It's much easier to assist elementary school-aged children or middle-schoolers with their studies than it is to help your high school student. Why? Well, for one, the content is much easier in younger grades. Anyone remember the sum and difference formulas in Trig? Yeah, me neither. Another reason is the whole responsibility thing. When do you start insisting that your kid become completely responsible for his or her own studying? Should you ever? Whatever your belief system, parents cannot shut off the impetus that drives them to want to help their kid study in high school. Often, the role of the parent regarding studying in high school is one of guidance vs. facilitation. Here are four ways to do just that.
#1: If Your Kid Is Studying Alone: Create a Study Environment
Why It Works: Teenagers like results as much as parents do. Truly. Your kids do care about their grades – they want to be successful, too! However, if the task seems too difficult or overbearing, they won't want to complete it. (Why struggle for nothing?) And studying in a noisy room or a room unsuitable for concentration is one of those "too difficult" scenarios.
How It Works: Set up a spot in the house designated for studying. It could be in your teen's bedroom, your covered back porch, an office or another secluded spot. Equip that study spot with everything your kid needs to be successful: a desk or table with a chair, a computer, highlighters/pens/paper, etc. Let your high-schooler customize and organize things in a helpful way. When your kid has a test coming up, he or she is to head to that spot to prepare when studying alone.
*Note: Many parents have a rule about having computers in bedrooms, and if that's your situation, then set up a study spot in a room that's far away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Kids need some privacy and quiet to concentrate! It's impossible not to listen in to the comings and goings of the house if your kid is studying in front of the TV or in the kitchen.
The Payoff: Scores will go up if your high school kid can spend even one hour a night focusing on homework. Much of your kid's current "study time" is spent on some sort of study distraction: Facebook, phone time, etc. If you give him or her a great study environment and enforce some studying ground rules (see #2), your high school kid will be more equipped to score well on exams.
#2: If Your Kid Is Studying Alone: Establish Some Study Expectations
Why It Works: Teenagers need parameters. Sure, they won't always follow them, but if your expectations are very high, even if they aim for just below your goals, they'll do better than if you'd never set an expectation at all. (A kid with no curfew could come home at 2:00 AM. A kid with an 11:00 PM curfew may come home at midnight but will still be home earlier than 2:00 AM). Study rules should be set so your teenager knows the kinds of things that will make him or her the most successful when he or she is studying solo.
How It Works: Sit down with your kid to determine the goals he or she has set for the semester (A-average, raising a grade in Spanish, etc.). If your teenager doesn't have any, set some goals together. Make them SMAART! Then, explain that you'd like to help him or her reach those goals, so you'll need help in setting up some expectations for the study sessions. Together, you could come up with some rules like "Facebook and cell phones can be used after you're ready for the test or iPods should be set to great music for studying, etc." Decide on some sort of reward system to enforce the ground rules (B's or above on the report card gets a later curfew on Friday nights?) and see if it makes a difference. If your kid's grades are slipping, you'll know that the study rules aren't being kept (and your kid will know that you know.
The Payoff: Sometimes, a kid truly doesn't realize what he or she needs to do to be successful while studying. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn't always clear to him or her! Just by setting up some basic "ground rules" for the study session will help your kid realize that you're devoted to helping him or her be the most effective studiers possible.
#3: If Your Kid Needs a Study Partner: Schedule Time Each Week
Why It Works: Everyone has a busy life. Your kids have family time/activities/homework/friends and you have work/house stuff/family time/the gym. When do you fit in studying with your kid? At least once a week. Your kid will benefit from the weekly time, especially if he or she is an unmotivated learner, and you will benefit from knowing exactly what your kid is up to in school. "Hey, let me see that quiz from last week! Yes, I remember that you had a quiz."
How It Works: Make studying with your kid a weekly commitment, just like a weekly staff meeting is. On Sunday, sit down and schedule a time that's open for both you and your child. Check your schedules and put it on the home calendar, so you both know it's coming up. Stay flexible each week, allowing for sports games, school events, late nights at work, etc. But even if you have to break plans with a coworker, be sure to keep your study date with your teenager. It'll backfire if you don't, because teenagers have an uncanny way of calling you out on double standards!
The Payoff: If your kid knows that this Thursday night at 7:00 PM, you're going to be meeting with him or her for an hour to help explain the best mnemonics for remembering details about the American Revolution, then your kid is going to be more on the ball because someone is checking up! When you DO study with your kid, be sure to use a positive approach to studying as described in #4.
#4: If Your Kid Needs a Study Partner: Use a Positive Approach
Why It Works: As we all know, teenagers can get the brunt of our frustration. Your high school student could be driving you batty with their "lack of responsibility" or "complete disinterest in school." However, negative reinforcements like grounding your kid or lecturing are often largely ineffective. Positive reinforcements, on the other hand, work brilliantly because they slowly reinforce your belief in your child, and a child who thinks that someone believes in him or her will always try to do better.
How It Works: After you've set a study date with your high school kid, ask your teenager to write down the three most important things that you need to accomplish during the study time and bring them to the session. When he or she shows up to the prepared, sincerely offer some praise! A commitment was made and kept! If your kid shows up unprepared, ignore it, and delve into the material to figure out what needs to be done. Your kid will be expecting some sort of negativity (especially if you've been a lecturer in the past), so by the simple act of ignoring a misstep, your child will be more inclined to do better the next time, if only to see how you'll react.
While you're studying together, control your need to lecture, point out faults, berate or act exasperated in any way. Instead, add words of encouragement, find moments to laugh, show signs of interest, and compliment.
The Payoff: You'll see the difference in your kid's posture, facial expressions, and willingness to cooperate when your tone changes from negative or neutral to positive. Imagine the goals your kid can reach if, just once a week, he or she has someone rooting on the sidelines while they finish homework or study!