By Dr Richard C. Woolfson
The more you pressure your child to develop good study habits, the less likely he is to acquire them. In fact, he may end up spending more time arguing with you about it than he does actually revising.
True, you can confine your tween to his room, you can insist he looks at his schoolbooks instead of surfing the Net, but you can’t force him to study hard for his exams. Anyway, he learns best when he is relaxed, not when he is tense after a fight with you.
THIS SHOULD WORK
To help him improve his preparation, discuss drawing up a timetable for home study. For instance, he could focus on exam revision for one hour each night during the week and spend two hours on it on the weekend.
What matters is that he has a structure that is clearly set out. However, have realistic expectations. Speak to other parents and talk to his teachers to decide how much time he should spend on this. Of course you will make the final decision together, but it may help to hear from others.
When devising a study plan, ensure that this includes the materials he needs as well as the time allocated. There is no point in setting aside, say, one hour for exam preparation only to find out that the key book he needs is in school, or that he has run out of pencils. Buy spare copies of his textbooks to use at home, if you need to.
Once you have formed an agreed schedule, put a notice board on the wall of your child’s bedroom or use the one in the kitchen. Then pin up a printout of his plan. This visual reminder keeps it fresh in his mind and reminds him of what he has to do that night when he returns from school. It also confirms that the plan ends once the papers are over.
HOW’S IT GOING?
Bear in mind that he may still be learning new concepts in school until about a week before the mid-year exams. So don’t make the plan too onerous, and don’t start it too far in advance or he’ll simply burn out.
Also, since most children study best in short bursts, followed by a short break, then another burst of study, structure his schedule so that he has plenty of rest periods.
Every couple of days, discuss his progress and try to identify what works best for him. If a strategy doesn’t work, try something else. And let him have a night off occasionally. Everyone needs to have a break from routine sometimes. Build those evenings off into his exam preparation plan.
Finally, remember that he’ll study better when he has good habits. Having a balanced diet, adequate sleep and lots regular exercise will keep him fit, physically and mentally.