coaching, homework, learning and remembering, resilient children

How does your child perceive their own intelligence?

Intelligence: Does your child believe that it is fixed at birth or that it is something that can grow?

negotiating homework with your teen

Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of motivation, has found that children hold either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset when they think about their own and others intelligence. Have you heard your child say, “Oh she is just smarter than me,” or “I’m dumber than them”? Those with a fixed mindset believe that their basic talents and abilities are decided at birth and that they have a certain amount of intelligence or talent, and that’s that and can’t be changed. This is the mindset that saps children’s motivation and stunts their mind because they don’t see the point in persisting in learning things that they find difficult.

In contrast, those who have a growth mindset believe that their most basic talents and abilities can be developed through practice, learning and support from others. They tend to work harder and ask for help. They are more likely to say, “I’m going to practise that until I get it,” or “I don’t get this and can you help me?”They understand that even a genius like Einstein needed to put in years and years of dedicated study to make his discoveries. They are not afraid of using trial and error to figure something out and they often get a buzz out of new challenges.

Any learning develops new pathways in the brain. However, what is interesting is that our children might indeed believe that if they practise hard they can continue to develop skills in many games and sports such as skateboarding, basketball, and computer and board games, but not believe that a similar amount of effort and good coaching will mean they can also develop skills in areas such as Maths, Science, and English. However, if you believe that any learning is growing the brain’s pathways, you can convince your children that effort and good learning strategies will mean that they can also learn academic subjects that they thought were impossible to master.

Professor Carol Dweck  makes the point that many of us who think we’re doing the right thing by our children when we tell them they’re little geniuses and champions may be actually hindering more than helping them. It is better to praise them for the determination, effort, and clever strategies they are using when they are mastering new skills.

Here’s why:

1. Kids with a fixed mindset only care about looking smart and therefore avoid challenging learning tasks. Kids with a growth mindset and who therefore don’t have anything to prove, tackle challenging learning tasks with gusto.

2. Kids with a fixed mindset believe if you have to make an effort it means you’re not smart. Kids with a growth mindset understand that hard work and practice make you smarter.

3. Kids with a fixed mindset regard setbacks as failings. Kids with a growth mindset regard setbacks as a natural part of learning.

Dweck says these results explain why so many children with a fixed mindset give up, run away, and become defensive. She says that when we see our children acting bored, or acting out, or blaming the teacher, it’s often because they are trying to hide the fixed mindset fear of not looking smart. When we praise intelligence  we tend to create a fixed mindset in our children but if we praise process (effort, strategies, focus and persistence) we are more likely to create a growth mindset in them.

Ways to help your child believe they can grow their intelligence

The good news is it is possible to teach a growth mindset to our children. We can help them realise that every time they push out of their comfort zone and learn something difficult and new, they grow new neural connections. I know how excited and empowered I felt when I realised that the brain can be developed just like a muscle!

Carol Dweck believes that it is a basic human right for children to live in environments that help them grow their abilities and fulfill their potential. The manual Coaching your children to be excellent students   and my posts have straightforward tips which help you develop such a learning environment at home so that your children will believe in themselves as students and grow their own ability to learn.

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homework, learning and remembering, Uncategorized

Tips for successfully helping children develop the homework habit.

Help your child develop the homework habit

how to help your child with homework

Time spent together is precious. As well as homework time to practise skills they are learning in school, children need time to play, read,  chat with you and with their friends, help out in the house, and have free, unstructured  time to explore and enjoy their world. Homework time when you sit down together might be one of the precious moments you have with your child over a busy day.

I definitely don’t think they should watch lots of TV or video games or be on the net for long periods of time. I challenge you to check how much time your child is spending in the virtual world this week. Count the hours – they might dismay you. Then do something to change that. Give them more homework perhaps! Homework does not all have to come from the school, you can create it too. Just make it relevant to your child’s interests and skill level.

Homework and what it is and does. Some of you think that homework isn’t important at all.  Research has shown that families who help their child practise the skills at home that they are learning at school are making a positive difference in how well they perform in the classroom. If they are not getting much from their teacher, I suggest you create some regular practise time for them at home. Perhaps your definition of homework is too limited. It is not all about drills, although some of it might be. Include reading interesting books together, writing stories that get published and read by family and friends, completing regular revision of maths they are learning in class, cooking, building structures and machines, and exploring their environment whether it is an urban or rural one, with them. Here are some suggestions on ways you can work respectfully and successfully with your child.

I guess we all agree that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to spend on homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each year level – but I personally think homework should be capped at about an hour for children under the age of 12.

Regular homework can change their lives. You might begin the homework habit with them and then let it drop as your life becomes busy again, or when a child becomes sick or when you are all tired for a few days in a row. In fact, you might be the one who does not carry through with homework. I encourage you to persistently pick up the homework habit again when you let it drop and continue adding value to your children’s present life and their future ones. As I have heard from many parents who persistently encouraged their children’s interests and skills, those children have later been able to create future work or wonderful past-times because of the childhood interests you encouraged during homework time. Here are more ideas to organise for successful homework times.

Ideas to discuss with your child to make homework time pleasant.

Have established homework routines. Establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done. Daily routines not only make homework go more smoothly, but also foster a homework habit your child will continue to use later at high school and university.

Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom where it is quiet and they can concentrate easily.  Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better where you can monitor them easily. Work with your child to decide on a mutually agreed upon location.

Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework right after school while they are still in school mode. In general, it is a good idea to get homework completed as soon as possible, either before dinner or straight after, so they are not too tired. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the slower the homework gets done.

Simple incentive systems. Some children need to receive some sort of external reward because the pleasure felt when work is completed is not quite enough for them.The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or face-time, or playing a game with a parent. Use a ‘when and then’ sentence. Tell them, “When you have finished….homework then you can….”. Having something to look forward to is usually a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. The simple incentive of fun times after the work is done are usually enough, but some children need a little more incentive than that to complete homework.

More complex incentive agreements. These involve more planning and more work on your part and work best when you and your child develop them together. This gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. Your child will usually be realistic on deciding rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process. Here are some ideas how to create win-win deals with your child. The agreement might include a system for earning points that could be used towards accessing a privilege or reward, or receiving pocket money, or gaining access to the internet, or saving towards buying something expensive they want.

Build in breaks for when they need them. Discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks. Keep them short. Here are more ideas on creating breaks when your child is reluctant to work with you.

Build in choice. Check out more ideas on offering choice. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.

Check out other ideas to make homework time more fun for you both.

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

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coaching, learning and remembering, reading and writing skills

Reading – it’s important: Help your child read more often.

helping my child read

Is your child reading regularly?

If not, what is stopping them from choosing to read?

You might think they don’t read often because of all the electronic gadgets they use, or that they prefer sports, or that they have never been good at reading….But they are still not enough reasons to not read. Do you agree? You might believe as I do that reading regularly – anything that is well-written which includes comics and magazines – will help your child do better in life as well as at school. Definitely they learn a lot about other people and other places when they read regularly. Let us look at what you can do to change what stops them from reading.

They prefer using electronic gadgets. Limit their use! Fads in areas such as computer games, apps, and social media sites, come and go, as you may have noticed, with dismaying speed. Fluent reading is still a core skill  that enriches our lives and makes them easier, and will probably continue to be a crucial skill for your children as adults. The rule ‘ work first play after’ is important for us as adults when we want to do well in life. Learning is your child’s work. Teach them to ‘read first play later’. I have seen many reluctant readers  eventually prefer to read because they see reading as play. You as their parent just have to decide that reading is what you want them to do Then you can negotiate with them, and make sure they do read as agreed. I also suggest that you regularly show interest in the story they are currently reading (I often read it ahead of them).

They prefer to be active rather than sit and read. Many of us do. However, interests and work they choose to pursue in life probably requires a competent level of reading and writing skill. Don’t you agree? I believe from my experiences as a coach that children who don’t seem to be able to sit still can be taught that skill. You might notice that your child is quite still when focused on something they find totally fascinating. I fully expect that they will learn to sit still and concentrate on their learning too. I keep their work interesting and challenging and exciting, and I use versions of games that monitor and reward their concentration such as the first up to five game. I no longer believe that a child can’t learn to sit still  and concentrate on their work for a period of time.

Reading has always been difficult for them. Many children are reluctant to read, often because they found it hard to learn that skill when they were younger. Many children didn’t have enough practise at developing strong phonics skills, which is how letters relate to particular sounds, so they often had difficulty learning to both read and spell.  It is very important that your child masters the letter-sound relationships (or phonics) when reading and spelling unknown words. A fun and fast way to teach your child reading and spelling skills is using  The Weird Word Game. 

My next post on reading will give you some easy ways to help your child read, and enjoy reading.

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homework, learning and remembering, Working with teens

Why does your teen do homework? To learn and remember.

Homework needs to be done!

teen refusing homeworkHomework helps your teen learn and remember. Getting your teen to sit down and actually concentrate on completing homework can be a challenge – and I encourage you to face that challenge with me over the next few weeks.

Why should your teen do homework? Recent educational research shows that homework – particularly at high school – is an important factor in their academic success or failure.  As well as completing assignments on time and revising for exams, homework is an important time your teen relearns and remembers what they have been taught in school.

How did YOU last learn a new skill or idea? Think back to when you last successfully learnt a new and difficult skill or idea. In the beginning perhaps you were confused, and misunderstood or forgot key parts of what you were learning. However you probably went over (revised) those ideas or skills fairly soon after you first learnt them (within 24 hours to not lose up to 60% of it) and then you understood and remembered it a little more. If you were very serious about mastering that information or that skill, you probably practised, talked about, read about, and/or thought about them over the next few weeks, and so gradually understood them more thoroughly and could use them easily.

Research on the brain agrees. Somehow we adults who want to learn new skills and ideas already practise what recent research results on the brain and learning has shown. To deeply understand and remember new information research has shown that if we revise it as many times and different ways as possible with in 24 hours, then several times again during the first week, and again at least once during the next month, then we usually remember it. Check out my other thoughts about homework here.

Who’s the boss? Please believe that you still are.  Don’t leave it up to them to get on with their homework if they aren’t. You are still in the role of supporting and guiding your teen, even if they have become taller than you, and although they are perhaps more difficult and challenging than when they were younger. So you still need to continue to help them complete their homework so they succeed at school. Sometimes your teen needs your support to understand how important homework is to succeed and learn. Learning is their job right now but supporting your teen to get the best out of their life is still your job for a little while yet.

Don’t jump in and ask your teen to do their homework just yet. Have you ever watched an excellent mechanic check out a car? My mechanic Raymond is an excellent mechanic. He always focuses thoughtfully as he observes how my car is performing. He listens to the motor, watches how all the parts move, looks for oil drips, etc. He is looking for a variety of reasons why my car isn’t working well – not just the first and most obvious reason. I recently watched him amazed and thrilled as he examined my car for a while, then found a simple but not immediately obvious solution to what looked like a potentially complex and expensive problem.

Observe carefully first – like my expert mechanic does. Consider all the possibilities you can before you take action. How to take action and encourage your teen to ‘willingly enough’ do their homework is the subject of my next post.  In the mean-time, to make the most of that post, observe your teen for the next week or two so that you deeply understand their concerns around completing homework when you talk with them. Here are a couple of important tasks for you.

Collect information about your teen. Your teen has been changing fast the last year, and you may be out of touch with each other. Spend some time and thought becoming better informed about them. Sympathetically and respectfully notice what they like to do with their time, when they do it, what they want this year from their lives, who their friends are, and what their interests are. The more you know about your teen’s motivations, interests, worries and concerns the better you can guide and support them. Don’t intrude so that they want to push you away, be light and gentle and non-threatening, but make a thorough and non-judgmental study of what makes your teen excited, worried, and motivated.

Your teen is more likely to negotiate about homework if they feel you understand and respect them. It is time to reassess them and also your relationship with them so you can build a more durable and ‘adult’ relationship with them. Read Stephen Covey’s wonderful books or watch this you-tube clip on the 7 habits of living effectively, and spend time reflecting about what you want for your teen and your relationship with them. What you think, and feel and believe influences how well you can help your teen, so spend time reassessing your priorities and beliefs. The more you know before you act, the better you can solve the homework dilemma with them.

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

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coaching, learning and remembering

Make homework time easy: Help your child concentrate and learn faster.

Does your child lose concentration, learn very slowly, or become frustrated and bored easily with homework?

concentrating on learning and remembering reading writing and mathsAre you trying to help a child do homework who doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate? Or who is often talking about anything but the maths or reading or writing task in front of them?


Perhaps both of you become frustrated and annoyed during homework time as well and time seems to go very slowly and you both can’t wait until it is over. Your child is using avoidance techniques with you that they probably use in class as well. Perhaps they started being off-task because they became lost and frustrated in class, or even bored, and now it is an almost unconscious habit on their part to flick out of focus and think , look at,or talk about something else…anything else besides the reading, writing, or maths task at hand. However, you and I know that if your child stays alert, they will learn reading, writing, and maths skills faster and easier, and I think that if you help them change their off-task, ‘not concentrating’ behaviours, they will also eventually use them less in class and concentrate better.

I have never found it useful to remind a child that is looking around a lot to concentrate. Try it one day. When reminded they concentrate briefly on the  reading, writing, or maths work they are doing, then they stop concentrating again.

Instead, I use reverse psychology to help them concentrate and learn.

In this version of reverse psychology I do the opposite of what helpful adults usually do. I play hard to win!

When I notice a student is not concentrating on the maths, reading, or writing skills they are learning, we play the ‘First up to 5 points’ game. It is a simple, fast, and infinitely adaptable game, and I have never tired of it, and use it for many situations besides helping a child develop concentration skills when learning reading, writing, and maths skills.They only win if they pay close attention to changing their behaviour.

I randomly check whether they are concentrating on their reading, writing, and maths work or checking out the scenery in the room. Depending on their level of skill, I can make it quite a sneaky check or an obvious one. If they are working I  give them a point, which I do with great reluctance or disappointment. However if they are not concentrating, I take a point gleefully!

I have played this game with chronic off-task students from five year olds to teens. They enjoy the pleasure of a close win, and the disappointment mingled with a strong wish for revenge when they just lose. Sometimes I have a prize for the winner. If it is a sweetie and I’ve won, I always suck it with enormous pleasure in front of them. I am still surprised how quickly children who seemed unable to concentrate when learning reading, writing, or maths skills, monitor themselves and stay more focused, and that unhelpful behaviours everyone thought were unchangeable, do change.

Warning: If your child is easily discouraged, don’t ever just let them win. Instead shape the game carefully so that they just win or just lose. Soon enough they will realise that when they concentrate they will win. Other suggestions to help them concentrate and learn are here.

A great side-effect of this version of the  ‘first up to five points’ game is you both feeling pleasure and excitement while playing a close game where you might just win or lose. Using fun and suspense, and a hard-played game both you and your child. The Weird Word Game is another version of the first up to five points game.

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the website with other like-minded families.



coaching, learning and remembering, Uncategorized

Emotions are useful: How to learn and remember

Emotions help your child learn and remember faster.  

When our brain becomes emotionally involved as we learn, it is stimulated to make more patterns, which help us to learn and remember more easily and faster. Joe Dispenhow to learn and rmemberza wrote an article which has lots of useful information on how our brain works.

Strong reactions created when your child is excited, deeply interested, and curious for example, create much more brain activity associated with learning that information. Our unforgettable memories are often the nasty or wonderful experiences. When we remember them we can often feel the emotions we felt then as well.

Stop for a moment. Remember one of your strongest and nicest memories…. feel the emotion that accompanied that memory…

When helping them learn is fun for you both, your child will pay closer attention, and learn and remember the skill and knowledge faster and more easily. When helping your child learn and remember anything, combine as many of the senses as possible (your child can touch, smell, hear, do, talk), plus create heightened emotion (for example excitement, competitiveness, interest, amusement, shock). One of the easiest ways to combine all of the above is through competition.

Serious fun when learning new skills focuses concentration!

Make things exciting and fun through using a first up to 5 game. I use a first up to 5 game to revise basic facts, and to encourage students to change any of their unhelpful behaviours. You can create a flexible and highly competitive first up to 5 game for nearly any learning situation.

Learning basic facts. This includes spelling words, phonics sounds as taught in The Weird Word Game, tables, addition and subtraction facts, and anything else they are learning by heart. First they learn their facts; then when they feel a little confident they can win, play a quick first up to 5 game.

Changing unhelpful behaviours. A first up to 5 game can modify your child’s negative behaviours more easily and in a light fun way. It works better than using reminding and nagging (which you may have noticed doesn’t really work). I suggest that you pick one behaviour that you currently notice the most, and create a first up to 5 game. They can learn to pay attention, stay working and focussed when there are distractions, check that answers you give are actually correct, as well as change any unhelpful behaviour such as moaning (for example I might give them a point if they say “okay Anne” when I ask them to do something, and I get a point if they moan or sigh).

Tips for any first up to 5 game so your child plays it to win.

  • Warn them when you will be playing the first up to 5 game.
  • Make any first up to 5 game so that they almost win or lose.
  • Make it clear that you want to beat them.
  • Play the game often at first so they keep on their toes.
  • If they are bad losers – you can be one too. It is amazing how seeing you act as a bad loser stops or modifies their own ‘bad- loser’ reactions when they lose.
  • Sometimes I choose to be a bad winner. I can be very pleased when I win a first up to 5 game. I find students usually respond by wanting revenge quite badly, and so they improve their skills to beat me.
  • Use a tally they can see. For example:

Anne    Child

1111    1111

  • Remember to make win-win situations- and create first up to 5 games that you both have fun with. I have a small sweetie that I like to use as a prize but you choose with your child what a small prize might be. However, sometimes it is more than enough that they beat you or you beat them.
  • Modify the first up to 5 staying focussed on their work game to suit your child’s behaviours.
    • Some children need to check out what is happening in the room before they can work again. I might allow them two-five seconds to do that before they drop their head down to their work again.
    • Some children in the beginning need to be cued to remember what they are supposed to be doing. They might notice me counting hopefully under my breath, or I might get a certain little grin on my face and pause what I do, or pick up a pencil.
    • Some children look as though they are working when they aren’t. Use the game to attempt to catch them out.
    • Some children take a long time to start working. Give them a length of time that you are both happy with, to start working. I might count up to five for example.
  • Be keenly interested. The less interested they are – the more you can be….model keenness and focus. If you are not present and focused – why should they be?

People, I hope that you enjoy using my ideas. Let me know what you think about them.



coaching, learning and remembering, reading and writing skills

Small steps climb the mountain: Chunking helps your child learn and remember.

“This is easy, my child should remember it.”

When you first start helping your child learn and remember skills and knowledge they need, you may be impatient that your child quickly masters what you are teaching them, and feel deep disappointment when they don’t. You might notice that you have impatient and judgmental thoughts about the speed they learn, their reluctance to learn, their lack of concentration and that they forget much of what you teach them. The list of behaviours and attitudes you can feel impatient and disappointed about are endless and unhelpful. Having impatient, judgmental, and disappointed thoughts and feelings actually means your child probably learns slower. Your child knows what you are thinking and feeling – however well you think you might be disguising  them.

If you have any of the above reactions to your child, you are probably expecting too much of them and teaching them too much at once. This is the most common error made by beginning coaches. I myself took some time to realise that going slowly step by step so that your student can learn and remember at their own pace, is better than teaching more than they can comfortable digest.

If the learning steps are too big you might notice that your child:

  • Often doesn’t want to do that work
  • Gets easily frustrated and attempts to stop
  • Doesn’t remember the skills and knowledge coached from day to day.

The tortoise always beats the hare in a long race so take small learning and remembering steps and short journeys.

children learning and rememberingBegin by creating smaller learning steps for your child: Make any short-term objectives you set with your child more easily achievable. Teachers call them incremental goals and educational research has shown that when we make learning steps achievable but still a little challenging, children actually learn faster than when we create challenging objectives. We all feel more confident to run up small steps and we all tend to stagger up the big ones.

Definition of INCREMENT

1: the action or process of increasing especially in quantity or value

2:a : something gained or added

b : one of a series of regular consecutive additions

c : a minute increase in quantity

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Give them the best buzz of all! The ‘I’ve done it!” buzz. As they stand on each small learning and remembering  step, looking down the hill they have climbed, your child feels a pleasant sense of achievement and triumph. We all know how wonderful that feeling is, and that feeling we got after achieving something that challenged us, was when we learnt that effort paid to learn and remember skills and knowledge we wanted to master. In a physical level the brain has made lots of new pathway connections, and as these connections are made, we experience a lift in serotonin levels – so we get a feeling of pleasure – a lovely buzz.

  1. Practise new skills and knowledge little and often. In the end your child will learn and remember more more easily and faster when you walk quickly up small learning steps rather than struggling up large ones. As your child becomes more skilful you will notice that they are less fearful of failure and more confident of success. Then you can make the learning steps a little more challenging and you can give them tasks they can do independently of you.


  1. When they don’t seem to be learning the skills and knowledge you coach them, believe that this is your problem not theirs, and try something different.
  2. Look closely to see what skills and knowledge they don’t actually ‘get’ and
  3. Teach any missing knowledge or skill before carrying on.
  4. Chunk or break the skill and knowledge you are coaching into even smaller steps so they can learn more easily.
  5. If your child has difficulty concentrating when you are coaching, coach in smaller chunks of time so your child can stay fully focused, involve the senses and emotions, and perhaps use a first up to five game.
  6. Deeply believe good things take time. When you work with your child in steady, slow, careful incremental steps, your child can begin to feel safe enough to take risks and make mistakes when learning.
  7. Get more information about how to coach your child to do well at school.