Do you want your kids to be successful in school? I know most of us to want our kids to grow up to be the kind of people that have the skills to manage their time and frankly, their lives, AND unfortunately, because many of us struggle with these skills ourselves, we can feel overwhelmed by this topic. I sat down with a true expert academic coach with a background in organizational psychology. Evan Weinberger is the owner of Staying Ahead of the Game, a worldwide academic coaching and tutoring company he founded in 2006. You don’t want to miss learning from Evan; he is such a sharp and insightful leader in the space of helping kids develop critical executive skills to help them kick ass in school and life. Enjoy!
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About Randi Rubenstein
Randi Rubenstein helps parents with strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.
She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.
At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.
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My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode 180 5. Well, hi guys, I think you’re going to enjoy this week’s podcast episode. It’s a conversation that I had with Evan Weinberger. He is the president and CEO of staying ahead of the game, a Houston-based academic coaching and tutoring company that he founded in 2006 with a focus on helping students build the executive functioning skills. They need to be successful in the classroom and beyond the core components of his program include organization, time management and influencing the perceptions of others.
Evan enjoy speaking to parents, counselors, and educators all over the country about the power of executive functioning skills and the most useful ways to assist students of all ages in getting the most out of school and achieving their goals. While staying ahead of the game has several offices around Texas, Evan co founded Illuminos in 2016 to bring his award-winning and research-driven program to major cities outside of Texas, beginning with the Washington DC Metro area, you guys are going to be super impressed with Evan. I get a lot of requests from academic tutoring companies or the people who help your kids get into college. And Evan’s not like that y’all are gonna see.
He, he really is a wealth of knowledge. And I think we just had a good conversation. He’s a he’s he’s in it for the right reasons. Like I can tell he loves kids. He believes in kids. I think he shares a similar mission in helping parents to truly understand their children and support them the right way, like support them in ways that boost their confidence. That just helps them realize, like there is nothing wrong with them. And a lot of times these executive function skills, which I just define on it might just be that I’m old as critical thinking, like, you know that part of your brain, that where you make decisions and you show up as your smartest best self, like, you know, you don’t feel like you’re just spinning in internal chaos.
Like that is the part of our brain where we want to show up for all the big things. So if you think about you guys, like, I just, I want to really break it down. Cause I know this executive function term has been kind of like a buzz term lately. And what I really want to do is just break it down in terms of there’s more distractions than ever in our world. And so it would make sense why many of our kids are struggling with all those decision making critical thinking skills. And so Evan’s company. I love that. Yeah, they will help kids if there’s some holes like, you know, in the curriculum, like they’re not understanding or grasping skills in math, or they need some extra support in terms of their writing skills.
But we’re, he really, I think hits it hard is he coaches the kids in terms of how to be better at developing those systems that are going to set them up, not just for success now, but success forever. And so many of us, like, I didn’t learn a lot of these skills. I’m still learning them as an adult and what I’ve seen with a lot of the parents that I work with, they’re like, yeah, my kids have all of these different challenges. And the more I learn about their challenges, the more I realize I have the same challenges. And so is it nature?
Is it nurture? Is it a combination of both? But the bottom line is, is yeah, we get these diagnoses and then what, what do we do with those diagnoses? How do we actually support our kids in a way where we’re going to set them up for success now and beyond? So enjoy this conversation with Evan. I really enjoyed me anytime. I have a chance to sit down with him. I just, I learned so much. I’m so impressed by him. And I think you guys will be too. Okay. So let’s just dig in. We just were chatting a little bit before I have Evan Weinberger.
Am I pronouncing your last name correctly? Absolutely. Weinberger. I know it seems so straightforward, but people are always calling me Rubinstein instead of Rubinstein. So it could, I guess it could be Wienerberger, but I’ve never heard her pronounce like that. Okay. So just full disclosure. I get a lot of requests from academic coaching and tutoring companies to come and be on the podcast. And because I think we typically work with similar populations, the kid, the difficult kids, the challenging kids, the kids that are struggling at home are typically struggling at school too.
And I’ve never had a one on the podcast, but it’s different with you because I requested you to come on the podcast because I was so impressed by you when I met with you. So I love it, man. You can’t, you can’t make me make me cry today. Oh, that’s my goal. That’s my goal. Okay. So when we met, you know, we were just getting to know each other a little bit and I was super impressed by because you are not a typical coaching and tutoring service. I liked that you really come from mainstream kind of traditional.
You have a, you have a traditional resume, you know, your dad had a big career. He was a psychiatrist, A psychologist Psychologist, 40 years. Yeah. So I’m sure, you know, so you were raised and he was a renowned cha. He passed away, I believe. Is that correct? He did. I miss him every day, but he worked for 40 years and traveled all over the country and outside of the country, a lot of public speaking, his specialty was adolescence. And, you know, in addition to kind of normal family stuff, he dove into some of the hardcore substance abuse and things that, you know, psychologists in a outpatient setting, even an intense outpatient setting, you know, kind of shied away from.
But yeah, I miss him miss him every day. I mean, it sounds like you guys were really close, Very close and, and I don’t know if it’s weird. Can I admit this on here? That For the first, For the first like year I’d still talk to them, I’d send them text messages and updates on what I had going on. I mean, I really do think about them every day, but you know, I still hear his voice. I, I, I still hear his advice about kids and managing families and situations and you know, people, parents bring kids to us. And oftentimes as I’m sure you experienced parents are participants or heavy contributors to the problem or at least perpetuating the problem.
And so navigating that sometimes, you know, that part, parts of that was new for me. And he was a really valuable resource, but I can still hear him in my head, you know, Which is so cool because I mean, as the child of a psychologist, child, psychologist, what do they say about therapists, psychologist, psychiatrist. They always have like the most messed up kids. Like, Well, they said that the preacher’s kid is always the worst, I think is what they say. Yeah. So right. But you know, it’s funny, my, my father spoke a lot about curfews in his public speaking and what were appropriate curfews, you know, he would joke since he works, he worked with adolescents. He would say, you know, I don’t believe in curfews because I believe you should never let them out, you know, but you know, he, he was great, but at home, you know, he, he refined that over the years and I never, I never really had strict curfews.
And he said, those are conversations you have when kids push the limits. And I guess I wasn’t, I wasn’t really a limit pusher, but yeah, I joke I had to live in shrink. And that was really, really helpful for me. I mean, listen, I think everyone would benefit from some, some form of assistance, whether it’s therapy or coaching or something. I mean, I, nobody has all the answers and growing up, you know, we draw from our own experiences when we give advice to our kids. But growing up is so different than it was when we were growing up. And so there’s new challenges, whether it’s, you know, screens and the world of video games and, and navigating school and school portals and email with teachers. I mean, there’s a lot of these things we didn’t have, or we had at the very tail end of our experiences.
So, you know, it’s, there’s no shame in seeking some help or some guidance because the challenges in many cases are new. Well, they’re new, but the thing I’m not gonna let the conversation about your dad go just yet, because I like that, you know, you guys broke that mold of, you know, just because you’re out, fixing other people, fixing other people’s families doesn’t mean that you’re neglecting your own. And it sounds like your dad really lived what he was trying to help other people to understand about their kids. It seems like, you know, you didn’t have to have a curfew because you were the kind of family that talked about things and you must have felt.
And the fact that for a year after he passed away, like you found yourself talking to him and texting him and, and going inside to find the guidance that he imprinted on you. It just says to me that you guys were truly connected and you felt seen and understood. And he was, he was a real support system for you, A big support system for me. And I, you know, I still to this day and I have to credit, you know, my parents and my dad was a big part of that. You know, I tell my kids whether they’re awake or asleep, I whisper in their ear every single night, why I’m proud of them. I think that’s really important. You know, we had, we addressed the areas that seemed like they need help and you know, but our kids are so wonderful in so many different ways, taking that, that moment to identify some of those things, even if during the day, it feels like it’s overshadowed by an outburst or a bad decision, or, you know, kind of going down the wrong path.
You know, the kids are doing amazing things every single day. And so I think it’s important to tell your kids that you’re proud of them. So I, I do that and they did that for me. So he’s still, he’s still with me, even though I, I, I lost him. I don’t get to hug him anymore. He’s still with me every day. So then you went to college and you, you’ve a pretty impressive resume as well. So, and what did you study? Organizational psychology. Yeah. So my degrees are in biology and religious studies. And then I, I was in a doctoral program for industrial and organizational psychology in Europe. They call it work psychology. You know, I think that’s certainly a simpler name. It’s essentially how different variables affect work performance, right?
So everything’s related to work performance personalities in the workplace leadership style, you know, different policies in the workplace, power distance, the different positive and negative reinforcement system, how all of those different things, you know, affect job performance. And, and the connection for me was my research interests were in the executive coaching poly chronicity, which is a fancy word in the literature for time management, multitasking, that kind of work and impression management. So how through our behavior, we can manage the impression that other people form about us. So those, those perceptions that we leave on other people, we actually have the ability to control those through our, our behavior.
And I just, I thought that was so awesome. And I applied it to a setting with, with kids and said, you know what, I’m going to create an executive coaching program for kids and have those conversations about those executive function skills, the organization, the time management, prioritizing problem, solving skills, different aspects of, of learning skills and study skills. And then that impression management. And we talk about how you sit in a chair and we even went in virtual school, how you sit in front of the camera and that importance of visiting with your teachers during tutorials. Even if you think you don’t have questions, you know, up questions, you might learn something and it gives off an impression that you’re interested and you’re engaged and you’re trying hard and that you care, even if you’re still working on some of those things on the inside, you can at least give off that impression and that has value and the benefits of doing it well, and the consequences of, of not doing it well.
And helping kids identify some opportunities for improvement on a very individualized basis. And so that’s what I did. I mean, listen, we staying out of the game, we do all subjects K through 12, you know, traditional tutoring, standardized test prep, but, but our bread and butter, and what really makes us unique is that award-winning, research-driven proprietary executive function approach, where we’re having these kinds of conversations with kids about those foundational skills that are inseparable from their success now, as they matriculate next year and to the next level in school, potentially college and then graduate school. And then in real life, these are some of the really critical skills for success in real life.
And where do kids learn that they learn that in school? Now when the consequences are maybe the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, and then you have an opportunity next week to fix it. But later in the real world, you know, you say the wrong thing to the wrong person and you don’t have a job the next day, right? So the consequences, if you haven’t mastered those skills, by the time you get into real life, you know, those consequences, you know, get much steeper, right. Much harsher. And so I think that’s really the, the uniqueness is, is the emphasis on those foundational skills that we call executive function skills. So I love that. And I want to define for the listeners exactly what executive function skills are, cause that’s kind of a buzz term right now.
And I think it’s, you know, it’s confusing for people and the way I kind of make sense of it for people a lot of times is I’m like, it’s really, it’s old school critical thinking. Right? So, so when you were a teenager, you obviously felt emotionally safe in your home and you were in a family where you felt seen and understood. And, and so therefore you were using critical thinking when you were out at night as a teenager, you were probably thinking, huh, can I stay out a little later tonight? Or do I have a ton of homework that I need to do tomorrow? What do I want to even do? Maybe I have a volunteer thing I have to wake up early.
And so it’s not gonna, it’s not going to work for me to stay out until two o’clock in the morning because I got to get up at 8:00 AM. Like, these are the little ways we bring that critical thinking into the equation. And so when you have a kid that’s like a teenager, the most impulsive time in our lives, where a lot of times those executive function skills kind of go offline, especially when you’re in the moment and you’re at a social gathering. And there’s that girl that you have been like having a crush on for however long. And she’s kind of like, they’re at the same place and she’s eyeballing you across the room. And you’re like, Tam, I think it might be my one opportunity finally.
And then you have to decide, should I go home and miss this opportunity? Cause I have to get up early in the morning. Should I stay? Because I’ve had a crush on her for so long and know that I’m going to get up and I’m going to rally, and then I’m going to take a nap in my day. Like this is all the critical thinking. And it, and I love that. Like as a teenager, you were already doing that, it sounds like. So I was, but I have to admit, I made some poor decisions sometimes. And I think the important, the important part is not to be our kids secret service, where we are shielding them from every possible bad decision or stepped in the wrong direction. I think the more important part is the acknowledgement.
You know, we, we talked a lot at home about natural consequences, right? So if I stayed up really late doing something, some nonsense, I felt really poopy the next day, you know, in my house, it wasn’t an option yet. You know, go to school, don’t go to school the next day. No, if you have school, you go to school. Right, right. But if you made a poor choice and you decided to stay up really late, whether it was, you know, kind of a YouTube type of shenanigans, just, you know, kind of scrolling through, you know, whatever it might be. And I got very little sleep. I was miserable the next day and I didn’t feel good. And so something that we did regularly at home was have conversations. So they would monitor the decisions that I made and find those learning opportunities, those natural consequences.
And then we would talk about them, say, huh, well, you didn’t sounds like you really didn’t feel good today. And you had, you knew you had to be there. I mean, it’s not an option. You got to go to school. Do you think if, if you had made a different decision yesterday and you felt better today, do you think that might be kind of a better path moving forward? And so we have, I remember having lots of conversations like that, so sure they would influence my decisions some on the front end, but we always had conversations on the back end. And I just remember that term over and over again in my house, natural consequences, natural consequences. So, Hey, if you choose to do this, then you know, these things might happen. And then after the fact you made this choice and therefore these things happened, do you see the connection there?
And maybe next time it would be better to make a different choice. And those weren’t my favorite conversations growing up, I have to admit it, but, but I appreciate them in retrospect. And I think they were incredibly valuable and I encourage our families to have those kinds of conversations with their kids, you know, within reason. Right? So we don’t want to let our kids walk in the middle of the street when an 18 Wheeler is coming, they’re going to get smushed and they won’t even have an opportunity to have a conversation about why that was a bad decision. So as parents, I think we need to step in at certain points and prevent really horrible, awful decisions. Right. But I think it’s important to take some missteps and capitalize on those opportunities to have those kinds of conversations, draw those linkages.
And I think really, you know, foster, that, that kind of self-reflection that influences our decisions moving forward. I hope that makes sense. I mean, I don’t want to minimize that you don’t have teenagers yet. You have young kids. What I will say is, is again, I have to credit your parents because being willing to have those conversations and doing it in an artful way where you’re inviting accountability, but you’re not inducing shame. Right. And I think that can be a really hard thing to do because a lot of times when we see our teenagers making crappy decisions, it’s like we start to panic and then before we know it, we’re lecturing them and we’re telling them all the, all the reasons why their decisions were so terrible instead of inviting them to kind of connect the dots and helping to hold them accountable through the natural consequences.
There’s it takes a lot of what I call my mastery, where your parents had to kind of be on to themselves and not to get into that panic mode and really allow you to kind of make that connection between what you were doing and what the natural consequences were and what you could, you know, very growth mindset, what you could learn from this, how are you were going to do things differently next time, I, there has to be a lot of trust to be a teenager. And to be able, even though they were not your favorite conversations, you obviously were impacted by them. And I mean, that’s kind of a big deal. Yeah.
And you know, modeling research tells us that that modeling is still one of the most effective modes of, you know, kind of learning transfer. Right. And so I find inadvertently often I’m doing the same thing with my kids, even at their young age, you know, my son who’s seven and a half. He’s my oldest. We have conversations regularly. I’m starting with my three and a half year old. My daughter obviously different vocabulary, but starting to try and have some of those conversations. And so we practice what we know. And so I, yes, I credit my parents because they set a good example. Unfortunately, this is a truism, whether it was a good example or a bad example.
So, you know, I also see families who are doing the same thing that their parents did with them. And maybe those things were not healthy, but again, that’s, that’s what they know and that’s what was modeled for them. And so I’m thankful and do credit my parents and thank you for that. But I do credit my parents for having that healthy approach and modeling that for me, because that’s what I’m practicing now with, with my own kids. Well, yeah. And you’re training coaches to go in and work with kids in this same way. And I want to get into that. And so segwaying into that, will you define executive functioning skills for the listeners?
Yeah, sure, absolutely. So the, the center for the developing child at Harvard university defines executive function skills largely in the form of a metaphor. So think of, think of it like a busy air traffic controller, right? Who’s managing the arrivals and departures of all these different airplanes on runways that run different ways at busy airports for a major city, right? For obvious reasons. It is really, really important that those planes don’t collide and being able to do that effectively means having a plan a but then having contingency plans. So planning ahead and trying to foresee or predict all the possible things that could go wrong and knowing how you’re going to pivot and adapt in order to, to reach this goal, which, you know, the cost of failure is unbelievably high.
So the goal it’s a, it’s a non-negotiable, you have to reach the goal, right. And of making sure that no planes, you know, kind of collide, but this one’s running out of gas. This one was delayed because of weather. And so executive function skills are those set of skills that we have and hopefully develop and ultimately master that help us to organize and to plan ahead and to map out a series of steps and then execute, stay focused and execute on those steps to break big things down into smaller, kind of more manageable things in the interest of productivity and getting things done. So executive function skills, that’s this organization, these planning, the time management, the learning skills it’s tied heavily to what you mentioned before this growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.
I mean, we could do a whole nother episode on, on that. Yeah. There’s an episode all on that. Yeah. So critically important. But executive function skills is at the center of all of that. It is the skills in school that we don’t do enough. We don’t do a good enough job of talking to kids about directly, and we hope they get it through some kind of osmosis or just kind of as, as part of the process. And now we’re starting to have direct conversations about it. These are skills. Kids do not get a grade for these kinds of things directly, but there is no kid in school that’s getting good grades. And who’s a high achiever who are not doing many of these things well, and it’s those organizational skills, the time management skills, the planning, the prioritizing mapping out steps, execution, strategic execution, all of that is wrapped up in executive function skills.
And what I’ve noticed is, is a lot of the parents that I ended up working with, you know, their kids will have some kind of a diagnosis or a label. So let’s say they have ADHD. And so the parent is looking for a coach or a resource to directly help their child, right. To develop these skills because, you know, they have to supplement what’s not happening at school. And so finding the right resource, because it really goes beyond traditional tutoring is what I’ve seen. I’ve seen, you know, sometimes there’s these fancy traditional tutors who are, maybe got a master’s in education.
And they work with kids that have learning differences. And I have seen it in my own personal life over the years is it’s like, they’re working with the child and sitting with the child doing homework, but they’re not actually coaching the child to develop better executive function skills. And so therefore the child becomes reliant on this tutor for getting all their assignments done. You know, it’s, it’s kind of like, they give them a lot of fish dinners, but they’re never teaching them how to fish and provide their own meal for themselves. You are, you’re speaking my language. I mean, this is, I see it. It’s almost offensive, honestly.
And so what happens is you get, I don’t care. It’s how I’ve seen folks with two PhDs that are doing private tutoring. And here’s what, you know, here’s what it looks like. You know, a kid has procrastinated. They have not given themselves enough time to reasonably review all of the material in a comprehensive fashion, given time to ask questions to teachers because they’re doing everything the night before. And what they do is they call this a, you know, wizard of sorts to say, oh my gosh, can you come over? And we’re in a panic, we have a test tomorrow. I’ll pay you whatever you want. Please come over and help my kid prepare for this test. And so, so they do because you know, that’s, they’re in the business of selling hours and oh, this is great.
Let’s do it. And so they come over and then sadly, it’s somewhat effective, right? It’s effective in it. As far as a bandaid goes, it’s, it’s effective. The guy comes over. Who’s clearly has a mastery of all the materials who can quickly sniff out where the learning gaps are in terms of the fundamentals of the work that’s being covered. Review that, review it again, review it again. The kid goes in the next day and they, they squeeze into that B range, right? They, they do okay on the test. Oh my gosh, what a relief, but they have, no problem has been solved there. The real problem is not that this child has, has strengths and weaknesses. Cause that’s normal. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
And maybe math has always been a struggle for that student, but it doesn’t mean that they need a math tutor. The actual problem is more of an approach. It’s more of a time management problem. It’s an executive function problem, right? It’s not planning ahead. It’s not recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses and saying, you know what, I need to start this a week ahead of time to give myself enough time to work through these several times, meet with the teacher a couple of times, which are resources that are already at my disposal so that I am truly prepared to be successful on this. And none of that is ever addressed. We just come in and put a bandaid on the problem. And then from the parent’s standpoint, it looks like it worked.
But in reality, the kids find themselves in the same situation and the family finds themselves in the same situation once next week and twice the week after it doesn’t actually solve a problem. So when we are working with kids and it could be parents trying to facilitate this for their own kids, it doesn’t have to be us. But when we’re working with students, we’ll say, okay, sure, I’ll help you through this, but I’m going to come over tomorrow. And we’re going to talk about how this happened. What do we need to do differently in terms of our approach in order to plan better next time. So that we’re not in a situation like this, trying to teach students how to fish and solve that problem once and for all. So there’s your conditioning, there’s your conditioning from your parents coming in in terms of teaching that approach to your coaches?
Yes. Which is so cool, right? Like that is so cool. Your parents were like, oh, I know this is not going to be a conversation that you want to have. And we need to have this conversation because it’s always going to be an opportunity to learn. How can we learn from this and do it differently next time, this is how we actually improve behavior. We have the courage to look at the situation when things didn’t go the way we had hoped necessarily, and we get feedback and we problem solve, and then we improve upon that and we do it differently next time. So I, I love that. I love that.
Love it. So, you know, sitting down to help us students study for a math test is not about pulling out math. It should start with, well, let’s talk about what that dirty five letter word study really means what it is, what it isn’t, what are some effective ways to do it. And some ways that are ineffective, just like rereading everything over and over. I mean, that’s not realistic nor is it effective. And then going through that process to teach kids the process of, okay, what do you know about it? What does it cover? What do you know about the format? What do you have in the way of notes, worksheets, old homework review packets. Did your teacher give you any additional, additional information to work through ahead of the test? What about, you know, pull out these notes up.
I see that there’s some issues with note taking. Are there other notes or is this it okay, well, we’re going to work on note-taking to, to try and address the actual issue. Those are all executive function skills. And if we can empower kids with the executive function skills to solve their own problems, then I think a lot of the tutoring, what people think, and there’s a time and place for tutoring, but a lot of the issues where parents react and say, I need a writing tutor, oh my gosh, I need a math tutor, really aren’t math problems. I also see kids who are struggling performance wise. And if you actually zoom in on their performance, everything they turn in is great. The problem is more assignments are getting completed and they’re not turned into the teacher or they’re getting forgotten about and not done at all.
That’s not going to be solved by bringing in a math tutor. So, I mean, cause it’s not a math problem, that is a organization problem. How does it an approach problem, a time management problem? So, you know, I think that before we pull out our prescription pads and start diagnosing our kids’ problems, we need to really ask ourselves, are we identifying a symptom of the problem or are we actually getting to the root or the foundation of what, how these problems are occurring and addressing that. And I think parents will be surprised if they stop and do that, where it leads them. Awesome. Are you ready to master practical strategies?
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It’s Mastermind, Parenting dot com forward slash mini masters, all one word to join. I wish, I wish I had known about you years ago because you know, this is not my skill set. And I mean, whenever my kids would have like midterms or finals, once they hit middle school and beyond talk about a little bit about what’s the main age range of when your coaches come in and work with students to help them to develop these skills. Sure, of course. So our entry point is really about third grade, you know, I would say late second, third grade, most of our kids are thinking about so entering middle school and middle school, high school, and then there’s a growing number and we were always seeing college students, but certainly over the last couple of years, there’s been a huge increase in the number of college students that we weren’t supporting pre college that, you know, I preach time and time again and do a lot of public speaking.
And I preach a lot that I think the biggest transition kids make in their entire lives is that transition from high school to college. And, you know, because they’re, their days are, are structured for them pre college, you know, the kids trans drop them off. You follow the herd. When the bell rings from class a class B to class C lunchtime, class D and F, and then you have practice. You come home, you do a little bit of homework, shower, eat dinner, go to bed, rinse and repeat the next day and all under your parents’ roof, where you have scaffolding and support in place. And if you don’t hear your alarm, parents drag you out of bed, but then you go off to college. There’s not two kids on campus with the exact same schedule. You’re only in class instead of at school, 35, 40 hours a week.
You’re in school, you know, 15, 12 to 15 hours a week, but it’s still a full-time job. And so kids are being asked for the first time and without all the support and scaffolding in place to self manage that time and to, you know, for every hour of classroom instruction in college, there should be one to two hours of work and study time outside, but kids have never had that before. And now they’re being asked to do it all when, by the way, the brain develops from the back to the front. A lot of this executive decision-making lies right here in the front and this frontal lobe, that’s not fully developed for girls. It’s, you know, mid, mid to late twenties for, for boys. It’s a late twenties. And I joke that it’s to like early seventies, but the truth is it’s late twenties to early thirties, but in both scenarios for boys and for girls, we are sending as parents, our kids off to college without that fully full end to end developed prefrontal cortex right here.
And so I’m not, I’m not saying that kids aren’t responsible for some of the silly decisions, but that’s definitely a contributor. You know, they don’t have all the raw materials yet in order to, to make really fantastic decisions every time. And we’re sending our kids off to college where we don’t necessarily see what they do every minute, we don’t control their schedules. We don’t see them doing their homework and we just hope and pray and cross our fingers and toes that they’ve mastered some of these executive function skills before we send them off so that we positioned them nicely to make the best decisions that they can and, and thrive when they go off to college. And so those executive function skills are really important. So we see kids starting in about third grade and you know, certainly middle school, high school.
And then in college, you know, there’s has to be a perfect fit, but there’s even some adults that we’ve, that we’ve worked with just on calendaring and time management, you know, we’re systems people. So I’m interested in the systems. I see a lot of kids who are really bright, who aren’t struggling with the subject matter itself, but they’re struggling with more the administrative component of school that the heart is by the time you get to middle school, you have 6, 7, 8 different teachers that are giving you short term, medium term, long term assignments. It’s like you’re juggling and it’s hard to keep all those balls in the air and it requires good, excellent executive function skills and wonderful systems for using a planner, keeping a binder, staying organized on your computer, creating bookmarks in your web browser, little, little things to make your lives easier and to help you juggle and manage all those different things and deadlines being thrown at you.
And so, you know, I think that is, is so critical is mastering mastering those skills. Well, I’ve had a lot of moms say to me recently, my kid is struck, is struggling with executive functioning skills and I’m realizing, so do I, because right now we’re doing this three month kind of extra program. It’s a peer led program in my membership community. And it’s based on a, I have the book right here. It’s based on James Clear’s book, atomic habits. And the reason why I said let’s have an extra supplemental program within our programs for atomic habits to really create behavior change.
And it was because people don’t have systems. And so my way is I can suggest systems, but they really are realizing that they need handholding to develop these skills for themselves so they can feel unstuck so they can feel less chaotic inside of their own bodies and lives. And then they can help their kids in the same way. But you can’t really teach what you don’t have. It’s like the modeling, you know, the modeling piece that you brought up. I, I think so many parents come in, especially when you have a kid that’s struggling, you just want to fix them.
And ultimately like, you got to fix yourself first, so you have to walk the walk, you know, I mean, do you have a lot of the parents who come to you and say like, my kid ha it was diagnosed with this, this and this and your systems are helping them so much. How do I get those systems? Do they? So, yes. And that’s how, almost how I started working with parents. You know, I don’t have anywhere on our website that we worked with some adults or anything like that, the way that those situations happen is, you know, a mom after a new student evaluation will say, oh my gosh, this is amazing. Or after we’ve been working with them for a few months and their child is showing just kind of drastic improvement, they come to me and they say, listen, I’m a mom.
I have four kids. They go to three different schools and all of them are involved in after-school activities. Can you help me with calendaring and time management and prioritizing? And so if it’s a good fit, you know, we we’ve entertained that and we’ve done that. Another thing that’s interesting is parents will come in and say, Hey, I, you know, will you come over? And by the way, most of our work we do in the home, you know, I have a beautiful office, but most of the work we do is, is at home. And I, I feel like that makes a lot of sense, basketball coaches, coach on a basketball court. And that makes a lot of sense. I think if we’re doing academic coaching, as opposed to tutoring, true academic coaching, I want to be doing that in the environment where kids are going to be left, to manage distractions, stay focused, be organized, managed time, practice, good study skills, and the habits that we teach them when we’re not around anymore.
I think that that’s more effective. It may not transfer from my office to home. And so while it’s a logistical nightmare for me, I just think it’s so much more effective. And so, so a lot of our clients, you know, the good majority of our clients, we see, we see in their homes. And, and so we get to see the home environment and you’d be surprised how often I give parents homework. So I’ll walk into a home and I pass the study and it’s funny. They, they, somebody is hiring us because their children are struggling with organization. Oh my gosh, you can’t even see their desk. Things are piled up. I don’t even know the last time it was used. I don’t even know where they do their work sitting on their bed. That’s awful, you know, but I pass the parents like study and the parent’s desk is, is almost to a T how they described their children’s desks.
And they hired us to help their children get organized. And I said, listen, modeling is really important. I’m going to give you homework. You have to model whatever you expect your kids to do that you know, is the right way to do things. You need to model that same thing. And that extends to everything. If there’s a no cell phone policy at the dinner table, then that includes you, mom and dad, don’t bring yourself into the seat. If you want your kids to have an organized desk, then your desk needs to be organized, a model that you know, so it’s, it’s funny. Yes, I do. I see adults and, you know, executive function disorder EFD is not a recognized diagnosis in the DSM, but, but executive function challenges or executive dysfunction is part of the definition, or at least the characteristics of many learning differences or learning disabilities out there.
And they’re characterized partly by struggles with executive function. The important thing to remember though, is that it’s executive function skills, not abilities, abilities are something we’re born with and are the habit of you. Don’t right. And if you look back far enough, something like social skills used to be called social ability, the term change to social skills. When we realized that, you know what, you can study this and you can work on it and you can improve it and you can teach it to people. Executive function skills are the same thing. Some people are inherently just more organized. They color code things, you know, and nobody really taught them that. They just did that to figure it out, make them feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. But these are skills.
So if somebody struggles with executive function, we can absolutely work with them in through practice, improve those, those critical skills. So that’s important to remember too, but to answer your question, yes, we, we absolutely work with adults and it’s funny. We see those trends and families and parents are quick to hire somebody to help their kids, but then they, they learn in the process that, that they have some work to do from an executive function standpoint, or there’s certainly room for improvement. It’s so there’s a lot of mindset pieces that really go into all that you just offered. Because I think for most of us who were raised in a fixed mindset culture, which it doesn’t sound like you really were because your parents were the magical unicorns in many ways.
I mean, really most of us were told, like, if we didn’t have natural abilities to be the color coder and the super-organized person somewhere, we learned that that was a deficit and we feel ashamed about it. And we don’t want to look at those pieces. Right? Like we don’t, we don’t even want to, we don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to look at it. We’re just going to scramble and hope that nobody’s, nobody’s going to call us out on it because it was painful when they did call us out on it. I mean, I’m one of those people I get told all the time, especially by the moms in my private groups, they’re like, oh, how do you accomplish so much in one day?
And I’m like, are you kidding me? I have learned systems from other people, even down to how I have made dinner for my family over the years. Like I remember like, I’m really good at finding good resources. And I know my brain is not wired this way. I’m not going to feel ashamed about it. There’s certain things that I’m really good at it. And there’s certain things that I’m special needs. I am, I am special needs when it comes to process and systems. And I have people tell me all the time from the place where I get my facials done, I was, I was making my appointments and the ladies at the front who were helping me schedule my appointments.
They’re like, hush, you’re so organized because I scheduled my facials out for an entire year. And I said, no, I use a digital calendar because if I didn’t, it would be six months. And I’d be like, well, when did I get that last facial? I wanted to start doing it all the time because my skin so dry. But you know, and so I have to have these systems, but I learn those systems from other people. And like years ago I was like, okay, I have to put dinner on the table for my family. I don’t like cooking. I’m not that great at it. And it’s a Royal pain in the ass, especially with my strong-willed kid when we don’t have a dinner plan. Like the night is just a mess.
If I don’t have that. So how am I going to figure out how to do this? So I started finding systems from different people. And finally I said to one of my friends who I could just tell she’s like one of those natural systems, people, she had this big job, she’s a finance lady. And then she’d also be like a big volunteer. She’s like the president of the PTO and hosting. I mean, she was always, she just always had her shit together. And I said, and I said, how do you get dinner on the tee with all that you have going on? How do you get dinner on the table? She was like, you want to know my system? I said, sure. She literally started giving me her system. And I was like, okay, well, wait, so you buy four proteins. You batch cook. Okay, wait, break that down for me, teach me what does batch cooking look like?
What does it mean? What do you mean? You marinate it? What do you put it into marinate? What kind of marinades do you use? She was like, she couldn’t believe how much she had to like break it down into the tiniest baby steps for me. She taught me her systems. And I was like, this makes sense. I have literally followed that same system for like 11 years. And it makes it no break. Like I never stress about what are we having for dinner tonight? I know our systems, this is how it gets executed. And you know, and, and so I just want everyone who isn’t naturally wired in this systematic way to know that like you are not alone and there’s hope if I can learn it, you can learn it So true.
I love it. I love it. Yeah. I mean, I can just see that, like when you’re teaching these kids, these skills, I say this all the time, it’s like that old adage of, you know, you feed someone, a fish dinner, you feed them for a meal and you teach them to fish. You feed them for life. And it really sounds to me like you guys come in and you can hit the different subject matters, but you’re really teaching kids how to fish in terms of their education. Exactly. And listen, I’m not, you know, take anxiety for example, I’m not saying I can solve every problem for anyone who has anxiety, but there are a lot of folks that come to us with, you know, pretty severe like, oh gosh, every time they go to bed feeling like I did, I do enough.
Did I make enough progress on this project? That I forget something, you know, they’re traumatized from having three or four missing assignments of things they’ve forgotten about almost weekly, you know, et cetera. And we set them up with, you know, I believe productivity lies at the intersection of a task manager. So for kids, that’s a planner or adults call it a to-do list, right? So there’s a list of all the things you need to do. And then that intersection between that and a calendar, because if you just write down everything, you need to do those things, aren’t going to do themselves. The calendar tells you where to be when to be there and how long you expect that you’re going to need to be there. Right. But it doesn’t have what you’re doing. So for example, as an adult, you know, you might have in your calendar go to the grocery store, but then you look on your to-do list of here’s all the groceries I need to buy.
So productivity lies at the intersection of both. And I see a lot of folks with anxiety. Did I do this? Did I do that? Did I forget this? Have I made enough progress on this? And all of a sudden they can give themselves permission to release all of those anxious thoughts. If they have a really good system and, and have habitualized, it made it a part of their routine. And no, no, I, I, I’m confident that I did everything that I need to do. And I’m not worried about the things that are coming up next week or the week after, because they’re on my list and I’ve set aside time in my calendar to actually complete them. So it’s all accounted for. I can take that nap that I need to take, or I can, I can go to bed and actually rest peacefully.
And so, you know, there’s definitely some clinical things that get more complex than that. But if anxiety is coming from stuff like that, having good systems in place, amazing, I wouldn’t be here with you right now. If I didn’t have that in my calendar and had said two alarms, one, five minutes before, and one an hour before, right. And part of my routine last night to look at what I have coming up today, I need that kind of system. And so, you know, it sounds like we’ve done it. I’m high-fiving you here on the, on the computer. Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, I, I think this is so good. And the last little piece that I’d love for you to touch upon, because I’ve been thinking about this recently is I think a lot of people don’t understand coaching and you know, I’ve even thought about it in terms of, you know, you can sign up and do a lot of different parenting programs.
And it’s a, you know, it’s an online program and this is what you’re going to learn, but it’s not coaching it’s, you’re just like consuming information. And then trying to remember all the tools. And so a good coaching program is different because you might, you’re learning new information, but you’re also, I always say, I want to coach myself out of a job. My goal is to coach myself out of a job. And that’s really, I’m teaching people how to fish and, and how to understand themselves and how to adopt and recondition themselves with a growth mindset mentality. And, and to realize like, there’s nothing wrong with you.
You get to learn from your mistakes and, you know, we hate perfect people. Stop trying to be a perfectionist. Perfect. People are annoying then. No, one’s perfect. It’s all a sham anyway. So yeah, if you would kind of define your definition of coaching, that would be helpful. I think So. I, I think what you’re saying is help people conceptualize coaching and what it is. And so of course, happily take somebody who goes to listen to a national speaker, right? They’re going to go, they’re going to sit there for an hour or two hours. Maybe it’s a half day workshop or even a whole weekend seminar. And they’re going to get a lot of really great tips and information, wonderful take somebody’s sidestep.
Another example, take someone who suspects that, you know, their child has some attention issues. The teacher there’s been some patterns and the things that they’ve been hearing for teachers, and they’re interested in going to get some psycho-educational testing, neuropsych testing, or do a consult with a psychologist or both. Right. And in those sessions or in that testing, they learn, yes, you have issues with this. You have issues with this, possibly a diagnosis, you talked through it, all of that is important for understanding kind of what’s going on, but then there’s this moment where it’s like, okay, so what you know, so now what, what do I do now? So I know this, I sort of already suspected it, but so now I know it, but now what, what, what do I do?
And sure, there might be some recommendations, right? Like, you know, you need to work with somebody on executive function skills, or you should consider getting supplemental help for this, or taking notes on a computer or coaching where coaching comes into place is it takes that information. And even without that information reports from parents or teachers, et cetera, and then it zooms in on that. Okay. So what, like how do I actually make these changes or implement these changes? So I say coaching is where the magic happens, right? That’s where somebody actually will hold a child or family’s hand much in the way that, you know, through your programs, you do with parents who are struggling, you know, with parenting a spirited child, you know, et cetera, which I love Mastermind Parenting.
I love the emails that you sent, wonderful information. I love your website. And I think that coaching is really where the magic happens, because that’s where you take this piece of information and make it from kind of theoretical to let’s actually execute and implement this with success. And not every day or every week is going to be all wins. There’s going to be, your people are going to fall down metaphorically, skin, their knee a little bit, say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But those are opportunities to have discussions around that. And I’m a big fan of improvement steps in the right direction. If I’m working with, you know, a kid that have fives missing assignments a week, and next week they have four.
And the week after that, they have three. And then a month later, they’re down to one or two, that’s huge. That’s a big win. Those are steps in the right direction that doesn’t happen sitting across from somebody in a one hour, a week, you know, or one hour a month session or in a report, you know, that you get that happens through coaching. So I think coaching is really where the, where the magic happens because you are, you are helping folks on an ongoing basis on the implementation side, identifying opportunities for improvement on an ongoing basis, identifying missteps, talking about those and really shaping behavior and shaping long-term changes that are sticky, that actually stick with you.
And that’s where you see longterm change. It’s wonderful to know kind of what’s going on. And it’s nice to get advice on, Hey, you should try things like this, but have there’s no substitute in my opinion, for having somebody kind of hold your hand over a period of time and help you with the implementation of that. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where true behavior change occurs, True behavior change. And I think it’s, there’s a lot of self-awareness that happens in the process, which I think does lend itself to more positive, healthier mindset and mental health overall. And so somebody who is struggling with anxiety, I always tell people because I have a lot of moms that come to me and they’re like, well, I just have a lot of anxiety.
And I’m like, okay, it’s not freaking cancer, right? It’s not cancer. Like anxiety’s here for a reason. We’re not supposed to just stay safe in the cave. We have to go out of the cave. And when we go out of the cave, there’s going to be risk and uncertainty and things that make you feel all kinds of anxious emotions in your body. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s just, how do we listen to that? Anxiety whisper. And maybe the anxiety whisper is I need better systems. I need to have, like, I’m too nervous. I’m going to forget a meeting. And then I’m going to, I’m going to look like a fool because I, or not be taken seriously.
Oh. So I don’t just have a calendaring system. Like even you who teaches, you know, you train coaches to help kids develop these skills. And even you you’re like, and not just one alert to alerts, like to me too, like I used to have alerts on my calendar for pick kids up from school, like leave to pick kids up from school. Okay. Now you better be in the car. Right? Like I had to have two alerts for that because I was so worried that I was going to be the mom who forgot to pick my kids up from school. And, and so, you know, I think it’s just, I don’t know. I, I just want to say, like, I do think it helps with anxiety when you feel less chaotic in your life and you have the systems and the processes to help you with that.
Amen. I love, it sounds prayer to me. This has been such a good conversation. I think people are going to love it. And I mean, I’m going to put all the links for people to find you in the show notes, but is there anything that you want to leave with the listeners or ways that they can connect with you? Sure. I, you know, listen where the, the largest academic coaching and tutoring organization serving the greater Houston area. And I think that that uniqueness around the executive function skills is really really important. Community outreach is, is really important to me. And I know now, especially over the last couple of years, families are looking for information, anything anybody would pay any free information, just looking for information at a time.
They need it. Most. We have some wonderful blogs on our firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re very active on, on social media. In fact, we’ll be, we’ll be sharing how excited we were to do this with you on our social media, Instagram, and at SOTG on Facebook staying ahead of the game. And we’ve got a monthly newsletter. You can sign up right on our homepage and it’s just once a month. And, and you can stop them at any time, but it’s timely tips, just free timely tips, whether it’s, we’re looking at midterms or progress reports or final exams or the start of the school year, just some timely tips on how parents, but also even professionals and educators, anyone working with kids, how they can help facilitate the ongoing development and nourishment of these executive function skills.
And so go to our website, join our newsletter, follow us on social media. We hope that maybe you’ll join us for one of our webinars. Every other month, we do a webinar in collaboration with our office in Washington, DC, and a place to learn about all that stuff is on our social media, on our website. And I just wanted to thank you, Randy, for having me. I mean, I’ve been impressed with everything you’re doing to the feelings are mutual. And when we met, I learned about your program and then, and then also started getting started getting the emails and look more and more at your website. Even watch some of these, it’s just amazing what you put together and what you’re doing. So thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And I hope the listeners find this helpful.
Thank you. Thanks for your kind words. So, and just to clarify, you’re not just in Houston. You’re where else are you doing? We’re in Houston, Austin, Dallas. I have a big office in Washington, DC that services the DC Metro area. So that’s part of, you know, Maryland, DC, proper Virginia, Northern Virginia. And, and then we’re working with kids all over the country virtually, and even have, I think we’re up 11 or 12 students even outside of the country. And so the, the new comfort around, around virtual type of work, we were doing that long before, long before COVID. But now that everyone’s even more comfortable with it, we’re doing kind of a lot, a lot more virtual work in that area and doing virtual check-ins with clients just to kind of nudge and help the coaching along.
So, but our headquarters is our biggest offices as here in Houston and then in actually Ashburn, Northern Virginia and Ashburn, Virginia near Washington DC. So great. So great. Okay. Thanks again. Thanks for being here. Hope you guys have a lot of great tips. I think you did okay until next week. Bye guys. Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household.
I want you to go to my website and check out Mastermind, Parenting dot com. We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support, then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you. And as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting on Instagram, it’s mastermind, underscore parenting, and you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives, where I give you teaching and coaching. And I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better because when they feel better, they do better.
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And I love, love, love, getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you liked this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review super, super appreciative.