Good homework habits

Sarah Larkin has the following tips to help your child to develop good study and homework habits.

Helping your child to work out sums and equations, or find meaning from poetry can be challenging, but it demonstrates to your kids that that what they are doing is important. It’s a good idea to pay attention to your child’s rhythms and help him find the right time to begin his work. Some children work best by doing homework right after school; others need a longer break and must run around before tackling the work. Most will need a snack.

If your child does after-school activities, set a homework time before or after the activity, or after dinner. Creating a regular study routine will eventually become natural for your child to know when they have to study and how long to spend on different subjects or topics they may have. Whatever routine you choose, help your child stick to it. Here are some good homework habits you might want to think about.

Eat smart

Diet plays an important part in your child’s brain activity and behaviour. The nutrients they get in their diet can help to improve growth and development of the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids can boost their brains, strengthen their immune systems and lift their mood. It is also claimed that these fatty acids can help to improve behaviour, reduce anxiety and improve language skills. Oil-rich fish like salmon are an excellent source of omega-3 faty acids DHA and EPA.

Research has shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet have sharper minds and do better at mental skills tests. Try giving your child a daily fish oil supplement if they don’t eat oil-rich fish every week. Also, make sure that your child eats breakfast every day, as it is vital for school-age kids. Research has shown that breakfast-eaters do better academically and have fewer behaviour problems than those who skip the all-important first meal of the day.

Minimise distractions

Technology has a big impact on how children study. Make sure that your child doesn’t become distracted by other non-study related websites or games. TV and any other possible distractions should be switched off or taken out of the room where your child is studying.


Showing your child how to keep organised and on top of everything while they study can make things much easier for them. Get a large calendar, one that allows space for jotting down things in the daily boxes. Take it apart so that you (and your child) can sequentially mount the school months for the current term.

For example, you can tear off September, October, November, December, and January and mount across one wall. Get your child to use a bold colour felt tip pen to mark exam dates in one colour, reports that are coming due in a different colour, etc. This will serve as a reminder so that things aren’t left until the very last minute.


Dictionaries can be handy to keep around the house, in different languages too, if your child is studying a foreign language or needs to look up meanings and spell-checks. Keep them in an accessible place and let your child see you refer to it from time to time.

Independent learning

While it is important to sit with your child and show them how to get to grips with the basics of studying and helping them with any problems they may have, you should also find the time to step away and let them study on their own. They may be reliant on you in the beginning, but over time, they should only need to call you when they have a problem or for any specific need.

Test preparation

From the moment your child is told of an upcoming test in school, the preparation should begin a week or few days before the day of the test. This will help your child to know the important information early, which will leave more time for revision.

On the day of an exam or test, help your child relax and remind them of all the preparation they have done; building their confidence and giving them tips and tricks if they are stuck or anxious is a step towards successful studying. Writing the most important points on a card for your child to look over before sitting an exam can help to refresh their minds of the essentials just before they sit down to do the exam.

Study tips and tricks

  • Saying a problem out loud can help a child understand it in a much clearer way.
  • Write the solutions out on paper. Keep these pieces of paper as examples for similar problems.
  • Use colour – highlight or underline key points to remember.
  • Drawings can help some children remember key points.
  • Rhymes or words can also be a trigger for remembering.

Don’t be tempted to do your child’s homework. Teachers use homework to find out what the child knows. They do not want parents doing their children’s homework but do want parents to make sure homework is completed and review any mistakes to see what can be learned from them.

Boost your child’s confidence by sitting down with them to figure something out if they don’t get something right away and give them lots of praise once the task is completed.

“Homework always seems to coincide with me trying to get dinner ready and crazy hour with the younger children …. so it can turn into a very stressful situation. I have been given advice to give my daughter Rachel a quiet area for her homework and study. I give her time to try and complete her homework and then if she needs help, I go and give her one-on-one time to finish it. It seems to be working well.”

– Becky Dore

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….