Tackling Poor Study Skills: Spoiler, No, Your Child Isn’t Just Lazy!
He’s just slack. She’s spending too much time on her phone, not on the books. He’s not as smart as the other kids in the class. Whether you’re telling yourself this or your child’s teacher is saying it to you, the reason for your child’s lack of progress may be more complex than “she’s just not that into school.” Study, like any other skill, takes instruction, support and practise to master. If your child’s study skills aren’t up to scratch, then their grades won’t be either. So, what can you do to help improve your child’s study skills at home?
What every tutor will encourage
The rules of effective study habits are:
- Avoid procrastination
- Avoid distraction
- Manage your time
- Have a study plan
But what happens if your child doesn’t seem willing or capable of these? It’s time to dig deeper.
Why does your child struggle so much with study?
Does your child show the classic signs of bad study skills? A child puts off assignments until the last minute, submits subpar work, “just can’t do it” or simply doesn’t seem to care about their grades. Lazy, right? For some children, it’s simpler to not try at all than to risk trying and failing. Your child’s mindset plays a major part in their approach to study, which in turn determines the quality of the work they produce.
- Overcome their barriers to better study skills
- Help them understand their study goals
- Identify and correct any “gaps” in their support network
Identifying the underlying challenges to good study habits
Study skills aren’t just about the ability to absorb information. Excellent study skills encompass not just their commitment to academia, but also their psychological state and their interpersonal skills. Your child doesn’t just need to read the book, she needs to be in the right frame of mind, and have access to support from teachers, tutors and parents or carers. Your child’s emotional wellbeing may be the underlying cause of poor study habits. Getting to the bottom of any underlying issues will help them get back on track.
Does your child even know how to study effectively?
Good study skills actually mean studying less. It may sound crazy, especially if your child is already 10 or more years into their academic career, but does your child actually know how to study? For some kids, organising a workload, breaking it down into tasks and completing tasks on deadline can be as overwhelming as the subject matter itself. By struggling with the “how” of studying, your child will inevitably take much longer to get the same work done. In turn, they feel like “they can’t do it.” In the time it takes another student to create an “A” grade paper, your child may do no better than a “C”. They may feel frustrated or anxious if not completely lost.
What else is going on?
Teens are always completely honest and open with parents, right? Your child may have other stuff going on that is impeding their ability to study effectively. If your child is suddenly reluctant to go to school, wags lessons or is unusually emotional, there may be an underlying issue. Check in with their teachers. Everything from first love to bullying can create a big distraction. Help your child navigate tough emotional waters so that they can get back on course.
Goals Vs Downtime
Achieving a goal feels pretty good. Getting the work done and dusted. Handing in a paper to be proud of. Acing a test. So does Xbox. It feels good too. If your child isn’t used to setting goals, then socialising, Netflix or Xbox becomes the goal. The goal is to feel good and their notion of feeling good is to simply have fun. Helping your child adjust their mindset around goals helps them to get those good feelings from achieving something, rather than just chasing the adrenaline they feel playing Fortnight.
Yes, your child needs downtime. Absolutely. It’s vital to their emotional wellbeing. By creating a goal-based “pathway” to that downtime, you are teaching your child not only study skills, but skills for their long-term wellbeing.
Good goal-setting skills include:
- Setting specific goals. “Read 15 pages per day” is better than “read your textbook.”
- Setting measurable goals. “This assessment is worth 20%, so let’s aim for a minimum of 17/20.”
- Setting achievable goals. “This maths is hard, so let’s focus on NAILING the first section this week.”
- Setting relevant goals. “When you’re a nurse, you’ll need to know ALL about the pulmonary system, so memorising the sections in the heart will be useful for the rest of your life!”
- Setting timely goals. “It’s not due until Tuesday, but if you get it done on the weekend, you can go out on Monday after school.”
How does their support network impact their study outlook?
A successful student doesn’t operate alone. Their support network enables them to reach their full academic potential by fulfilling their needs. Your child’s support network includes their teacher, their tutor, and you, their parents. If you and your tutor are actively encouraging your child to work hard at maths, but their teacher is telling them they’re not capable, who do you think the child will believe? Cue excuses not to try. Everyone in the support network must assist the child in feeling confident that they can do the work. That they can reach their full potential. If a member of your child’s team is letting them down, take action!
How can you create an environment conducive to better study?
- Assist with organising their study schedule if they typically struggle with organisational skills
- Ensure their basic needs for quality food, exercise and socialising are met
- Encourage recreational time that allows them to “turn off” regularly. It’s not easy during lockdown but there are definitely fun options at home.
- Create a distraction-free, comfortable working area
- Give them clear instructions for effective study and assist them if they feel overwhelmed
- Link study goals to recreational activities (finish this assignment and you can go to the movies)
- Help them understand how immediate goals impact their “big picture” goals
- Observe their study skills, look for any issues that interrupt their best work
- Be patient. Learning new skills takes time.
- Give credit where credit is due, encourage and praise good work
- For particularly stressful subjects, engage a tutor who understands the mindset approach to study skills and also “clicks” with your child
Every parent meets with resistance. It’s not you or your child to blame
Remember every trick in the book? Sure you do, you pulled those too. For some parents, managing resistance from their children is pretty simple. Aren’t they lucky! For others, changing habits in children and teens is an impossible goal (learn more about our approach to working with teenaged students). This is where the rest of your support network can step in and help. If you’re lucky enough to have a truly wonderful teacher, ask them for help.
If not, talk to us. We carefully recruit and train all our tutors, not just in teaching the work, but in building up confidence, knocking down barriers and helping kids enjoy the rush of achieving excellent results. We then match the RIGHT tutor with your child.
Our tutors are “that extra voice”. They’re not the voice of mum nagging about homework. They’re a mentor, familiar with the struggles of understanding the curriculum. They’re into the stuff your kids are into. They spend weekends hanging out with their friends – after they’ve finished their assignments. They know first-hand what your child is going through. They’re specially trained in helping children feel confident enough to give it their best.
And, “they’re not mum”. For some kids, “not mum” makes all the difference.