Category Archives: Parenting Skills

Helping Kids with Homework

Like it or hate it, homework is part of most Aussie families lives. Many of us think of homework as the traditional sit-down-with-pencil-and-paper task, but schools are encouraging more creativity in homework too, such as helping someone around the house, or measuring in steps the length of your street. Technology is also being used more in our children’s homework than we would remember from our own school days. Many parents want to be involved in their children’s learning and homework, but are not sure how to go about it or even how much involvement is needed.

Let’s have a look at some ideas of how you can be involved and helpful when it comes to your children’s homework, from the perspective of a child psychologist

What to do before we even start homework:

  1. child psychologist brisbaneBe aware of the messages you are giving about homework. Our kids are very tuned in to our attitudes about homework and will adopt similar attitudes themselves. While not everyone agrees homework benefits children academically, there are other skills kids build when engaging in homework including:

    a. Time management
    b. Self discipline, fostering independence and building responsibility
    c. Problem solving
    d. Planning and organisation

Focusing on these skills may help you both to see the benefit and relevance of homework for your kid.

  1. Allow wind down time between finishing school and starting homework. This will vary from child to child, and according to daily family schedules, but having a break before starting homework can help your child to feel refreshed and alert. Usually this wind down time involves eating a healthy snack, and having time for some creative or active play. Try and avoid screen time as this is very hard to draw kids away from and also can be used as an incentive for completing homework – this is the most common challenge we deal with as a child psychologist. If homework is a struggle in the afternoons, consider whether your child may be more alert and focused in the mornings before school.

Planning for success

When faced with homework, whether onerous or not, supporting our kids with planning and organisation can go a long way in reducing stress and battles:

  1. Establish routines around homework – when, where, and what.

    a. You can use guiding questions such as “what do you have to do?”, “when are you going to do it?”, “what order are you going to do these tasks?”, “how long do you think each tasks will take?”.
    b. Encourage your child to break down larger assignments into smaller tasks and start with the most difficult parts when your child is fresh and focused. Give your child the opportunity to have most of the control over these factors.
    c. Some kids don’t need help with the work but do with keeping on track, so it can help to sit with them or nearby doing your own tasks.
    d. It can help to have family homework time when everyone is working on things, rather than expecting your child to be doing their homework while the rest of the family are watching TV.

Changes Psychology

  1. Set boundaries and the environment – help your child establish goals (e.g. complete English section today), reduce distractions (e.g. charge mobile in another room), and set up an area that has good lighting, space for their homework, and pencils, etc. Factor in breaks, such as when a task is completed or after a certain amount of time. Let your child know you are there to support them with their homework, not do it for them or teach them. You may agree that you will do the first problem in a set together (so you can see your child understands the concepts) then your child completes the set himself, or that your child marks all the tasks she thinks she can do herself before she starts and focuses on doing those before asking for your help with the other tasks.

How to motivate kids to get through their homework

We all need a little motivation at times. Parents can support kids with homework by using the child’s interests, strengths, and support networks to their advantage:

  1. Use incentives and rewards – Let’s face it, we all work better on a task when we have something to look forward to or work towards. Motivation is often the most important consideration in child psychology when trying to understand child behaviours and helping them learn. Make an agreement with your child before they start their homework about what that reward may be (e.g. video game, play with the neighbour, homework free day tomorrow). Some families like to use a point system to trade for a reward at the end of the week, or to help their child get started on a task. Help your child to see homework time as one-on-one time with you, and make the homework relevant to them (e.g. how learning about measurements can help with their design business they want to set up, or link to their culture and language). Praise effort during homework by:

    a. Focusing on persistence, progress and improvement rather than difficulties.
    b. Using encouragement (and avoid criticism) to help your child problem solve when stuck, e.g. “How can you use the same ideas from this problem that you got correct to help you solve the next problem?”
    c. Encouraging mistakes – they help us learn and come up with new ways of doing things.

Child Psychologist

  1. Obtain help from others – You do not have to be your child’s only support for homework activities. Some parents alternate who helps depending on their own strengths e.g. you help with maths while other parent helps with English. If you feel out of your depth, you could ask a neighbour, other family member, or tutor to help. Some kids like to get support from their peers and work well in a group dynamic. Communicate with teachers about their expectations and how you, as parent, can best support your child’s learning.
  2. Adjust if necessary – Review homework with your child so you are in a position to gauge if your child just doesn’t want to do the work, or if they are feeling overwhelmed by the work. If necessary, speak with the teacher about adjustments to the work such as prioritising sections, your child doing what he can, or trying one problem in each section.

Homework can be more than book learning – it’s about developing life skills

Homework is meant to be a revision of skills and work learnt at school. It is usually academic in nature. Parents can help their kids widen their skill-set by involving them in everyday routine, or extracurricular leisure activities. This can help our kids learn about the work-life balance and manage self-discipline when it comes to doing things we don’t really feel like doing.

  1. Encourage your child to be involved in other “real life” learning opportunities to complement academic learning such as:
    1. Creative play: things to write with, draw with, construct with
    2. Active play – outside
    3. Reading – parent to child, child to parent
    4. Life skills – cooking, sewing, grocery shopping, household routines
    5. Social skills – spending time together as a family where people have to speak with each other, listen to others, and share

Child Psychologist Brisbane

  1. Manage whinging by empathizing so your child knows he has been heard and you understand, “I get it! It’s no fun having to sit down and do your homework when you want to be outside riding your bike!” then help them re-focus on the job at hand, “Let’s get this done so you can get outside before dark”. If the complaints continue, keep your responses minimal and firm – the more you respond, the more your child will whinge.

Parents can be an important source of support for kids when it comes to doing homework. Some kids will need more support than others depending on the child’s age and grade, individual learning needs, personality, and life stressors. Encouraging kids to have some control over the the situation and allowing kids to complete homework as much as they can themselves will help with motivation, give them a greater sense of achievement, and provide a great opportunity for parents to acknowledge and praise their efforts.


Baker, F. (unknown). The great homework debate. Kidspot.

Berry, K. (2014). Homework with teens. Quirky Kid Psychology Clinic.

Dixon, N. (2007). Homework for the 21st Century. Queensland Parliamentary Library.

KidsHelpLine (2016). Deakin with homework.

Markham, L. (2017). How much help should parent give second grader with homework? Aha!Parenting.

McCready, A. (unknown). One Simple Strategy to Help Make Homework Time Easier. Positive Parenting Solutions.

McCready, A. (unknown). Good Study Habits: making Change. Positive Parenting Solutions.

NSW Department of Education and Training (2014). Going to a Public School – Homework.

Rocker, L. (2011). Helping Kids with Homework. Quirky Kid Psychology Clinic.

VIC Department of Education and Training (2016). School Policy and Advisory Guide: Homework Guidelines.


Boredom is good for you (Part 3)

help-bored-childHelping your child with boredom

As parents, we can help our children get the most out of being bored rather than rushing in with ready-made solutions to alleviate boredom. Here are a few ways you can help your child use boredom constructively:

  1. Spend one-on-one time with your child on a regular basis to reduce the situation where your child is saying they are bored to get your attention.
  2. Encourage exploration and discovery in your family. Children are naturally curious and creative so show them that its ok in your family to try new things, to make mistakes, to persue hobbies and interests. The more things your child is interested in (not necessarily participating in) the more things they can explore, daydream about, or just wonder about. Showing an interest in what your child is learning and doing will also encourage them.
  3. Allow children down-time. Don’t feel the need to fill every moment with scheduled activities. Start when your kids are young and allow them the time, space and freedom to entertain themselves.
  4. Teach your child skills they can use in everyday life, whether busy or bored. Basic knowledge such a colours, number and letters can open up a whole world of opportunities and games for young children. Older children who can read will be able to find a book to dive into when bored with other activities. Thinking skills such as questioning, problem solving, planning, and reflecting can help children to either sit with the bored feeling or come up with ideas for something to do.
  5. Help your child make a boredom jar. Ask your child to come up with as many ideas about things they could do when bored as they can. These activities can be indoor or outdoor, quiet or active, creative, honing techniques, learning new things, chores, solo or with others, require materials or not. Provide a jar or other container for your child to place each cut out idea into. Then, whenever your child feels bored and has trouble coming up with an idea, they have a ready-made lucky dip of ideas to choose from.

Boredom is good for you (Part 4)

Young mother and her toddler girl playing together with finger toysHelping your child with boredom continued

6.  Limit technology. We are surrounded by screens and technology, which can be great for entertaining and passing the time, but have been found to dull creative thinking and set kids up to expect to be entertained (“internet-ained”) rather than being able to entertain themselves. Encourage kids to do a few activities off the screens first, and keep the technology for when your child actually does run out of ideas instead of jumping straight in front of a screen before even having a chance to try other things.

7.  Help your child set up challenges. You can prompt your child and provide some guidance to get started, e.g. provide materials they may need or suggest they go outside or do a chore, but try to let them figure out which direction to take their ideas without adults structuring the activity for them.

8.  Avoid feeding a bored child. It is tempting at times to interpret boredom as hunger, or try to alleviate boredom with eating. Research suggests that humans like to eat to abate boredom because preparing and chewing food is highly stimulating for our senses – the opposite of boredom. However, relying on food to combat boredom can reduce a child’s ability to distinguish genuine hunger from emotional eating.

9.  Let them be bored. When your child says they are bored, help them change their mindset about boredom with some gentle encouragement, e.g. “That’s great. Enjoy it and see what amazing things your mind can come up with when you give it the time”. When adults are less negative about boredom, kids can also learn to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem. Creative people throughout history have acknowledged the role that boredom played in the development of their skills. Even major discoveries can occur when bored – take Isaac Newton who was supposedly just sitting under an apple tree when he discovered gravity!!!

So boredom, rather than being the bane of human existence, could very well be what we need to come up with new ideas, step out of our comfort zones, and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. As parents, we can teach our children to embrace periods of boredom, and reassure ourselves that we don’t have to rescue our children from being bored. In fact, unplugging from busy schedules, doing nothing, and letting the mind wander and daydream can be good for all of us.


Managing Sibling Conflicts (Part 2)

Portrait of happy siblings lying with dog while parents resting

  • Focus on teamwork: When you find ways to refocus their energy from bickering with each other, keep in mind fun or constructive activities that they will both enjoy working on with each other. When kids experience fun and success together, they are more likely to feel more positive toward each other.
  • Give your time and attention: Take time out to play and work with your children. Up until their teens, most children want their parent’s time and positive attention more than anything else. With a multitude of daily commitments many parents find both of these things can be in short supply, but the results are worth putting in the effort. Ideally, spend one-on-one time with each children every day (even if only ten minutes) and focus solely on them and the activity you are doing together. When this isn’t possible, make a concerted effort to note things each child says or does that are positive behaviours (ones you want more of) when you are all together. This is not a competition though! Try to keep the praise roughly even for each child.

Living with siblings can be hard work, and so can parenting them! However, putting a few simple tips into practice can help everyone get along better, feel valued within the family, and reinforce the special relationships that siblings can have with each other for a lifetime.



Managing Sibling Conflicts (Part 1)

Small girls (sisters) siting on bench offended after quarrel - outdoors in backyardDo you have sibling conflict problems?

Find out how to manage them and reduce your level of stress.

When you have more than one child, you may feel that much of your time is spent acting as a “referee”. Siblings generally spend alot of time together, and they have to learn to share not only their toys and living space with each other, but also your attention and time. Sibling rivalry is a fact of life and being able to recognise this is the first step. The next step is knowing what to do to help manage this in your family:


  • Talk it out: As your children grow up, they go through a lot of emotions about themselves and their sibling. Encourage them to open up and talk about how they feel and what they want to do about their feelings. Help them understand that feelings are ok to have but there are ways to address these feelings in a constructive way. The timing of when you can talk to them is likewise important. Wait until the child has calmed down and find the best time for a quick chat. Make sure that each child gets an even share of being listened to and getting a chance to express themselves.
  • Distract and re-direct: Children nowadays get stressed out just as much as adults. There are multiple demands on them and little “down time”. Be aware that there will be times when your child is too tired from school, etc. and this leads him to pick on his sibling and start a fight for no apparent reason at all. Here you can pre-empt potential squabbles by engaging your kids in activities that place little additional stress on them, e.g. cuddle up and read together, or jump on the trampoline. If needed, give your kids the opportunity to do these things without their sibling involved. You can still do this even when arguments have started.  Give the kids something to work on to refocus their annoyance from each other and guide them through shifting that anger into something interesting for both of them. Sometimes it is easier to put out the fire right away before the smoke alarm goes off.

Read on for more tips on how  to manage sibling conflicts..

Starting at Big School. Ready, Steady, go! (Part 4)

classmatesR … for ……Relationships:

Schools are social enterprises where relationships matter.  Your child is going to be facing new friends, new teachers and a whole new world where communication and interpersonal skills are important.

Albert Einstein wrote:

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned at school.”2

This may seem a strange thing for such a well- known genius to say but if you put school into perspective it is the life lessons that really count a lot and being able to relate to other people, through positive relationships, is a very important skill.


Three important personalities your child needs to consider are:

Themselves, their friends, their teacher.



Children need to have a good sense of self-esteem.  Building on self-worth is important on a daily basis then they feel comfortable with who they are. Praise from parents and praise from teachers contribute to this aspect of building positive relationships.


Their friends:

Encourage your children to be kind to others, to share and not tell tales. Arrange play-dates. Attend school functions and be positive about school events. Let your child work out minor problems themselves, always be positive about other children and friends.


Their teacher:

Support the teacher in front of your child, take issues or concerns up with the teacher, build up the teacher’s image and take every opportunity to attend parent/teacher workshops and interviews. Be supportive of any extra needs in the school – collections and outings and special events.


You are ready, set and good to go.

Make this a positive experience for the whole family.  Remember the three Rs for home support.  They will stand you in good stead for more than just the first day or first year!  This is a milestone event, a journey of life lessons as your child grows in so many different directions.


Keep this quote in mind as you offer support and love on this journey:


“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best”

Bob Taylor Starting School quotes.3



   and good to read for additional support….

Starting at big school. Ready, Steady, go! (Part 3)

breakfast before schoolWhy start with the evening…..Well, a good night’s sleep and evening routine ensures a better day.  The body and mind are rejuvenated during the night.  Explain this to your child so he/she will understand why you want bedtime to be earlier during school time.

A healthy night’s sleep for a child is 9 to 10 hours, a minimum of 8 hours. Children who do not get enough sleep struggle to concentrate the next day.

Helpful tips for a good evening routine:

Try going to bed half an hour earlier for a few days before school starts.

Have a bedtime story or quiet down time to end the day.  Some children like to have one on one chat time about their day before they go to sleep.

Get the school clothes ready before going to bed.

Check the calendar to see if there are any events to be prepared for the next day.

Plan breakfast the night before and any items that could be pre-packed for the school lunch box.

Check your child’s school bag for notices or special requests from the teacher.

This is especially important if you do not do your child’s homework in the afternoon.

Make a picture chart of what to do for the bedtime routine.

For example: Bath/get clothes ready for tomorrow/brush teeth/have story-time or chat time/go to sleep. Choose pictures from a magazine to make your chart.

Helpful tips for a good morning routine:

Wake up a bit earlier in the first week to get routine established.

Give your child an alarm clock so there is a personal response to getting up on time.

Have a morning get ready plan that your child knows

ie: get dressed, have breakfast, check your school bag, pack lunch and be ready to catch the bus or get in mum’s car.

Always have a healthy breakfast.

Pick up everything needed to take to school and check everything is there before going to the car or catching the school bus.

Talk about any different events ie: school outing or sports so your child knows you are supportive and pack any extra clothing or school requirements.

Say a positive goodbye and make sure your child knows what is happening for that day including lifts if you are not collecting.

Helpful tips for a good afternoon routine:

Have some rest or down time after school. Half an hour should be enough.

Encourage a healthy snack at this time.

Prioritise homework as it is still fresh in the child’s mind.

If mum is not the homework supervisor then save something to do with Mum when your child gets home. ie reading or discussion or spelling words.

Have an early supper together as an opportunity to discuss the day and plans for tomorrow. Make sure everyone gets a chance to say something.

Don’t be tempted to organise too many extra activities initially.   

Talk about time so there is a sense of keeping track of the day or the need to get things done in a routine.  For example: We have 10 mins to get ready and need to be organised. Keep a track of the time and praise your child for doing it on time.

Remember the value of planning and a routine… says…

“Routine – a sense of order, is not only important for making your child feel secure at this moment, but it will allow your child to internalise an automatic sense of how to organise his own life as he grows up.”

Starting at big school. Ready, Steady, go! (Part 2)

ready for schoolHave some fun and lighter moments with your kids.

Remember the saying ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

Keep that in mind and prepare your child for some of the wonderful new and exciting things that will happen at big school.

Avoid negative conversations and the temptation to relive your school days if they were not the best days of your life.  Education and schools have changed and are geared to bringing out the best in every child with positive re-enforcement.

Drive the route to school and point out landmarks or interesting things along the way so your child is familiar with the journey.

Have a pre-school photo shoot in the new uniform.

Pack your child’s school bag and practise walking with it pretending to go to school.

Make sure EVERYTHING is labelled and your child can read their own name.

Have a school colours treasure hunt just for the fun of finding crayons, naming their colours and returning them to their pencil case.

Organise a play date with someone who is in your child’s class.

 Practice saying the teacher’s name especially if it is a difficult one.

This may seem like a daunting task but many of the activities have already been part of your child’s kindy routine and so this check point will help highlight anything that is amiss.  Double checking on these things will help you, as a parent, to feel confident about your child’s readiness to go to school.

Now you are ready, get steady with a routine.

R….. for……. routine:

Recognise three important times of the day that can help make your routine secure and smooth for your child starting school.  Having a plan is the key so aim to set aside:

an evening routine,

a morning routine and

afternoon routine.

Starting at big school. Ready, Steady, go! (Part 1)

ready to start schoolFamiliar words to start a race.  

February 2017 has arrived and many little ones have started the beginning of a very exciting journey, not a race, but a milestone event leading down the track of learning. And after all the excitement of the first weeks has worn off. It can prove to be more challenging and less exciting for little ones. How can parents and family members make this time a positive experience?   One that will set the field right to make school days the best days of your child’s life?

Imagine you have just turned five and the reality of ‘big’ school has just set it! It must seem like an enormous combination of excitement, fun, and perhaps deep down a bit of fear.  Many children have been to kindy and know about spending time with friends and having a great time in a less formal atmosphere. Now it’s time to learn the three R’s!


Reading…wRiting…and aRthmetic:

The basic building blocks of primary school education.

However, there is so much more to learning and if parents are able to provide the support needed on the home front then ‘ Ready, steady and  go’ will be an easy ride for everyone.  

Here are three R’s of suggested home support.  They are guaranteed to make you, your child and your child’s teacher very pleased as ‘big school’ gets going.


Readiness…….Routine…….and Relationships.

The support scaffolding for a healthy start to big school.  


R …… for …. Readiness:

School readiness was an important component of the last pre-school year. It is worthwhile going over a check list to see if there are any areas that could be cause for concern.

Here is a quick mini ten point check list for social and emotional readiness:



Is your child eager to be at ‘Big School’?

Can your child join in with a group activity and take turns in a game?

Can your child communicate with other adults and be willing to be helpful?

Will your child share toys, books and games?

Does your child play fantasy games, make-believe or imaginary games?

Can your child accept help from others when things go wrong?

Can your child accept responsibility?

Will your child try to focus on simple tasks and complete them?

Can your child express their feelings and needs?

Is your child able to go to the bathroom independently?


Your child’s kindy would have made you aware of any areas that needed attention, but just look through the short list and reassure your child in any area that you may feel there could be an element of insecurity. Always be ready with positive praise and show approval when any of these aspects of development are evident.

Say things like:

“Well done you have shared your toys so nicely today.”

“Thank you for helping Mum carry the shopping, it was very kind of you.’

“That was a clever game you played with your dinosaurs today.’

Positive reinforcement and praise will make your child focus on the things he can do well.

Practice some skills that will help your child to be confident and independent.

Try these for example:

Opening and closing  doors.

Using toilets independently, schools have separate boys and girls toilet facilities.

Getting dressed in the correct uniform, doing up buttons laces and putting on socks and shoes if the school uniform has all these components.

Changing into sports clothes.

Eating out of a lunchbox. Talk about a healthy lunch and see what the school recommends.

Raising your hand and waiting for your turn.

Remembering 2 -3 instructions – practise things like. Go to the kitchen, fetch a cup and bring it to me.

Play memory games and observation games.

Learn how to express your feelings. Read some stories that deal with feelings and say it’s ok to feel happy, sad, angry or disappointed.

Managing Sibling Rivalry and Conflicts (Part 3)

dealing-with-sibling-rivalrySTRATEGIC PLANS:

Parents need to be like the A-team, famous for getting a plan together!

These practical ideas may not work for everyone but take one step at a time and choose the idea you think could help your family the most.  

  • Make a point of having dinner together at the table.  It’s a great time to appreciate both  food and family. Listen to each other talk about their day.  Appreciate one another by saying what you love about different family members.
  • Talk about feelings – “good” (comfortable) and “bad” (uncomfortable) feelings.  There are great children’s books that have stories to help understand the feelings of others.  Use your evening story time to listen to the story and go to bed feeling good about emotions.
  • Plan family activities together.  Each family member gets a turn to plan what they want to do.  The planned event may be a dolly’s tea party, game of golf or fishing trip.  Whatever the outing involves it is a family event and everyone takes part!
  • Teach your children about empathy. ‘Do as you would be done by!’ Ask your children how it feels when someone hurts you.
  • Try not to have “NO” responses all the time.  Sometimes you can replace an outright “no” with a  “yes” just by adding a positive instruction. Eg. “Can I have a snack?”  – ‘Yes,  after you have eaten your supper.’  
  • Have a reconciliation plan.  If one child has hurt the other let the children judge the severity of the hurt.   Plan a way to do something to make up to the child who was hurt. Unkind behaviour leads to an act of kindness in return.  

Finally have a goal in mind:

What a joy it will be to see your family managing their conflicts and being able to value one another as siblings  and friends. Talk about how friends may come and go but family is forever. Getting that right is a real goal to strive for.  Your children will be thankful that you wanted them to end the war and win the peace prize for the family.