Little Stars Kids Tutoring Hot Tips!

  1. DON’T TALK IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILD! UNLESS IT IS ABOUT THEIR AWESOMENESS: Don’t talk about your child in front of them to any other person:  your child is most likely very attuned to the adults in their world talking about them; their history, their behaviours etc.  Unless you are saying how awesome they are, communicate via phone or email with other people, including their tutor, when they aren’t there.  Sometimes you might want to tell the tutor about problems with school or learning in front of them, avoid this as it will activate their shame shield and you won’t get good work out of them.


  1. WHERE IS YOUR CHILD DEVELOPMENTALLY? Remember a lot of children impacted by trauma are developmentally stuck and are often half their age or sometimes younger. You can usually tell this by what they look like when they feel under threat. This can be hard if your child is chronologically 11 years old but developmentally 7 years (and street smarts of a 19 year old). If you suspect your 10 year old child is developmentally 5 or 6 – approach them like you would a 5 or 6 year old and you will get better engagement.


  1. SET UP FOR SUCCESS! Make sure your child is fed and watered.
    1. Research into the effects of brain functioning show children have less resources to manage cognitively than adults when they are dehydrated and one study found a cognitive loss of up to 40%! Make sure your child has their water bottle with them for their session.
    2. There is research that also indicates that children impacted by trauma have quicker blood sugar spikes than children who have not been impacted by trauma. High protein snacks regularly help with keeping blood sugars up and brains functioning.
    3. Give the tutor a heads up via email or text if they haven’t had a good day at school or aren’t having a great day – this would allow the tutor to activate plan B and spend more time on connection if required. More on scaffolding next time and how to prepare a plan B for these days.
    4. Does your child have sensory issues? Be mindful of their tolerance to noises, personal space or touch.  Sensory processing disorders or a “sensory profile” is common with children in out of home care.


  1. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: You might expect your tutor to lift your child from a prep reader to a year 5 reader in four weeks.  Talk to your tutor about what your requirements are, the plan is to engage and teach them and that sometimes it might just look like they are playing.  Rest assured your child will achieve success but there is some ground work to do first.  More tips on this one to come.


  1. READY TO LEARN! Get your child used to the phrase of “ready to learn”.  Often they associate learning with negative experiences, we want to show them that learning can be fun!  Next newsletter we can create some “ready to learn” visual aids for your child.


  1. CONNECTION: Your child will not work with their tutor without a connection.  They will have a magnitude of different people who come in and out of their life and will most likely be wary of new strangers.  Encourage connection with your child and their tutor before anything else – remember a weak connection will yield disengagement and a lot of “no’s”.  Ideas to connect
    1. PLAYFUL ENGAGEMENT – THE POWER OF FUN! (PLAY disarms fear      PLAY builds connections       PLAY teaches social skills       PLAY teaches competencies).  To begin with, you may need to do a lot of play based learning with your child that may not look like learning (as above on managing expectations).    More ideas on play based learning to come.
    2. MATCHING: matching is a good way to test how connected your child is to you.  Think games where you get an opportunity to match and they can match with you.
      1. “The my favourite…” game – take turns to ask things with your child (my favourite dinner, colour, ice cream, super hero, flower, movie, song) if your child starts matching your favourites – it is a good indication they feel connected to you. See if there is anything you can match to your child!  You will also get to know a bit about your child and if you can show them in little ways you remember the things they like – bonus points.
      2. Mirror game: this strengthens mirror neurons in the brain and also strengthens neural connection. Stand in front of each other and take it in turns to move slowly and the other person has to follow you like a mirror image.  Make it silly!
      3. Silent matching: if you have a reluctant chlid who won’t look at you or engage.  Sit down and match what they are doing quietly.  This gives the child the sense of presence.  If they get up and move away, you have more work to do!!
    1. EYE CONTACT: This changes brain chemistry as well.  Because of neural disruptions to their brain, sometime your child won’t be versed in eye contact, more so if they have ADHD,  ASD or FASD.  If you are trying to get them to listen, stop and get them to look at you in the eye – make it fun “hey!  Show me those purple eyes of yours!”.  When you do this enough, they will switch on quickly to look at you when giving instructions.  It’s also good to check in on what you are going to do.  EG:  “First we are going to finish this line and then we will have a brain break and do something fun.”
    2. HEALTHY TOUCH: offer high 5’s to your child or develop a special greeting handshake (google Mr Barry White Jnr handshakes).  Sometimes our children don’t get too much healthy touching like cuddles as people are worried about doing this.  When we don’t teach healthy touch, our children may only know unhealthy touching such as hitting.


  1. TRANSITIONING: get into the habit of transitioning your child for what is to come.  A lot of children need a lot of predictability and won’t do well with sudden change.  If you have a child who really struggles to focus and move to the next task, use more transitions “Okay, we have two more lines to read before we do our next brain break” “ready, one more line to read before we do our brain break”.  “Okay, we are going to do a 2 minute brain break and then do two more lines and you get to choose how we end today”.  Kmart have some awesome 2 minute glitter timers at the moment for $5.  They can be used and managed by your child to help with transitioning.


  1. PROCESS PRAISE: we want to give lots of praise to motivate and encourage our children but not all praise is created equal!  Check out the work of Carol Dweck for more.
    1. Process praise is what we should be aiming for as it builds intrinsic motivation (internal motivation to do it again) as opposed to extrinsic motivation (motivation to please you). When we use process praise we are emphasising what our children have done and the efforts they have made.   Examples of process praise is “I really like how you stuck with that math’s problem and worked it out!” or “that word was really hard at first but that was great how you sounded it out and figured it out by yourself”.  Think of yourself as a commentator and commentate back to your child what efforts you saw them make.
    2. Behaviour praise: again we are being the commentator and relaying back to them what behaviour we saw and giving positive praise. “I saw you really wanted to get up and play with the cat when it walked past but you didn’t!  you stuck with what you were doing and finished your work, great job!”.  This is effective praise for your child and a great positive reinforcer.
    3. Personal praise: This one is the least effective and tends to focus either on the skills or talent of your little star or is general.  If children aren’t very confident in their abilities to learn, they often lose motivation and are less likely to try new things.


  1. GROWTH MINDSET: This also comes from the work of Carol Dweck but is super relevant to a lot of your children who may not have much experience with success, especially educationally.  Growth mindset teaches children to become more resilient and work harder than those with a fixed mindset.  If your child often says “I can’t do maths, I’m too dumb” or something like this, then they have a fixed mindset.  We want to cultivate a growth mindset and the best way to start is by adding the “yet…” to the end of that statement.  “you mean you can’t do this math’s problem yet, but I remember last week you smashed the maths we did together by the end of our hour!  Let’s keep working on this”.  More growth mindset tips to come.

Kerri Chard, independent child protection consultant and authorised TBRI practitioner

Kerri is a leading voice in Child Protection with a background in psychology and over two decades of professional experience in the Non-Government and Government Sectors. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with families impacted by intergenerational trauma, abuse and neglect. She has spent significant time supporting families in the court system along with managing a regional intake service to determine intervention responses to ensure the Childs’ safety needs. She has developed award winning interventions within the Education sector, assisting schools to better understand complex developmental trauma and support children in the education system as well as bringing trauma informed curriculums into the classroom.

Kerri is Queensland’s leading Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) practitioner, having studied directly with Dr David Cross and the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development team. TBRI® is an attachment based, trauma informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children and is a parenting model that is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect and/or trauma.TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, youth workers, teachers or anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child learn to trust, regulate and reach his or her highest potential.

Kerri has spent time working in the USA with leaders and innovators helping children heal from their trauma. She is well known for her passionate yet pragmatic approach to the complex issue of Child Protection.