For many parents, the process by which a child gets good results in school and obtains the skills to succeed in college is a mystery. When grades go south, even savvy moms and dads sometimes struggle to put things back on track.
Discipline and consistency underlie everything that parents must do to help their children master homework assignments and acquire effective study skills. Parents must be attentive to the creation and application of sound study rules, and those who are will get better results than those who are not.
The following suggestions will help parents improve their children’s chances of success in school:
1. Make a study-night rule
The most important times in a child’s study life are the evenings before schooldays. Those hours should be set aside for quiet study activities. They must be held sacred even if the child claims not to have homework or to have completed it. The schoolwork of good students is never finished.
2. Limit extra-curricular activities
Wise parents place restrictions on the activities in which their children engage outside of regular school hours. One approach is to allow the child to choose a modest number of afterschool commitments each year. Another is to dictate the number of nights per week that non-academic interests can occupy. Yet another might be to permit the selection of one sport and one musical endeavor per semester.
3. Create a nook for studying
If you can afford to purchase a desk, that’s great, but making a place to study does not have to cost money. In high school, I had an old desk in my room that I enjoyed using, but before that, I studied on a shelf in my closet and loved it! I ran an extension cord to a small lamp, and I felt cozy, warm, and peaceful in my little sanctum.
The choice of a study spot depends on the personality of the child. Some kids want to be left alone to do their work while others need to be within hearing distance of the people in the house. Still others may prefer to see their parents from their study nooks. Whatever may be the case, a comfortable area for studying is a must.
4. Purchase plenty of study tools
Aside from being necessary for the completion of homework assignments, study tools contribute to a learning atmosphere. Surrounding oneself with pencils, pens, paper, erasers, staplers, tape dispensers, computers, printers, scanners, notebooks, textbooks, calculators, etc., is stimulating and pleasant. When you buy these materials, the child knows you mean business. The investment in study tools invites a commitment to use them.
5. Set regular (and early) bedtimes
Young children need a lot of sleep and should be in bed by 8:00 or so on school nights. Teenagers require somewhat less, but studies show that academic performance is enhanced if they get around nine hours of sleep a night. In addition, setting routine bedtimes helps children organize their evenings and use study time more efficiently.
6. Establish a quiet atmosphere
If your kids are to study effectively, you must create an atmosphere that is conducive to it. The sacrifice is twofold—the children must study, and the parents must be quiet to facilitate it. Some households have standing rules, like no television or video games on nights preceding schooldays.
7. Eliminate all other options
On school nights, your children must feel that studying is the only available option. The Internet, the telephone, television, video games, and similar distractions must be off limits. Once the rules are clear, spats about how evenings should be spent will subside, and study time will go smoothly.
8. Be nearby
Kids need to feel supported as they do their homework. Once you’ve indicated to them that studying is the highest priority, you must show them that it’s true. Wise parents remain close by and involved as their children do their homework.
9. Be an example
If you are studious, your children will likely follow your lead. As you hang out nearby in your quiet house during your child’s study hours, reading books and magazines helps set the tone. Your good example furthers your kids’ study habits and connects you on several levels.
10. Show enthusiasm about the subject matter
If you are genuinely interested in the classes your children are taking, your attitude may be contagious and contribute to their engagement with their homework. Even if you’re not knowledgeable about the material, you should try to become familiar with the subjects in your children’s curricula.
11. Schedule breaks
You should allow your children to take periodic breaks. Most teens work well for half an hour or so, but then they need to do something else for a few minutes.
The rest periods should not consist of watching television, playing video games, or engaging in other activities that significantly interrupt study momentum. They must, though, include getting up to stretch and walk around a bit. You might invite the youngsters to the kitchen to enjoy a healthful snack, like a piece of fruit or a glass of milk, and then hustle them off to study again.
12. Review the homework
Even if you don’t fully understand the homework assignment or the subject matter, reviewing your child’s work is important. At a minimum you can ensure that the job is completed, that it’s neat and organized, and that it appears to correspond to the assignment. If the child has put in good effort, showing the result to someone of authority is gratifying.
13. Give lavish praise
This may be the most important point of all. Generally, kids respond better to praise than to criticism. If you compliment your child on a job well done at the end of the evening, your positive vibes will make subsequent homework sessions more pleasant.
14. Stay in touch with the teachers
Parents’ active participation in their children’s school experiences is imperative. Communicating with teachers includes attending open houses, after-school events, and parent-teacher conferences as well as tracking homework, test scores, and grades on the school’s website. Parents who are on top of things know immediately when their children slip up.
15. Know your child’s limitations
Your wisdom and insight contribute greatly to your child’s accomplishment of homework tasks. When your child has had a rough day, is especially tired, or is becoming ill, adjusting the study regimen is appropriate. Knowing when and how much to lighten the load is an important parenting skill.
Hopefully, these suggestions encompass most of the factors that contribute to a child’s success in completing homework assignments and acquiring effective study skills. If you think of something to add, please comment below. I shall address specific study techniques in another article.