insights from 2020 for struggling parents and professionals.



Why You Should Stop Rescuing Your Teen (and what to do instead)

It’s 7:45 on a Thursday night and your son finally gives his eyes a break from the TV just long enough to remember that he has a major essay due for English tomorrow. He might not admit it, but the frantic pacing and backpack digging already reveal everything you need to know - it’s not the first time he’s had a last-minute cramming crisis. Without asking details, you sigh and abandon your own plans to unwind and instead prepare yourself for another student-rescue mission. It seems like it was just yesterday when his last big semester-long project became a 2-day, all hands-on-deck ordeal to get it finished on time. He swore he learned his lesson, but here you are - stuck in this academic Groundhog-Day loop once again. Why on earth can’t he get himself organized and plan these things out?



Toxic Positivity: Self Esteem Costs of Poor Executive Function Skills

When I was in grad school, I worked at a gym. One of the things I recall vividly about my time there were the encouraging vibes from personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and the members themselves. People clung to mantras such as “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow” and “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do”, and “Be stronger than your excuse.” Phrases such as these were meant to inspire persistence with your workouts. And many times, they did.

As well-intended as these messages were, though, they were sometimes problematic. Sometimes the pain I felt was a sign I should stop the workout -- not push through. Sometimes the excuses were legitimate and necessary reasons for skipping a spin class here and there. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later did I become acquainted with the concept of toxic positivity which allowed me to name what I was feeling in response to these inspirational no-quit quotes.