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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coaching, goal-setting, homework, teens, Working with teens

Helping your teen study when they are non-compliant: What to look out for.

Goals help keep your teen steady and strong when life is difficult.

planning to succeed




Study goals are most easily achieved by taking small steps most days, not by cramming in lots of information just before exams. At this stage of their life they experience rapid growth spurts and sudden surges of hormones. There are often dramas, if not with your young adult then with their friends. Many young adults feel as though they are on an emotional roller-coaster. Although of course there are times they need to take breaks when there is a major event in their lives or in your family’s life, goals will still help them focus on their study again as soon as possible.

Particularly as young adults they can often doubt their ability to achieve goals they want and might feel easily defeated when there are difficulties. They might also hear from some of their friends that study is not really that important. They might become side-tracked by friends into behaviours not conducive to good study habits such as on-line games and drinking and drugs.  (As a side-issue, Gaming Disorder has become a “Condition for Further Study” in the DSM-5(APA 2013).  It is not yet an “official” disorder, but a condition on which the American Psychiatric Association request additional research). Our role as their support is to help them stay calm, focused, and optimistic, by developing goals with them, and then the steady study routines and consequences useful to achieving those goals.

I aim to never give up reaching for the goals students want so that they can continue reaching for them too. Once a teen makes an agreement with me, I expect them to honour their agreements. When study agreements aren’t kept, I expect them to explain why they didn’t keep them. If it seems useful, we then discuss whether they want to change their goals and/or the agreement. I then expect them to explain what they will do to keep the agreement we have so that they can achieve the goals they want.

Teens might suffer from unhelpful study attitudes, poor study skills, and low self-belief In my experience it can sometimes take weeks before they fully honour our coaching agreement, especially those who have not had to be responsible for their actions yet. I aim to steadfastly remain as firm and consistently helpful and respectful as I can be, so they will take responsibility for their own learning and will reach the goals we decided on together.

Does your teen show non-compliance and how does that appear? Students are usually non-compliant when they have not yet taken responsibility for their learning. Sometimes they might actively fight your decisions by arguing, shouting, and refusing. Although those behaviours might shock and upset you, it can be easier to communicate with young adults who are directly and openly fighting with you.

If your teen does not believe that they have the power to actively and openly fight you, they will often be non-compliant in quieter and more passive ways that are often quite difficult to notice. They might talk with you only when necessary, or do what they want to do when you are not looking, or unconsciously sabotage agreements between you while seeming to agree with you. Unconscious sabotage is the hardest to pinpoint and very common in teens and in children. Such sabotage can include when they forget information, appointments, or agreements, lose equipment and books, seem unable to do a simple task set them that they could do previously, often feel sick or tired when it is time to work, seem unable to concentrate, sulk and not talk with you except when they need to, talk incessantly about unrelated matters or pick fights with you about unrelated issues so that you get sidetracked. If your teen has some sort of related underlying condition, they might also behave in some of those ways, but even then I have found that those behaviours can often be minimised when they take full responsibility for their own learning and you both work to find ways that they can learn more easily.

You might not realise at first that many of these behaviours are non-compliant ones and your young adult might not believe that those behaviours are either. Perhaps for example both of you believe that they are naturally forgetful or not able to concentrate well or are often tired. Notice however that your young adult might not forget information they find important and want to remember, that they can be alert, energised and ready for activities they like, and that they can concentrate for hours to master a skill they enjoy doing. It often just depends on their state of mind when sitting down to study. Are they fully on board with getting on with the required work to reach their goals or are they not? It is usually that simple.

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coaching, homework, resilient children, teens, Working with teens

Building resiliency in our children


Resiliency is what we have needed to survive and thrive in the adult world. Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, and the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. When you look around at people you know, you may have noticed that adults who have very little resiliency often don’t handle life’s knocks well at all. They often react in one or more of the following ways when they meet hard times. They don’t experience difficulties as learning opportunities or as something they can weather and recover from, they blame others and situations for choices they have made, and they often need a lot of support from others. We all know people who to some degree are unable, or have become unable, to completely stand on their own two feet and make their way in the world. Some of them may continue to create worry and chaos around them and cause pain to others throughout their lives.

We don’t want our children to be adults who have very little resiliency. We want our children to bounce back from difficult situations and to be able to adapt to new  circumstances. In their future, which will be very different from our time as young adults as ours has been from our parents’ time, resilience will continue to be one of the main characteristics defining who thrives in a changing world and who doesn’t.

How are you developing resilience in your children?

Everyone does it differently, but there is always more that we can do. Often we view our children as people who are a little fragile, need lots of protection, and can’t cope without our support. Perhaps there are good and valid reasons for having these opinions. However believing our children are weak and fragile creatures will not help them grow up into resilient children. The most important thing we can change is to strongly believe that our children can develop resilience, and are in fact already more resilient than we might realise.

Before our children can believe in themselves, we have to believe in them.

We need to change how we think about our children because actually when we are completely honest with ourselves, this is a very disrespectful way to think about them, and absolutely does not encourage them to grow resilience. When we change how we view our children we give them the chance to change. For example we could decide to view them as children who are capable of change; who can learn faster than we believed, are more resilient than we realised, and are better problem-solvers than we thought.


  • Sometimes we protect our children so much that they might not get to learn from their mistakes. Give them many opportunities to take manageable risks.
  • Often our children’s time today is planned so that they have little down-time, where they are left to their own devices to play alone, read, do nothing, or dream. Quiet, unplanned time where they are not entertained and have to entertain themselves is respite from their busy world and gives them a chance to recharge.  They might complain at first that they feel bored. Just back off and let them sort themselves.
  • These days children are often socialising and playing on devices, and not out running around and expending energy. Exercise helps us all let go of stresses so that we can continue to handle the challenges in our lives. You can limit social media each day, and create situations where they are often exercising.
  • If our children are afraid to take risks, often crumble when there are difficulties, and  won’t attempt anything that isn’t relatively easy for them to do, they don’t develop resilience. You can help them by showing them how to change difficulties into opportunities. For example, you can show them how to use a negative or sad situation to be grateful for what they have already, .or to learn from.
  • Homework, or regular practice of what is taught in the classroom is useful to develop their resilience at school. If they don’t easily recall basic information such as tables, addition and subtraction facts, and basic spelling and reading rules and words, they will find more complex tasks difficult to master.

The good news is that there is good information on the net on how resilience to a large extent can be learnt. As parents, it is our job to help our children learn the skills necessary to develop resilience. Every year your children grow older provides new opportunities for you to help them grow into the adults you know they have the potential to be.

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. 

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homework, Math, reading and writing skills

How to help your child so reading, writing, and Mathematics becomes fun.

Reading, writing, and doing Mathematics: How not to help your child.

Think back to when you were a child and being told that you would like something you had already got to dislike. Do you remember how annoying and unhelpful those talks were? You didn’t believe them. You wished they would stop trying to convince you. You avoided talking with them about it if you could.

In my memory that well-meaning adult would just keep on trying to convince me that understanding Physics, eating lumpy porridge, or throwing a baseball was fun and easy.  I have stubbornly persisted in not finding lumpy porridge or throwing a baseball easy. Fortunately I am learning to be very interested in Physics, but I have had some good coaches along the way who have persisted in discussing ideas with me, shown me how Physics ideas work, and believed I’ll understand physics ideas over time.

Here is what I find works when helping your child read and write and do Mathematics – and anything else, even Physics and skateboarding.

having fun learning reading, writing, and MathematicsDon’t ‘just tell’ them something is fun and interesting. A mistake adults often make when helping their children learn a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or any other skill, is to ‘tell’ them encouragingly how much fun and how interesting a particular skill or topic is that the child doesn’t yet like and can’t yet do. They won’t believe you, and why should they? Their experience is that that skill or topic is very difficult and quite boring.

Show them how fun and interesting you find a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic. When you truly do like that skill or topic, you can show them it is fun and exciting by smiling as you do it, even glowing with enthusiasm and excitement. You can also talk enthusiastically about the topic. Just don’t over-do it, and keep enthusiastic comments brief. You can gently continue to say and show that you really enjoy/like/love that type of mathematics, that book, that topic, each time you work with them. They don’t have to like it yet but you already do.

Tell the truth. If you don’t like a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic, be honest and tell them how you managed to learn it anyway, or how you will now learn it with them. If you also find that skill or topic difficult, please tell your child. You can let them know you will both learn how to do it together so that you both get to like/enjoy/master the skill. This means that you can  work on an equal footing together, as two students, to understand and master difficult reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. I have personally found this a very powerful and useful way to coach a student when I am unsure yourself about a topic or skill.

As a coach, I have found that being honest about my thoughts and feelings when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills is always the best policy. Some of my best coaching sessions have been when I was not comfortable with teaching the topic or skill, and we worked together to master it. As I tell them – the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Thank you for any feedback. Love hearing from you!


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.




How to Develop Mutual Respect When Helping Your Child Learn New Skills

The honeymoon is over: How to develop a respectful coaching relationship to help your child master reading, writing, and Mathematics skills

A respectful coaching partnership: Different but equal.

Your child can be keen to work with you at home on reading, writing, and Mathematics skills in the beginning. If you had a honeymoon period when you both loved working together on reading, writing, Mathematics skills- and the work was fun – I hope that you enjoyed it. The coaching honeymoon period is usually over after a few weeks, and if you haven’t formed a close, equal, and respectful coaching relationship together when helping your child develop reading, writing, and Mathematics skills, that might be difficult for you both.

After the honeymoon period your child might stop cooperating as easily with you when it is time to read, write or do Mathematics. They might moan, procrastinate, have a tantrum, argue, and not remember the reading, writing, or Mathematics skills they had previously learnt or even where their books and pens are. You might find you begin to ‘forget’ to coach them reading, writing, or Mathematics skills they want to avoid, or find other urgent and more important tasks. However, if you can find a way of keeping on coaching your child those reading, writing, and Mathematics skills they are so reluctant to learn; amazing and unexpected progress will be made over time.

There are many pluses to letting go of being ‘The Boss’ when you form a coaching partnership with your child.

  1. They will learn reading, writing and Mathematics skills faster and easier.
  2. You will both form a more respectful working relationship that you will both deeply enjoy, and
  3. Learning reading, writing, and Mathematics skills will become fun for your child.

You may be home-schooling your children or wanting to help them do better in the classroom. You may want to help your child improve their reading, writing, and/or Mathematics, or to ride a skate board.  Whatever you are coaching and for whatever reasons I encourage you to invest time and effort into developing a respectful coaching relationship with your child. When you work harmoniously together, learning even reading, writing and Mathematics skills your child finds difficult, scary, or boring becomes easier and more fun for them. My families and I have always found that when the coach develops this respectful relationship with their child, coaching reading, writing and Mathematics skills becomes a pleasure instead of a chore, and your children learn faster.

I suggest you climb off your parenting chair and step down to the coaching chair so you sit nose to nose with your child.  Only then can you both decide how you will work respectfully together on mastering the reading, writing, and Mathematics skills that will make them excellent students.

The roles: You both have different but complementary coaching roles that are a little different from the roles of parent and child. Your child as the student often knows what reading, writing, and Mathematics skills they need to learn, and when they might need a short break, or have had enough learning about any new  skills and knowledge. You as the coach know what has to be taught to learn those reading, writing, and Mathematics skills and ways to teach them. You both need to develop a partnership as two relatively equal people with different roles so your child work harder and willingly to learn reading, writing, and Mathematics skills and you use less effort when coaching and see greater results. The key to working smoothly with your child is the respect you consistently show them, and expect from them.

“Respect is taking into consideration the views and desires of others and incorporating it into your decisions. Being truthful to people. When you respect another, you factor in and weigh others’ thoughts and desires into your planning and balance it into your decision-making” Webster’s Dictionary.

Give respect and expect respect. You are the adult and you have to begin first. You can’t expect your child’s respect if you are not giving them respect. Talk and act respectfully and expect the same back from them when coaching reading, writing, and Mathematics skills. Experiment with negotiating with your child on some or all of the following:

  •  what reading, writing, and Mathematics skills will be coached,
  • how the coaching will happen, when it will happen, and
  •  for how long.

More importantly, watch your attitude and thoughts towards your child and change them when they become disrespectful. When you feel, think, and act respectfully towards another, the other feels valued as an intelligent being – whatever their age and you will notice your child quickly gains in skills and confidence when learning reading, writing, and Mathematics skills. Contact me if you have any questions.