coaching, homework, reading and writing skills

Writing: first understand why they dislike writing, then negotiate.

a reformed reluctant writer
         A keen proud writer 

Writing fluently will remain an important skill our children need to master.

Your child might not be very interested in writing because they have so many other interesting things they would rather do. Many children are much more interested in doing something physical than sitting down to write. Especially when your child finds writing difficult it will come a definite last in the list of important and fun things they want to do that day.

There are a few quite simple things you can do to encourage them to write.The first thing to do is capture their attention and their interest so that they are willing to write with you. Unless you sell them writing in a way that captures their interest they will not be willing to attempt this task they dislike and they will not work willingly with you. You cannot force them to write ever because when a person is not willing to do something, they usually do it very sloppily and hurriedly. Instead first understand exactly what they don’t like about writing.

Listen closely to deeply understand.

The most successful and respectful way to help someone become a writer, and an excellent way to capture their interest, is to listen closely to them to deeply understand how they are thinking and feeling about writing before you ever offer solutions. Take as much time as necessary to deeply understand your child’s position. This might take several talks with them. Remember to never judge what they are saying by minimizing it, mentioning incidents where it was worse for you or their sister, or believing that they are exaggerating or making excuses. Instead just feel deeply interested in what they are saying and keep asking questions that encourage them to open up to you, and help you understand their position even more. As they talk you might notice that you want to offer the ‘helpful’ solutions that pop into your head. they might not be the right solutions for your child, or perhaps not the right solutions to offer just yet. In fact your child will feel that you have stopped listening to them and that you are trying to just fix the problem quickly, as perhaps you often have in the past, if you offer them solutions as they are explaining their dislike of writing. This time do it differently and take lots of time to understand their position.

Problem-solve with them, not for them, by TENTATIVELY suggesting solutions.

When you are both satisfied that you have fully understood their thoughts and feelings around writing, other quite exciting and useful solutions often pop up, many of them quite different from what you would have first suggested. Feel free to suggest them tentatively as possible solutions, watching your child for their reactions. You might have decided that it is non-negotiable that they will be writing regularly at home, and your child most probably has realised that themselves. However when, where, and how that happens, and what they write about are all negotiable.

Possible solutions I often offer students when we will be writing  include:

  • You will only write about what you want to write about and my job as your editor is to help you discover what that is.
  • I will only let you write for 10 minutes.
  • Don’t worry about the spelling. Just write your ideas down. We will sort the spelling later.
  • Don’t worry about your handwriting. Good writing is all about the ideas not how tidy your writing looks.
  • Let’s get the writing over and done with first then do something that you like more.
  • I will share-write with you too if you like. I think that would be fun! We could write a story together.

Here are some more ideas on ways to respectfully discuss writing with your child.

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, goal-setting

Take control: Help your child’s reading, writing, and Maths skills.

I’m going to give you a way to work gently and firmly with yourself and your family so that the coaching happens regularly and you help your child succeed at school.

Think about what you can do: Expand your circle of influence

Stephen Covey in his book ‘First things first’  talks about the difference between the have’s (“If only I had…”) and the be’s (“I can be…”). He and I both agree that focusing on what you don’t like (if only I had….) is disempowering, and that focusing on what you can do  to help your child succeed at school is proactive and empowering. He suggests you examine what you can do instead of worrying about things over which you have no control. teaching your chilod to succeed

First notice all your concerns about helping your child succeed at school.

Then, among those concerns, determine where you can take action to help your child do well at school.

When we think of ways we can act, our circle of influence will enlarge and our circle of concern will shrink.


How to expand your circle of influence.

Create coaching goals to help your child succeed at school that are exciting, achievable, and interesting. Ask yourself the following simple but powerful questions in order and write down your thoughts as they pop into your mind.

Why do I want my child to improve these skills? Keep asking ‘why?’ or ‘why else?’ to each of your answers until you know you have discovered the core reason you deeply wish your child to improve those particular skills. You will know when you find the core reason. You will feel full of energy, urgency, and excitement.

What can I do to coach my child to improve ……………skills?

  • Write down all the things you could do. Write down even the ones you might think won’t work.
  • Don’t judge any of your ideas until they are all written down.
  • When you can’t think of a single more idea about what you can do – order your ideas. You can write numbers besides them in order of importance and ‘do-ability’.

The other ideas about helping your child succeed at school might be useful later, so keep them too. I’ve been impressed with the book on ways to set goals we will achieve calledThe Magic Lamp . Keith Ellis has wonderful ideas. Here is one of them.

 Begin today what you regret not having done yesterday, and you will avoid that regret tomorrow

What do I need to change so that my child and I can coach regularly together during the week? Write down only the things you have the power to change. We can only take responsibility for our own actions, and work within our own circle of influence.

When you change how you are thinking and acting, those around you change too. Here is a website that summarises his ideas. Stephen Covey calls this expanding your circle of influence so that your circle of concern will over time become smaller. My website has some good ideas to help you set goals so that you help your child succeed at school. Check out more of my ideas on how to help your children become excellent students at this blog site here.



coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

First the reading, writing, and Math goals – then how you work together

Win-win or no deal: Only agree when you are both happy.

In the previous posting I gave you ways to create reading,writing, and Math goals that you can both agree with.  The goals you set decide your success. The more thoroughly and seriously  the goals are decided between you both, the more you both  will take the  coaching seriously,  and when the inevitable moment comes that you both find it harder to work together, you will still persist because you both want to reach those reading, writing, or Math goals so much! 

So take all the negotiation time necessary to create reading, writing, and Math goals with your child, and any other goals you both want them to reach. Then take your time agreeing to a deal that works for both of you.

image001A deal is how you will both work towards those goals every week. Use ‘what, when, where, how, and who questions to make a watertight deal with your child and with yourself. For example:

  • How many minutes/hours/days will we work together?
  • When do we start work?
  • What happens if we don’t coach the amount of time we agreed upon?
  • What happens if we coach all the time agreed on?
  • What reading, writing, Math skills do we cover?
  • Where do we work together?
  • How many reminders it is time to coach together?
  • Who is responsible for what? E.g. who reminds, who sets out the coaching gear, who organizes the work to be done. Only give your child responsibilities they can handle successfully. The general rule is: The older they are – the more responsibilities they can handle successfully.

You will know when you have a win-win agreement. Negotiating goals and how the goals will be reached (the deal) can take from an hour to a week or more. 

  • Wait for the moment when you both are  happy about how you will both work consistently towards reaching the reading, writing, Math and any other goals.
  • Maybe your child is not happy about every part of the deal. They mightn’t want to read more or complete more Math problems, or learn spelling words at first. However they are happy about enough parts of the deal to work in a solid win-win coaching partnership with you.
  • Make sure you can meet your end of the deal. For example that you can coach when you said you would, and be able to coach with respect.
  • Check out this post for more ideas on how to set reading, writing, and Math goals and deals with your child. Buy The Guide and get more information about how to work with your child.

In partnership with you,


reading and writing skills

Learning how to handwrite is not an unnecessary skill….yet.

Handwriting helps our children

learn easier – and it can be taught.

I’ve already written  in a previous post about how handwriting can help us learn and remember. Many of you might have children with dyslexia or learning disabilities and I still firmly believe that even if your child has poor motor skills, they can still learn to hand write much better than they currently are. It will cost them more effort, but your child can  learn to write more fluently using reasonably legible handwriting over time and with regular, steady practice. They might not believe they can learn to hand write legibly, even the professionals might not believe they can, however, in my experience your children can learn to do things generally considered impossible with your support and their determination, and this includes hand writing legibly and fluently.

However, you might have to supply most of the determination at first. Decide what both you want and go for it. Check out this post for how to begin working with your child.

I still believe people need to learn how to physically write down their thoughts and ideas. To summarise what I’ve said in a previous post, when your children write facts down they are more likely to learn and remember them. Check out my post on how to coach your child handwriting.

How your child forms their letters, is vital. The direction that letters are written improves fluency and speed and neatness.Worksheets to help your child remember where to begin writing and which direction to write in will help make  learning to use the correct writing technique so much easier.

Between the four sites listed below, you will have many options to produce that type of handwriting worksheets that you want to use. You can start beginning writers out with the Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker so that your child will have a starter dot to know where to begin writing the letter.

This Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker website gives you a starting point:

After they know where to begin when writing a letter, you might like to experiment with  worksheets on other websites to find the most useful for your child’s hand writing lesson:

Check out their hand grip when writing. Are they using the correct pincer movement when holding the pen? I personally like to keep the coaching of new skills as light and easy as possible. Look at the post on coming from left field to help your child remember faster how to hold a pen. Just reminding them works so much slower than ‘the first up to five’ game, and is a whole lot less fun for you.

Coaching is fun!


coaching, homework

Get organised to succeed

child-reading-with-parentsIt is up to you when coaching your children reading, writing, and Mathematics, and you may be the weakest link.

It is vitally important to coach your child in reading, writing, or Mathematics skills when they struggle at school. Yet important appointments, extra work, tiredness, personal difficulties, or unexpected visitors can easily take away the time you set aside to coach your child those necessary reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.

First things First: Steven Covey tells this story in his book ‘First things first’ (1994) of a professor playing with stones, sand and water and a jar. He first placed all of the sand and small stones in a jar then tried to place the larger stones in. However the sand and smaller stones had taken up all the room inside the jar and there was no room for the larger stones. He then began again using the same amount of stones and sand, but he placed the large stones in the jar first, then trickled in all the smaller stones, then the sand, and then tipped lots of water on top as well. His message was quite simple. You will always find time for the urgent tasks, but if you don’t fit in the ‘not urgent but important tasks’ first – you won’t fit them in at all.

Steven’s lesson is easy to understand but often hard to apply.You know that if you help your child master reading, writing, or Mathematics skills that they will find schoolwork and homework easier and more fun. However it is a big step between wanting to help your child understand how to read, write, or do Mathematics, and organising regular reading, writing, or Mathematics coaching times. I hope the following ideas help you.

Believe that regular reading, writing, or Mathematics coaching can be EASY, then systematically adjust your environment and your thoughts so that it is.

1. Find your limiting factor(s). What stops you regularly coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills to your child? What factor once changed will make the reading, writing, or Mathematics coaching fall into place? Is it a skill, an attitude, a habit you don’t yet have? Think about this until you are clear what your limiting factors are and then look for the possible solutions.

2. Design your plan to overcome your limiting factor(s) and schedule time for coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics into your diary or onto your calendar. Write your schedule down somewhere you will SEE it often. Inertia is the single greatest barrier to successful reading, writing, or Mathematics coaching. It’s also the easiest to overcome. All you have to do is act.

“Any action you take – no matter how trivial, will do the trick”

(p. 46) Keith Ellis (The magic lamp: Goal setting for people who hate setting goals).

  • Think small and focus on a single step when beginning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills coaching with your child. Make the steps you are taking small then there is less reason to resist.
  • Set reading, writing, or Mathematics deadlines so you fix your goals for your child in time. This makes them become real and creates a sense of urgency and helps you schedule regular time for reading, writing, and Mathematics.
  • Learn to expect the discomfort of change when you coach your child reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. Mild discomforts accompany change.
  • Pace yourself  to reach your reading, writing, or Mathematics goals.
  • Know what comes next so that when you have nearly reached your reading, writing, or Mathematics goals, you can see the next challenge in the distance.
  • Reading, writing, or Mathematics goals are flexible so adapt to change as you change your perspectives.

Find the joy in self-discipline. Imagine yourself enjoying every step you take. Instead of thinking, “How do I get myself to coach my child reading, writing, or Mathematics skills?” Ask yourself, “How can I get myself to enjoy coaching?”


Finally – the story is complete! Persistence paid!

“Even ordinary effort over time yields extraordinary results” (p. 74) Keith Ellis (The magic lamp: Goal setting for people who hate setting goals). I encourage you to keep coaching even when it is difficult.  Continue coaching your child reading, writing, or Mathematics skills even when you are too tired, too busy, or too worried. I believe that you will both get to deeply enjoy the coaching time and that you will both be amazed at the excellent results you achieve.

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. 








coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

Win-win agreements make coaching your child reading, writing, and Mathematics skills more fun!

Create agreements that make you both happy.

This week I’ve asked permission to share an email from a concerned family coach who is working with me. She has a young boy who is working on improving his Mathematics and reading and writing skills and he is a very skilled negotiator – even though he is only seven years old.

Hi Anne

 I just thought I would give you a heads up that we have had some real challenges with my son this week, to get him to do his reading, writing, and Mathematics  work.  He has been really pushing back about doing it, and has flown into “tantrum” mode at the drop of a hat.  We have persisted and through a lot of negotiation (which feels a bit like black mail) managed to get him “eventually” to come back to the table and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work (all be it very messy and under a cloud of resistance and stress). 

Basically we have said – if he says no to his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework, then we will need to say “no” to something he wants, for example last week we said if he didn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics then he couldn’t go to his friend’s party.  This week he has a school disco on Friday and we have said if he doesn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss then no disco, and then next Friday he is going to a footie game if he does all his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss.  This usually gets him back to the table and doing some work. But my question/concern is – is this the right sort of precedent to be setting?

Also, with using the lure of a reward or something he really wants, he eventually does come and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work, but not without tantrums and a huge fuss – so should we take the reward away the minute he makes a fuss?  We would then have no leverage to get any  reading, writing, and Mathematics done the rest of the week!?  I suspect there is also something (?) in the way we are approaching his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework that sets him off, but I don’t know what, or if he is using “us” as an excuse to try and get out of it?  He says we confuse him and put too much pressure on him.   Is this just “a stage” and we need to persevere? He seems to put up barriers to working on reading, writing, and Mathematics no matter what we try (making it a game, making it fun).

From concerned family coach

Dear family coach,

I agree that blackmail/bribes never work for long, and they feel wrong too. I think it is a stage all coaches and students work through – the time when the honeymoon is over and the student wakes with a start and thinks, “What am I doing extra reading, writing and Mathematics for? I don’t want to do more reading, writing and Mathematics after school.” This is a time when the extra attention, new reading, writing and Mathematics skills, and new and amusing reading, writing and Mathematics activities no longer intrigue. Your son is very good at the art of negotiation and so we have to be skilful when we negotiate how he will work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.

Create a bottom line – the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching will happen regularly. From there you can create positive and negative consequences for when he is willing or not willing to work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills. I’ll support you and him to find consequences he agrees to so they are part of a mutual agreement, and not punishments or bribes. He has to be very clear about our bottom line – that the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching is happening, for this long, and in these skill areas – but within that, he has to have some leverage, some choices. What about before we meet you explain to him that any fun thing that happens is not a right, it is something he earns, and it happens after the reading, writing and Mathematics work is done. So instead of saying you can’t go if you don’t do this reading, writing and Mathematics work….which is a threat….try – when you have practised your reading, writing and Mathematics skills …then we can…. Make consequences immediate for now rather than something that happens at the end of a week, for example he can play Lego, watch television, or play, you can read a story to him.

Examine your own thoughts/attitudes towards the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching and your son’s learning. Perhaps something needs to change there. As a coach I usually find that it is my thoughts about how a student is learning to read, write and do Mathematics that needs to change first, then everything else falls more easily into place. Spend time examining your responses to his avoidance behaviours when learning reading, writing and Mathematics skills.

Never shake on a deal immediately. Negotiations on working with reading, writing and Mathematics at home, especially win-win negotiations, take place over time, which allows both parties time to examine and change the agreement until they are both happy. After you have re-examined your own fears, hopes, beliefs, attitudes, relating to your son’s reading, writing and Mathematics learning, talk with him so he can realise that he will still be doing the reading,  writing and Mathematics practice, no matter how many tantrums or blocks he puts up. Don’t argue with him. Instead if  if you quietly and clearly explain why you want him to have good reading, writing and Mathematics skills and how exactly you want him to learn them, he will gradually become more willing to learn reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.

His point of view is also valid. Who wants to do extra reading, writing and Mathematics work at home when  you have never enjoyed this work?  However, that doesn’t mean we are ‘soft’ on him. Instead we are creating  a workable win-win situation for all of us. In the process we ensure he will do extremely well with reading, writing and Mathematics skills at school.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful and check out my blogs on and see if there are more ideas there you can use.



coaching, reading and writing skills

Make haste slowly: Coaching your child reading, writing, and Mathematics the fast way.

Haste makes for slow reading, writing and Mathematics progress: Relaxed, steady focus works.

One new different thing reading, writing, Mathematics skills at a time. I often only begin coaching one area (reading, writing, or Mathematics) that a student finds difficult, and one reading, writing, or Mathematics skill they are comfortable with, and love. To begin working comfortably with them – begin to build a comfortable and relaxed coaching relationship – I usually suggest that we work on a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill they like first.

The other day I met a new student and we began fairly immediately talking about books we liked. The eleven year old boy was an excellent reader and loved science fantasy. He wasn’t coming to me for coaching on reading at all, but to develop his writing and Mathematics skills. However as we began to talk reader to reader and I offered him some books out of my library and asked him to lend me books he was reading, we naturally progressed to talking about a small science fantasy novel he might write. He actually came to me for coaching to develop his writing skills (spelling content, and sentence structure), and his Mathematics skills which in the first session we only touched on. He walked out with some of my books to read, very excited about the story he’d write, and also hooked into developing his Mathematics skills with me.We bonded well. I believe that he looked forward to working with me on developing his writing and Mathematics skill the following week and I certainly looked forward to working with him again.

It is extremely important for the respectful, harmonious coaching relationship you are endeavouring to develop with your child, that while you  are actually working with your child so that they will improve their reading, writing, or Mathematics skills, the coaching time should be enjoyable and relaxed (most of the time) for you both.

I suggest that you offer your student regular moments of pleasurable achievement and fun. The coaching of new skills is of course hard work most of the time, but the reward of having some pleasant, fun time with you each coaching session will mean that you both will be more likely to keep the coaching going through the hard times when the work is not easy to coach or learn. When you both have regular moments when you have a laugh together, get excited together, enjoy a chat, or both feel very pleased when something is understood or mastered, means your child will keep coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics with you, even when something is hard to learn and definitely isn’t fun.

Here is another post with tips on creating a respectful coaching relationship with your child when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.

Check out an excerpt from my coaching guide.

Because of all the past good and harmonious coaching times your child will be able to keep focused and learning reading, writing, or Mathematics even when they are not feeling like learning and so will you!

Please share any successes you’ve experienced when coaching your child.