top of page

Should you allow your student to fail?

Parenting a child with AD/HD comes with its unique set of challenges and questions.

One such pressing question we recently received from a concerned parent brings up an important dilemma:

Should you require your 6th grader to work with an Executive Function coach, even if they're against the idea?

I think my new 6th grader with ADHD needs an EF coach but she DOES NOT WANT ONE! If I try to require her to have one as a condition for doing something she really wants to do, is this a recipe for disaster? In other words, if she's not on board with having a coach does that mean she's not ready for one and that it would not be a good thing for her at this time? Many thanks!

This article aims to explore that question and provide actionable insights.

Continue reading for actionable insights to support your student with AD/HD and help them take executive ownership of their learning process.

Should you force your student to work with an executive function coach?

If your 6th grader is resistant to the idea of working with an Executive Function coach, requiring it as a condition for something she wants may lead to tension or resistance.

For coaching to be effective, the individual often needs to be engaged and willing to participate.

Before requiring anything, try a softer approach:

1. Explain why you think an EF coach would be helpful, emphasizing the benefits she might see in school and daily life.

2. Offer to involve her in the process of selecting a coach, making her feel part of the decision.

3. Consider a trial period, so she can see firsthand how it works and the benefits it brings.

If she's not on board initially, it doesn't necessarily mean she's not ready; it might be more about her perception of needing help.

Sometimes, children need to experience challenges before recognizing the value of external support. Keep the lines of communication open and reassess the situation over time.

In Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" he said:

"We must allow others to fail, even if we can stop them. Only through failure do they have the opportunity to see the reality of their situation."

By allowing her to experience the difficulties, she might be more open to accepting help, like an EF coach, down the line.

What are the benefits of letting your child fail?

Experiencing failure can offer a child invaluable life lessons that contribute to their overall development.

It encourages self-awareness by highlighting areas for improvement, and builds emotional resilience by teaching them how to cope with setbacks. Failure also hones problem-solving skills, as it compels a child to reconsider their approach.

Additionally, setbacks often serve as motivators, igniting a desire to strive for success in future endeavors. Facing failure early on can also impart vital life skills like perseverance and grit, while providing a reality check that cultivates realistic expectations and goals.

Lastly, the experience can foster empathy, as children who've navigated challenges are often more understanding of others in similar situations.

What should you do when you see your child failing at something?

When an engaged parent sees their child struggling or "falling," the first step is to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment for open communication.

Ask your child how they're feeling and what they think is causing their difficulties. Then, collaborate on identifying practical solutions or resources that could help—this could be anything from tutoring, to time-management tools, or even professional services like an EF coach.

Consider setting achievable goals and establishing regular check-ins to discuss progress and make necessary adjustments to the plan.

The aim is to guide your child in taking ownership of their issues and developing the skills to resolve them. It's crucial to balance support with autonomy, allowing them to experience setbacks as part of the learning process while knowing you are there for support.

What happens if you force your child to participate in EF coaching?

Forcing your child to engage in EF coaching when they're not open to it can lead to a counterproductive experience.

They may become resistant, offering one-word answers during coaching sessions, showing little interest, and making it difficult to establish a constructive coaching relationship.

This kind of resistance essentially negates the benefits that coaching aims to offer, as the child may not be fully engaged or willing to implement the strategies suggested by the coach.

As a coach or teacher, if you're facing this challenge, it may be helpful to read our article on working with resistant students. This piece offers insights into why students may be resistant to coaching and provides strategies for easing them into the idea, allowing them to discover the benefits for themselves.

Learn more


The journey towards helping your child achieve academic and personal growth is neither linear nor easy.

Forcing them into coaching may not be the answer, but there are alternative pathways to reach the same goal. If your child is resistant to the idea of coaching, consider our advice and the lessons from Stephen Covey on the value of experiencing failure.

Learning to work with resistance rather than against it is a skill both parents and children can benefit from.

Drop a comment below and let us know how these strategies worked for you and your students.

Stay engaged

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more insights on supporting your child's growth in their executive function skills.

Other resources

About the author

Sean G. McCormick is the founder of 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 AD/HD and executive function challenges.

125 views0 comments


About 👋

EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

bottom of page