Some children are blessed with the gift of good study habits, while others hate studying. Helping a child with poor Study Skill benefits the parent, the teacher, and the struggling student. You can take a number of proactive steps to help your children develop better study habits and skills. Remember: discipline is important, but your child will do their best work if they are motivated by the joy of learning.
Set up a reward system. We are wired to believe that our work should be rewarded, so make studying rewarding. One less chore, an extra dollar in their allowance, more TV time—whatever motivates your kids and works in your household. Make sure that you clearly explain how the system works, then stick to that system. There are two ways to “bribe” your kids:
- Tell your child that if they study, they can get something. For instance: If they study for an hour today, they can get a chocolate bar, or an extra 30 minutes of free time. Some children may not take the offer
- Tell your child if they don’t study, then they don’t get something. For instance: If they don’t study for an hour today, they don’t get to catch up with their friends.
Inspire your children with goals. Studying can feel pointless and abstract for children when they don’t see where it is all leading. Make sure that they understand where studying can take them. Talk to them about how studying can improve their grades, which will, in turn, increase the amount of colleges they can go to—which can empower them to do anything they might want to do in the future!
Engage your child by relating less “fun” topics to the subjects that they love. Most kids will naturally click better with certain subjects. Over time, they may learn to love the subjects that come easy and dislike the topics that take more work. This dislike can lead kids to shut down when things get harder and find excuses as to why they don’t need to do it. Catch this early, before your child teaches themselves that they don’t need math because, “who really uses algebra anyways?” Help them understand that school is more fun when they follow their interests, but that it can also be important to be well-rounded.
- One way to stop this is to relate the subject they don’t understand to a subject they excel at. Use examples and comparisons. For instance, if your son loves history but hates math, you might try to engage him with the history of numbers; tell him stories about famous mathematicians to add a bit of romance to the subject; or help him understand how mathematical methods like carbon dating help us better understand historical timelines.
Consider enrolling your child in advanced programs for subjects that they find interesting. If your daughter hates doing her English homework, but spends hours working on science experiments, consider enrolling her in a science camp or a STEM youth program. If your son doesn’t like to study for his tests, but jumps at the chance to practice playing music, encourage his musical development by enrolling him in a youth orchestra or hiring a music tutor. If you make it clear that your child must maintain some level of engagement in the “boring” classes to keep learning about what they love, you may be able to teach a sort of working discipline by getting your kid excited to learn.
Teach your children to learn, not just to study. Encourage them to learn new things every day, even if they’re small things. All the studying in the world will be empty rigor if your child doesn’t understand what it means to learn—and to love learning. Show your child the joy of learning, and you may not need to make them study.
- Take your child to public spaces that will stimulate their mind. Take them to an air-and-space museum, a natural history museum, an art museum, or an aquarium. Take them to the library, to the zoo, or to a play. Take them somewhere that they will still be talking about in a week.
- Find interactive ways for your child to learn at home. Show them documentaries, give them educational games, or give them books. Ask them questions, and teach them to question the world around them.
Find “fun” ways to study. Use flash cards, a personalized study guide, or sticky notes around your child’s room; you can even encourage your kid to study with friends over email. Think outside the box. Perhaps the material isn’t the reason that your child doesn’t like to study—perhaps it’s the way that the material is laid out. Try different methods and tweak your child’s study system until it works.
- If your child wants to study in a particular way, to make it fun, then do just that. If they don’t mind, or they simply don’t want to study, it is still good to suggest ideas that might catch their attention.