Are you sick of nagging your kids to do their homework? Are you worried about their grades, or disappointed that they’re not doing as well as you know they can?
As parents, we want our kids to reach their full potential, and that includes doing well in school and sharpening the skills for their future career. But there’s only so much that nagging can do. Ideally, our kids should have the right study habits so they can do their homework independently, and do it well. Here are some tips.
1. Limit TV.
Television isn’t just a distraction. Kids who are used to watching television tend to have shorter attention spans, because information is spoon-fed to them. They don’t need to use their imagination, and they can grow impatient with classroom lectures because their teacher doesn’t sing, use special effects, or talk in 30-second soundbytes like their favorite shoes.
So limit television hours. Kids may watch a favorite show, but they shouldn’t lazily surf through channels waiting for something interesting. Never place a television in a child’s room or study area. You can also program newer units to shut down at particular times of the day, ‘locked’ to a code that only you know.
2. Set up a study area.
It should be in a quiet corner of the house, away from windows or walkways where they’ll easily be distracted by noise or the movement of passersby. Position the table so your child faces a blank wall. Make sure the area is well-lit, and that books, pens and other study materials are within reach. You can even invite your children to decorate this place so they feel like it’s their ‘special spot’ and will enjoy going there. However, make sure the study area doesn’t become a dumping ground of toys and memorabilia. Those belong in their bedroom or ‘recreation area’—this is the place where they ‘work.’
3. Set study hours.
Kids should study even if they don’t have homework or a test. Every day, at a set time (like 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.) they should review their notes, or get a head start on tomorrow’s lesson. Block off that time and ban phone calls, TV, games or play dates.
Ideally, study time should be scheduled after your child has had a meal and is properly rested. Younger kids should also have been able to run around and shake off that excess energy.
Set realistic expectations, too. High school students can sit down and read for an hour, but a first-grader can only take about 15 to 20 minutes before getting restless. (You an help younger kids by breaking homework into smaller, manageable tasks and giving breaks in between.)
4. Set up a goal-and-reward system.
Kids respond well to motivation. Instead of nagging at them to study (and yelling at them if they don’t), set goals and then praise and reward them when they succeed. For example, if your child has a book report due at the end of the month, set an internal deadline. ‘Read five chapters by Week 1, another five chapters by week 2, and then write the draft by week 3, and finetune by week 4.’ Then, agree on a reward. Extra 30 minutes of television? A star on a chart, where he eventually earns a new toy or book?
If your child is able to accomplish that ‘mini-goal’ then keep your promise. If he doesn’t, don’t be a pushover and give him a treat just because he’s upset. Eventually he’ll realize that actions have consequences and push himself to get the results he wants.
5. Give him the right tools to succeed.
Invest in good study materials: educational books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases. Also, monitor your child’s performance to see what areas he needs help in. If he’s struggling with Math, then you may need to buy additional Math activity books or a software program that teaches the concepts in a fun but effective way. Talk to your child’s teacher. He or she may be able to recommend additional reference materials, or even give extra homework so your child will be able to practice more.
6. Set a good example.
You’ve heard the adage: ‘Children listen to what you do, not what you say.’ Do you often complain about the office and how your crazy boss makes you do stupid things? Then your children won’t believe you when you preach about working hard and respecting authority. Do you watch a lot of TV? Then don’t expect your kids to behave any differently when you’re not around to nag.
Show your kids about the value of learning by learning new things yourself. Talk excitedly about a hobby or a book you’re reading, and take pride in a job well done—whether it be a sales report, or a well-cooked meal. If children see that mom and dad have a strong work ethic and never stop trying to improve themselves, then they’ll say: ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like you.’ And studying hard is one way of doing that.