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, homework, teens, Working with teens

Your teen and you – No 4 – time to create a win-win deal

teen and parent negotiating

It’s time to get down and decide a win-win deal together and take turns speaking and listening to each other. For negotiations to be successful  create a situation where your teen will stay comfortable and alert enough to listen closely to you. The most important thing you can do is to keep any of your positive or negative emotions out of the negotiation. Instead aim to be helpful and positive about the agreement you are negotiating, but in a businesslike fashion, even when they are derailing the negotiation.

Here are my best tips when negotiating with teens:

  1. With teens who are extremely private, don’t stare in their eyes, stand higher than them, or even stand or sit very close to them. They might find that close proximity threatening and too personal. Instead, position yourself so that you can glance at or towards them occasionally.
  2. Speak briefly in short and simple sentences.
  3. Speak in a low, quiet, businesslike voice.
  4. Speak slowly and pause briefly between sentences, checking they have understood what you are saying.
  5. When they seem easily distracted, you might ask them to repeat your main ideas in a mild and helpful voice. Listen closely to their responses,
    • and if necessary briefly repeat any information they might not have heard, understood, or remembered.
    • Then check again that they have understood and remembered what you have said. Helpfully repeat this sequence until it is clear they are paying attention.
  6. If they interrupt you while talking you can choose to either stop talking briefly to listen closely to them to understand their concerns, or ask them to remember that point for when you are finished talking.
  7. There will be a time to ask for their opinion of what you have said. Listen closely to understand. Repeat what they have said until they feel you have understood them, then discuss any concerns they might have.
  8. Sometimes it is helpful when deepening your understanding of each others’ concerns to write down what those concerns are in a pros and cons list.
  9. Only accept win-win solutions or there is no deal. You both have to be relatively happy with the agreement otherwise you have one winner and one loser. However, the perfect agreement is hard to reach and you both might have to compromise on some of the things you wanted. Still, if you are both happy enough with the deal, then you have created a deal you can both live with.
  10. Take your time to find an agreement you both believe is the best possible one you could find. Sometimes you may negotiate for several days until you are both happy. There is no hurry to come to an agreement.
  11. Remember that all privileges relating to the agreement as  consequences are suspended until an agreement is reached. At some point this will negatively affect your teen and they will want solutions decided so that they can have their privileges back.

Put the final agreement in writing then you and your teen can always refresh your memories as to what was agreed. However, you can both agree to modify this agreement as you go along because situations change. I want to warn you that your teen might know you better than you realise. Many are shrewd negotiators who might push you to change agreements with them before you have had time to think coolly and calmly about what you really want, and what your bottom lines are.  So check out my suggestions on working with teens before you agree to any changes

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 excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families.



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.