Below are three good study habits for kids which will help them succeed at school. Most parents do what they can to ensure their child does well in school. They put their kids to bed early enough for a good night’s sleep, they feed them a healthy breakfast, they take the time to discuss their day when they return home and, finally, they make sure their child completes their homework. While all of these rituals are important, there are three habits parents can instill in their child which will help them succeed at school.
1. Teach your child beneficial study habits…early.
As educators we are taught children’s work and study habits are set by age eight or nine. This is why children need help fostering this skill at a young age. There are two steps parents can take to help develop this important habit.
First, children do what children see. It will help your child to see you do your ‘homework’. Such as, work on the grocery list or a task from your job. Make an effort to show the child you are putting your task before watching TV or other recreational activities. Have one parent tell the other parent in front of the child how pleased they are seeing their partner doing that task. They could say to the child: “Aren’t we proud of Mom (or Dad) for doing their work before they play!” This is vicarious reinforcement. According to Bandura’s social learning theory we are more likely to imitate a person who is reinforced for their behavior.
Second, in order to develop the good habit of studying, parents need to be consistent in having their child sit down every school night to study. A first grader should begin the habit of sitting for 10 minutes to practice with flash cards, reading, or a single worksheet. Of course, as children get older, the time should increase. A general rule of thumb is 10 minutes of homework multiplied by each grade level as a total per day, not per class or subject. (Grade 1 – 10 minutes; Grade 12 – 120 minutes).
2. Reward results rather than effort or time spent.
You may think your child spent two hours on homework, not knowing they found many distractions that interfered with any progress. Now that so much homework is done on computers, kids will appear to have been working for hours on a paper, when in reality a whole lot of time was spent surfing the net or chatting with friends. So, rewarding or praising them for spending two hours on homework, without first verifying they were working on legitimate homework, is really rewarding them for finding a way not to do the real homework assignment.
Many kids will respond to this approach: look at their homework assignments ahead of time and tell them the sooner they finish the homework to your satisfaction, the sooner they will be free to do their own activities. Therefore you are rewarding results, not time spent and therefore teaching your child the habit of focusing on getting the work done first so they can then chat with friends and update their Facebook status.
3. Teach children quality of work.
It is a common problem, even with the brightest of kids, to rush through their work. Teach children early the importance of doing their best work. Again, setting examples through work they see you do is important but also a big piece is holding the child accountable for rushed work. Point out the reasons why the teacher gave credit and why he/she took off credit. Again use vicarious reinforcement. That is, tell dad, or brother or someone when the child is in earshot how well they did on a homework task or how well they participated when you reviewed their completed homework or graded papers from school. Students who have been made to redo a rushed assignment soon learn it’s easier to do it right the first time.
These habits should be modified as the child gets older, but generally the same strategies would apply throughout the child’s school years. The older the child is, the more difficult it can be to correct problems, particularly if the child’s academic difficulties are related to poor habits and attitude toward school. Good habits can last a lifetime. Start your child young for a bright academic future.
Please comment below to add any of your own ideas that may help other parents.
This article first appeared in The Light Magazine, February 2013.