A pet peeve of many parents is getting their child to study! As parents, we are ready to make compromises on almost everything else, but not on encouraging our children to give their 100% to academics. And yet, this is one area where they dig their heels in and make us push harder and harder. While there is no magic in the world that can make a child take naturally to studying, there are many small things that you can do to help your child develop good study habits.
It is important to start inculcating good study habits in your child at a young age, not necessarily because you want him to be a topper, but simply to instil in him the values of discipline, commitment and hard work. And you will be pleasantly surprised to see that, in due course, these values transfer to other areas of his life as well.
So read on for some tips and best practices.
When to study
- Study time should be regular. Encourage your child to study a little every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, and preferably at the same time every day, so he learns to fit in study-time into his daily routine. Even if he has no homework, you can set him some work to do – tables to repeat, formulae to memorise or worksheets to complete – just so that he understands the importance of regular study.
- Don’t allow your child to procrastinate – “can I do this tomorrow please?” The more you put something off, the more difficult it becomes to start on it (even adults face this problem on a day-today basis!).
- Get siblings to study at the same time so they don’t disturb one other.
- Older children, given their heavy workloads, may be required to study over weekends as well. Plan the weekend well by ear-marking blocks of study-time, so your child has enough time for leisure, even as he gets his school work done.
Where to study
- Create a small study area within your home – some place that is relatively quiet and allows the child to study in solitude. This could be a study, the child’s bedroom or even the parents’ bedroom – away from noise, distraction and television. Designating a specific place as the ‘study area’ gives him a sense of the importance of studying. All study material should also be easily accessible here – from books and writing materials to reference materials and water – so that he does not need to interrupt his studying to get the things he needs.
Tips for the older child: how to enhance study effectiveness
- Good study habits call for good planning and time management skills. Whether studying for an examination, or workingon an assignment, it is important that your child has a plan in place. Based on the project deadline or examination date, he can work backwards and draw up a timetable that shows him how much he needs to study each day, or a schedule that outlines how to break up the project into easily-digested portions. Planning has manifold benefits – it prevents him from feeling overwhelmed because he can actually visually understand how to complete his work on time; it avoids the fatigue of taking on too much at a stretch; and of course, planning well and completing tasks on time also helps avoid last-minute stress and omissions, while giving him enough time for revisions.
- Effective studying calls for a clear and focused mind. Ensure that your child takes regular breaks during extended study periods – experts generally recommend taking a 10-minute break after 60 minutes of continuous study. Equally important is what he does during this break – the objective of the break is to refresh and clear the mind and come back ready to focus for another hour orso of study. Of course, how he achieves this will depend on your child. Physical exercise refreshes some children, while others may prefer to listen to music or chat with friends. Find out what works best for your child and help him do whatever he needs to clear his mind for studying – whether this is yoga, deep breathing, going for a run around the block, eating a snack or simply reading a non-academic book.
- Note-making can be useful in enhancing study effectiveness. Writing down important points as he reads will helpreinforce them; notes also function as a synthesis of what he has studied and can be later used for reference and recapitulation.
- Revision is an essential aspect of studying. When your child completes a certain concept or unit of study, ensure that he revises it so he can be confident he has retained the main points. This is one area where the parent can get involved, asking the child to recapitulate what he has learned. Older children can self-revise by doing mock-tests.
- While all of us want our children to study the syllabus and be thorough with what they need to know for the examination, one life-long habit that we would do well to inculcate in them is that of ‘learning’ as opposed to simply ‘studying.’ So encourage your child to read beyond the prescribed material and try to understand the topic in a variety of ways – through research, by watching relevant documentaries, working with supplementary material like workbooks and CDs, etc. Not only will this give him a wider perspective on a subject, but will also make studying more fun and impactful by varying the monotony of reading from a textbook. While this kind of learning is especiallyrelevant for older children, you can start early by introducing younger children to different resources as well.
- Many children think nothing of copying copious amounts of information from the internet or from an encyclopaediaand reproducing it as is. While this was ignored, and even accepted until a few years ago, schools and teachers today do not take such a lenient view of plagiarism. Encourage your child to understand, analyse and synthesise as opposed to merely reproducing. Train your child to read from different sources, understand the topic, and then synthesise what he has learned in his own words, while adding on his point of view as well.