The 10th episode of the Impressive gives you answers to the questions that came from one of the listeners about how to empower your children. Just because they are still young, who are in the stage of discovering themselves and exploring the world, doesn’t mean that they can’t participate and give their insights on issues around them. Actually, they can if you allow and courage them to do so. In this episode, Doctor Kimberley will give you tips on parenting approaches that would motivate your children to better themselves and be part of something good.
Listen up as we explore:
How to inspire young people to make a difference in their school community
Why it’s important for school leaders to survey students to gain their perspectives
What types of activities can parents and children do to feel empowered
Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.
Competitive individual and team sports are a ubiquitous part of childhood. The benefits are well understood, but sports participation can also present challenges for both kids and parents alike. Preparing your children with strategies for good mental game-play will help them navigate some of the emotional and social obstacles that may arise.
What Competitive Sports Can Teach Your Child To Foster Healthy Competition in Kids
There are many reasons to encourage your child’s participation in competitive sports. Other than the positive impact physical fitness can have on your child’s health, research highlights that additional key benefits from healthy competition in kids can include (Eime, Young, Harvey, Charity, & Payne, 2013; Hansen, Larson, & Dworkin, 2003):
Teaching children important team-building, problem solving and social participation skills.
Improved cognitive function and motor coordination.
Helping your child learn that healthy competition is a natural part of life and that effort can lead to success.
Improved general motivation and engagement in other activities.
Boosting self-esteem – there are many valuable lessons in both winning and losing.
Mood stabilisation – participation may help protect your child from experiencing low mood and depression.
Decreasing risky behaviour – sport provides a structured and supportive environment, as well as an outlet for expression.
Risks in Overdoing It
Undoubtedly, you want your child to succeed in life, and sport is no exception – but in your eagerness are you perhaps pushing your child too hard?
While engagement in competitive sport has its merits as outlined above, when young athletes overwhelmingly commit to a single sport year-round with next-to-no downtime, there can be considerable risks. Research suggests that putting too much pressure on a child and emphasising outcome-goals (winning) instead of process-goals (participation and personal bests) can have negative consequences. This can lead to (Brenner, 2007):
Burnout – Negative mental, physical and hormonal changes, can make children feel tired and disinterested. This can actually lead them to them perform worse in competition.
Overuse injuries – If a child is unable to adequately rest and recover due to the pressure of competition, they can injure a bone, tendon or muscle.
Loss of interest – Negative experiences early on can reduce the likelihood that your child will engage in future physical activity. Watch for phrases like “It’s not fun anymore!” and “I don’t care.”
How to Foster a Love of Healthy Competition in Kids
Whether you are a supportive parent or a sports coach, the following approaches can be used to help foster healthy competition in kids and give your little one a greater sense of well-being when engaging in sports.
Strategy #1: Modify Expectations
Expectations are normal in the realm of competitive sports (and of course you want your child to succeed), but rather than framing your expectations in terms of winning and losing, it is often more beneficial to frame sport participation as a form of leisure time or social engagement for your child. For example, use dialogue such as,
“You looked like you had a lot of fun playing soccer with the team today!”
Highlight personal bests and growth, rather than focusing on winning. For example,
“This week you swam to the flags. That’s longer than last time – great work!”
Emphasise the importance of your child following through with a commitment once it has been started. Statements such as,
“I am proud of you for playing your best all season!” are really encouraging.
Strategy #2: Visualise the Event
If your child gets nervous leading up to a game, mental exercises like visualisation can be really helpful. For example, if your child is running a race, have them imagine each stage – Walking up to your lane, bending down, taking deep breaths, pushing off the ground and quickly taking the lead, making sure to remember to breathe as you continue to charge through the race.
Tasks like these will help your child prepare for every aspect of the race or game ahead of time (Quirky Kid, 2018).
Strategy #3: Teach Your Child To Self-Check
One way to promote healthy competition in kids is to teaching your child to self-check is a two-part process.
First, check in on physical nerves. Having your child check in on their immediate physical state can help them identify and manage the physical symptoms of anxiety.
The second part of a self-check involves your child reflecting on their thoughts. Is there any self-doubt arising as the event/game gets closer? If yes, encourage your child to try replacing these unhelpful thoughts with more helpful thoughts.
Strategy #4: The Pep Talk
‘Pep talks’ are ubiquitous in competitive sport. Whether led by a captain or coach, these talks are often the last step before the event starts, meaning these words leave a lasting impression. You want to inspire the children and motivate them so they are ready to compete. Be careful, however – there is a fine line between pumping children up and placing unneeded pressure on them.
Recent research suggests that the best pep talks are those that follow a competence support approach (Fransen, Boen, Vansteenkiste, Mertens, & Vande Broek, 2017). Put simply, a pep talk should encourage your child to focus on improving their performance and reflecting on positive times already encountered in previous games, rather than thinking only of winning. Framing a pep talk in this way improves children’s sense of team unity and increases their intrinsic motivation (i.e. self-motivation) to compete – so be sure next time to give this approach a go.
If you notice your child experiencing negative emotions, which are persistent and detrimentally affecting your child’s ability not only to engage in competitive sport, but to effectively function in other areas of life, it may be indicative of a more serious, or potentially more pervasive issue. Here at Quirky Kid, we implement an award-winning program, Power Up!®, designed to enhance mental resilience and performance in young athletes. Should you have any concerns about your child, or are interested in helping them maximise their sporting potential in a healthy way, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.
Brenner, J. S., & Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2007). Overuse injuries, overtraining and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. Paediatrics, 1199(6), doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-0887
Eime, R. M., Young, J. A., Harvey, J. T., Charity, M. J., & Payne, W. R. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing the development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(98). doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-10-98
Fransen, K., Boen, F., Vansteenkiste, M., Mertens, N., & Vande Broek, G. (2017). The power of competence support: The impact of coaches and athlete leaders on intrinsic motivation and performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 28(2). doi: 10.1111/sms.12950
Hansen, D. M., Larson, R. W., & Dworkin, J. B. (2003). What adolescents learn in organised youth activities: A survey of self-reported developmental experiences. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13(1), 25-55. Doi: 10.1111/1532-7795.1301006
Quirky Kid (2018). Power Up! Retrieved from https://childpsychologist.com.au/service/workshops-info/power-up/
At it’s best, parenting can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs in the world. When children get dressed happily in the morning, express gratitude for their dinner, or get on with their homework without a fuss, parents can feel on cloud nine. Too often though children’s demanding, fussy, and oppositional behaviour can lead to arguments, tears and shouting on both sides.
It goes without saying that a calm, consistent approach where clear expectations regarding behaviour are communicated, and where encouragement is provided, works best. However, this can often be easier said than done. Whilst this work is in progress, don’t forget these other valuable strategies for promoting positive behaviour in your child:
Connect with your Child
The word ‘connect’ has become a catch cry in recent years. More and more research evidence points to the importance of feeling connected with others and associated behavioural and emotional wellbeing (Eime,Young, Harvey, Charity, & Payne, 2013; Seppala, Rossomando, & Doty, 2013; Whitlock, Wyman, & Moore, 2014).
Life, for many families, consists of the daily juggle to get out the door on time, get kids to and from activities/sports, and navigate homework demands whilst simultaneously providing balanced, healthy meals. Under this pressure, it’s easy to fall into the habit of simply getting through the day. However, finding time to truly connect with your child can be wonderfully rewarding for you both and can help to strengthen the parent-child bond.
Driving your child to activities, helping them with homework, or standing on the sidelines at sport are all important elements of being a supportive, involved parent. However, remembering to go that little bit extra can do wonders for a parent-child relationship. Setting aside some one-to-one time to connect, away from other family members, can be enormously bonding.
For preschool children, simply sitting down at their level and observing out loud what they are doing is a great way for you both to connect. It’s as simple as providing a running commentary about what they are doing. For example,“you are putting the blue block on top of the yellow one. Now you are making the tower taller by putting a green block on”. It may seem simplistic but most children will enjoy your presence, feel noticed and will respond positively to this interaction.
For primary school aged children, connecting can be as simple as playing a game of UNO, kicking a ball, or making paper planes together. It could also include cooking together, going for a bike ride, or even going away overnight.
As children become teenagers, they show increasingly greater interest in their peers and it’s easy for parents to feel that their opinions no longer matter. This change in parent-child relationship dynamics is not a negative sign, but a developmental progression and research show that adolescents continue to value their parents’ views over their peers, particularly when making serious decisions (Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer, Story & Perry, 2006; Brown & Bakken, 2011).
Here are some suggestions on connecting with your child:
Step 1: Decide on something you might both enjoy. Where children are old enough, agreeing on a plan is a great start.
Step 2: Put your phone/iPad/computer away. This demonstrates to your child that she/he is your number one priority. It also helps you to be mentally present.
Step 3: Make sure you join in with whatever activity you both choose (i.e., if you choose swimming, you ideally need to be prepared to get in the pool).
Step 4: Try to avoid too much ‘instruction-giving’ and do not use this one-to-one time as a chance to lecture about behaviour or past misdemeanours.
The only goal is to have fun together and to finish the activity on a positive note. It’s better to be brief but successful than go on for too long and end in an argument. Give it a try. You might be surprised by how much you learn about your child and how much fun you both have together!
Model How to Behave in Times of Stress
As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Whilst you instil in them a rich factual knowledge of the world, it’s easy to forget how much they learn from watching you. Children are astute observers of behaviour and learn much about emotional expression and self-regulation by keenly observing your behaviour (Gerull & Rapee, 2002, Chambers, Craig & Bennett, 2002). We are often unaware of just how much they take in until we hear our children parrot something they have heard us say to them.
When we shout at children, lose our temper in frustration, or perhaps smack them, we are teaching them that this is the way to behave in times of frustration. Don’t be surprised if you then witness your child engage in similar behaviours. Similarly, if you have a tendency to become anxious or panicked in certain situations, don’t be too surprised if you start to see signs of anxiety in your child (Fisak & Grills-Taquechel, 2007).
By spending a few moments reflecting on your behaviour during times of intense stress (e.g. getting out the door in the mornings), you can take steps to try to regulate your own emotions. Often, the first step is to identify trigger points when you are likely to lose your cool. Don’t be afraid to change the family routine to find a better approach. You can include the children in finding alternative solutions. In doing so, you are demonstrating the skills of problem-solving for your child. Where frustration takes over, try to calm yourself by taking deep breaths or taking a few minutes away from your child to regain your self-control.
This is so much easier said than done, but where you are able to remain calm you are effectively modelling an adaptive way of coping in times of frustration. Don’t be afraid to seek support if you feel that your own anger, worries, or mood are negatively impacting on your parenting style.
As parents, we’ve heard the phrase ‘look after yourself’ on many occasions but the evidence is really there. Children of depressed and/or anxious parents or those living in an environment of constant conflict are more likely to experience emotional difficulties (Elgar, Mills, McGrath, Waschbusch & Brownridge, 2007; Kahn, Brandt & Whittaker, 2004). Find ways to gain social support from those around you or seek help from an experienced Psychologist at Quirky Kid or other qualified psychologists via www.psychology.org.au.
Be Emotionally Responsive
Emotional responsiveness is sometimes referred to as emotion coaching and involves empathically responding to another’s emotions. Put simply, it means giving a name to the emotion that you are seeing in your child. There is evidence to suggest that by labelling emotions, parents help to increase their child’s emotional language skills and, that by accepting and addressing negative feelings in children, parents can promote emotional regulation skills (Gottman, Katz & Hoover, 1997; Whittingham, 2015)
If your child is crying about homework, for example, you might say
“I can see that having to do this homework is upsetting/annoying you”, or “it’s really frustrating when you have to stop playing and and do homework, isn’t it?”.
It is as simple as putting yourself in your child’s shoes and seeing problems from their perspective. It is essential to avoid immediately suggesting solutions to the problem, and to avoid using phrases, such as,
“if you had done it when I told you to do it, you wouldn’t be feeling this way”.
Instead, continue to calmly report back to your child how you think they might be feeling.
As most parents will attest, getting annoyed with your child at such times or telling them to “just get on with it” simply fuels the fire, and everyone can end up angry and upset. By expressing empathy and putting yourself in your child’s shoes, you are helping your child to feel understood and you are promoting positive communication skills in your child. Often children express how they feel through their behavioural outbursts, but ideally, we want them to learn to express their feelings verbally. An emotionally responsive approach can often defuse the situation and help your child feel understood. Sometimes this simple technique is enough to calm the situation. It can also provide a springboard for helping your child to find a more appropriate solution to the problem.
Setting high standards for behaviour can be very beneficial for children. In doing so, however, it is vital to be accommodating of the fact that all children make mistakes and errors of judgement. Making mistakes is part of human nature, and it is one of the myriad of ways in which people learn. As parents, our instinct is to protect or prevent our children from making mistakes, or to be disappointed by some of our children’s mistakes when they occur.
There is concern among researchers that perfectionism in children is increasing (Marano, 2008). Perfectionism is characterised by a fear of making mistakes. Such fear can lead to rigidity of behaviour that stifles creativity and playfulness and can lead to excessive anxiety and avoidance. Marano (2008, p.82) surmises that part of the reason that perfectionism in children is becoming more of an issue is that some parents ‘seek much of their status from the performance of their kids and, as a result, are placing much more pressure on children to achieve than previously’.
As parents, it is important to embrace children’s mistakes, ask the child to reflect on where they went wrong, and then help the child to learn from that experience. Sometimes children are unaware that they have even done anything wrong. In such cases, it is often appropriate to explain the error and together think about how to behave differently next time. The point at which a firmer stance needs to be taken is where the child puts themselves or someone else in danger, or is engaging in a behaviour that may not have an immediate or logical consequence (e.g. bullying).
It helps if parents too can acknowledge their own mistakes (where appropriate) and take responsibility for them, model a calm approach, and verbalise how they will learn from that experience. For example,
“I got up too late this morning and I had to rush everyone out of the door. I apologise for getting angry, and tomorrow I will try not to make that mistake again by getting up earlier”.
Where children repeatedly make the same mistake, it’s important to consider why that is happening. From there, try to find ways to help them learn more appropriate behaviour effectively.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Self-talk is the internal voice in your head and, as parents, we have a constant and busy internal dialogue. Much of our self-talk is not done consciously, but from time to time we notice it when we are are trying to motivate ourselves, or perhaps when we are angry about something. Self-talk can be helpful or unhelpful, and it can have a significant impact on how people view themselves and how they cope in challenging situations. Children learn a lot of their self-talk from others around them. If children hear parents say negative things, such as “I’m hopeless at maths so I can’t help you with your homework’, they too can start to self-talk in similar ways. As parents, we need to model positive self-talk, for example,
“I had a really big project at work today. It was hard but I learned a lot from doing it” or “this lego model was hard, but we managed to do such a good job together. It reminds me that we are such good problem solvers!”.
If, as parents, we show our children that we believe in ourselves, then they too will start to behave in similar ways.
Ackard, D., Neumark-Szatainer., Story, M and Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioural and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 30(1), 59-66. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.09.013
Brown, B. B. and Bakken, J. P. (2011). Parenting and Peer Relationships: Reinvigorating Research on Family–Peer Linkages in Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21:153–165. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00720.x
Chambers, C., Craig, K.D. and Bennett, S.M. (2002). The Impact of Maternal Behavior on Children’s Pain Experiences: An Experimental Analysis. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 27(3), 293–301. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/27.3.293
Elgar, F. J., Mills, R. S., McGrath, P. J., Waschbusch, D. A., & Brownridge, D. A. (2007). Maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and child maladjustment: The mediating role of parental behavior. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 35(6), 943-955. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9145-0
Eime, R. M., Young, J. A., Harvey, J. T., Charity, M. J., & Payne, W. R. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(1), 98. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-10-98
Fisak, B., & Grills-Taquechel, A. E. (2007). Parental modeling, reinforcement, and information transfer: risk factors in the development of child anxiety? Clinical child and family psychology review, 10(3), 213-231. doi: 10.1007/s10567-007-0020-x
Gerull, F. C., & Rapee, R. M. (2002). Mother knows best: effects of maternal modelling on the acquisition of fear and avoidance behaviour in toddlers. Behaviour research and therapy, 40(3), 279-287. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(01)00013-4
Marano, H. (2008). The making of a perfectionist. Psychology Today, 41(2), 80-87. Retrieved from: http://www.flowjunkie.com/PitfallsOfPerfectionism.pdf
Seppala, E., Rossomando, T., & Doty, J. (2013). Social Connection and Compassion: Important Predictors of Health and Well-Being. Social Research, 80(2), 411-430. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24385608
Whitlock, J., Wyman, P. A. and Moore, S. R. (2014). Connectedness and Suicide Prevention in Adolescents: Pathways and Implications. Suicide Life Threat Behaviour, 44: 246–272. doi:10.1111/sltb.12071
Whittingham, K. (2015). Connect and shape: A parenting meta-strategy. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 4, 103-106. doi: 10.1016/j.jcbs.2015.03.002.
We have had the privilege of working with some amazing adolescents over the years, and as a team, we have noticed how creative, connected and educated many of our youth are.
More adolescents are walking through our doors armed with ideas on where they want to head in life, with strong ideals of managing a future work-life balance, being productive with their time and helping others along the way. Our youth are at an age where they are masters of digital communication and used to working in collaborative, team-based contexts where multitasking and connecting through social media has just become the day to day norm – they are young entrepreneurs.
At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we are committed to harnessing the strengths of those we see in the clinic, and often we are talking with families about how to develop the entrepreneurial skills of our youth who are growing up and responding to their world of connectivity, creativity and innovation.
Here are five tips to foster entrepreneurial skills in your adolescent:
1 – Build Resilience
Becoming a young entrepreneur by its nature requires a great deal of resilience. To have the courage to try out something new and manage setbacks and failures in the process requires the strength of character.
Building resilience in children starts from an early age, with children learning how to delay gratification around the preschool years. This ability to understand and feel comfortable with situations in which rewards take time and effort is one of the first building blocks for resilience in our children.
While resilience skills typically develop with age and social interactions, resilience can be fostered and directly taught. Some helpful ways of promoting resilience amongst our adolescents include:
helping them develop problem-solving skills,
ensuring they feel socially connected with peers and their community and embracing their differences.
With adolescence comes a desire to be independent and providing age appropriate independence with clear and consistent limits helps adolescents develop resilience. Eric Greitens (2015), author and Rhodes Scholar wrote:
“Entrepreneurs jump on the wild roller coaster ride of life where the tracks haven’t yet been fully built. They’d have it no other way. They’re happy that way — with the wind in their hair.”
and being resilient is a necessary quality to develop and manage the ride ahead.
2 – Harness Creativity and Personal Experiences
All too often, we as parents and carers can focus on developing compliant children. It comes with the territory of helping our children conform to rules in school, manage their time and activities and be part of a happily functioning family system. Sometimes we can lose sight of just being a kid and the creative and unique ways our children often see the world.
Entrepreneurs need to be creative, seeing opportunity where others have not and taking risks where others don’t dare. Bearing in mind your child’s interests, passions and creative outlets can really help foster their positioning to become entrepreneurs. Take the time yourself to be interested in your child and schedule plenty of time for them to fill with their own interests. Utilising and reframing personal experiences can also be valuable.
Take Bridgette Veneris, the 10-year old Melbourne girl who won the littleBIGidea competition for her invention of an easy-to-use adhesive bandage dispenser (Charpentier-Andre, 2016). Bridgette utilised her experiences while in a hospital recovering from leukaemia to develop a sticky bandage that was quicker and easier to peel off. Ideas and inventions can come from unexpected places, even negative experiences, with the right support and interest.
3 – Develop a Growth Mindset
Children are becoming increasingly exposed to the concept that our abilities and capabilities are not fixed but rather, malleable and changeable.
This growth mindset is becoming part of our children’s language in the educational setting. Children are learning to swap their “I can’t do it” attitude for the “I can’t do it yet, but with effort and support I can!” mindset. Recent advances in neuroscience indicate that our brain has an amazing ability to change in response to situations, attitudes and support.
Parents and carers are positioned to support children’s development of this growth mindset. Entrepreneurs succeed with a growth mindset – they need to be flexible on the start-up roller coaster ride, learn from experiences and attribute failures to things that they can change. Parents can foster a growth mindset in their adolescents by encouraging them to problem solve issues that arise, take a flexible approach with failures and embrace the learning process involved, encourage taking a leap of faith with ideas and praising effort, persistence and self-reflection. Companies such as Google, Apple, Disney and Amazon are known for fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation and risk taking and valuing the growth-mindset of their employees.
4 – Call in the Community
Helping your child connect with those around them that have similar interests as well as complimentary skills will help position them for success in making their ideas not only a reality but a sustainable one. Entrepreneurs not only need great ideas, but they also need to be able to bring ideas to fruition and ensure the scalability and longevity of their enterprises, and having a team around them to provide backing, guidance and reflection is important.
Building a team and support network around your adolescent is an essential ingredient for the making of an entrepreneur. Some ways parents can help is by providing their adolescent with guidance, particularly on their experiences with running a business and managing success and failure, helping their adolescent link in with an appropriate mentor and fostering a network of like-minded adolescents. Adolescents need to know their parents have their backs, even in times of challenge and failure.
5 – Provide Guidance around the Practicalities
To become an entrepreneur requires knowledge around the logistics of how a business works, from understanding how to set up a bank account all the way to the knowing about the commercial guidelines and laws surrounding your business idea and model.
Parents and carers can share their business experiences and facilitate the growth of financial literacy by stepping their adolescent through the processes of setting up bank accounts and navigating business structures. It can be helpful to call on mentors or link your child into courses that may be helpful for their business, e.g.,. Commercial law or coding courses. Of course, parents and carers are also positioned well to help their adolescent understand and learn about self-care and balancing the demands of what comes with becoming an entrepreneur with those of being a child.
Our youth are growing up in an environment which is thriving on connectivity, creativity, and innovation, which for many adolescents, provides a perfect base from which to encourage their strengths and foster their entrepreneurial skills.
Do you want to help your child excel in their field?
Here at Quirky Kid, we run a program to do just this, and it’s called Power Up! Run both at clinics and as a unique online program, Power Up! takes all the essential psychological techniques used by elite performers and makes them accessible to children through the teaching of Performance Psychology.
The word ‘homework’ for many teenagers and their parents evokes feelings of dread, frustration and sheer agony. While most teens and parents understand the reasons for being given homework, namely to help develop sound study habits, to foster learning outside the school environment, consolidate the learning undertaken in class and foster independence and responsibility, homework time can quickly become a battleground in which family tensions can rise to boiling point. The debate surrounding homework and its benefits have been ongoing since the early 20th century.
During the 1940’s homework was given less emphasis as schools moved away from utilising rote- learning and memorisation as a key teaching focus to a more skills-based problem solving approach to learning. Again in the 1960’s, homework was given less emphasis as concerns were raised about it’s detrimental impact on children’s social and recreational activity time. Nowadays, there appears to be a more balanced approach with a recognition of the importance of children enjoying recreational time as well as time engaged in more structured homework activity.
Benefits of Homework
Research is clearly telling us that homework can have significant benefits for a child. Generally speaking, studies are showing us that academic achievement is improved for children who partake in some homework (Cooper, Robinson & Patall, 2006). However, there are additional factors which appear to influence the positive relationship between homework and academic achievement. Firstly, the relevance and applicability of homework appears important, with homework that has clear, specific learning purposes having a stronger positive relationship with academic outcomes.
Additionally, the time spent on homework does not simply have a linear relationship with academic outcome. Interestingly, research suggests that there is a point at which too much time given to homework can be counterproductive and fail to enhance academic achievement for children. Lastly, the amount and type of parental involvement can moderate the benefits of homework. Parental involvement in homework which is over-structured, controlling and negative can diminish the positive effects of homework on achievement for children.
Where should our focus be?
While there are a multitude of factors which may impact on how children respond to homework tasks, such as the family environment, their relationship with the school and teacher, personality factors and learning strengths and weaknesses, children’s organisational skills play an important role in how they achieve academically. Organisational skills are skills that relate to not only a child managing their own belongings and materials (for example, transferring their homework into their diaries and bringing the diary home), but also their ability to plan and allocate time to tasks such as homework (for example, breaking down projects into manageable sections and allocating time to each section accordingly) (Langberg, Epstein, Becker, Girio-Herrera & Vaughn, 2012).
For children in their teens, organisational skills appear to play a significant role in predicting children’s academic achievement (Langberg et al., 2012). The difficulty is, the teen years, particularly those around the transition into high school are a time when children’s organisational skills appear to be most compromised, given the changing environment associated with high school (for example, multiple classroom and teacher changes), increased demands on children to be independent and greater amounts of work (Langberg et al., 2012).
So how can parents help?
Research and clinical experience tells us that parents play an integral role in helping their children manage their homework tasks.
Evaluate your own attitude: Look closely at the messages your child hears or sees from you about homework. It is likely that if you have a negative attitude, your child will also. Reframe homework as a task that is part of every child’s schooling life and focus on the benefits it can bring, such as greater academic confidence, a sense of achievement and important life skills.
Establish a routine: work with your child to develop a shared structure of when and how they will do their homework. Empower your child to be part of the process and let them make some of the choices around homework time. Try to have family routines set, so children can plan homework and other activities around family time such as dinner. With your child, also establish some boundaries, such as charging their phone in another room at homework time and having the TV off as well as an appropriate timeframe for homework completion.
Set the scene: make the best of homework time and ensure your home environment is set up to help your child focus and feel comfortable. Set children up in a quiet area and ensure your child has appropriate seating, lighting and other things necessary for homework, such as pencils, snacks and water. It can also be helpful to look at your child’s goals and focus on how homework may help them achieve those goals (for example, how maths can help them in opening their own cafe).
Natural consequences: rather than engaging in a battle about homework, it may be appropriate for your child to learn the consequences of not handing in their homework given by their school. This may help to develop your child’s sense of responsibility and ownership over homework completion and relieve some of the pressure parents may feel with homework tasks.
Communicate with your school and teacher: find out from your child’s teacher your role in their learning and homework and what added supports you may need to provide for your child. Communication with your child’s teacher on homework tasks can also help you to support your child’s organisational skills, ensuring they are managing their time and on task for homework deadlines.
Timetable relaxation time with plenty of options: exercise and relaxation time are well established to not only be beneficial for our stress levels, mood and physical health, but also for our concentration and attentional abilities. Scheduling time off will help your child develop their own hobbies, skills, gifts and talents and support their learning.
Help your child develop their organisational skills: Helping children become better organised not only enhances the possibility of homework arriving home, but also of it being completed on time! Develop an organisational system to help children remember to write down their homework and bring it home (for example, develop a colour coded timetable for each subject or a checklist for what they need to remember to pack before home time). Visual reminders with pictures of what a child needs to remember can be helpful. Additionally, when your child receives an assignment help them break it down and plan out how they will approach it. It is often helpful for children to work out what is most difficult so they can work on those tasks first when they feel more alert and focused.
Set an example: children will generally find it difficult to go off and start their homework if the rest of the family is enjoying a TV show. When your child is doing their homework try and engage in a similar activity, such as reading, completing your own work or household chores. This demonstrates to your child that you too have discipline and responsibility and that you are respectful to the effort they are putting into their work. Being interested and helpful without being too interfering or directive will also help develop your child’s sense of responsibility and independence in homework tasks. Praise your child for effort and commitment and utilise rewards that are unlikely to compete with homework activities, such as verbal praise and time with you rather than extra TV or iPad time.
Develop incidental learning experiences for your child: take opportunities to learn outside desk-based homework time. This will help foster your child’s enjoyment in the learning process.
Recognise when things are difficult: Some children find learning more difficult than others and may find homework tasks overwhelming and deflating. If you are concerned your child is having significant difficulty with their homework tasks, consult with their teacher and utilise resources that may be available, such as homework club, learning support or tutoring. Most schools have a homework policy which may be helpful in reviewing homework for your child.
While homework can be a tricky time, particularly for teens and their parents, supporting children in developing their organisational skills, sense of independence and responsibility can help foster a sense of achievement and confidence that will help set them up for future success!
1. NSW Government Education and Communities Public Schools NSW Fact Sheet: Homework: a parent guide http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/homework/index.php
2. Langberg, J., Epstein, J., Becker, S., Girio-Herrera, E. & Vaughn, A. (2012). Evaluation of the Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention for Middle School Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as Implemented by School Mental Health Providers. School PSychology Review, 41 (3), 342-364.
3. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.
4. Knollmann, M. & Wild, E. (2007). Quality of parental support and student’s emotions during homework: Moderating effects of students’ motivational orientations. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XXIII (1), 63-76.