"Are you finished with your homework?"
No parent wants to nag a child over school assignments. But most children aren't internally motivated to do homework, according to child psychologist and author Ruth A. Peters, so parents need to make sure their children develop good study habits beginning in elementary school.
Good study habits and a sense of discipline and self-direction about learning will help your child not just in school, but in higher education and the work world--where continuous learning has become the norm.
Here are 10 tips to make homework and studying more productive.
1. Set rules
Let your child know that homework is to be brought home every day and completed every night. Call the teacher if your child consistently says, "We don't have any homework." Doing homework is essential to reinforcing lessons taught in the classroom.
2. Keep a homework log
Download our sample homework log (pdf format, 178k). Children need to take more responsibility for homework as they get older, according to parent educator and author Deborah Joy Braithwaite. So teens can fill out the log alone for you to review periodically.
3. Create a separate study area
Kids shouldn't do their assignments in front of the TV, or anywhere where there's lots of noise and activity. The study area should be well-lit, with a comfortable chair and desk or table. Some children do learn better with soft music playing in the background, but no child should study with the radio or a CD playing full-blast. If your child needs supervision, some experts recommend having him or her work at the dining room table.
4. Set a specific time for studying
Let your child help decide whether he or she wants to tackle homework as soon as they arrive home or after dinner--but regardless, stick to a regular time. This prevents procrastination or the excuses "It's too late" or "I'll do it later." You can use an alarm clock to remind kids that it's time to hit the books.
5. Determine your child's learning style
Does your child learn best through seeing, hearing or doing? Get a sense of his or her learning style and build study habits that take it into account. For instance, children who learn by doing are kinesthetic, probably fidget a lot and will benefit from taking more study breaks.
6. Encourage your child
Remember praise from you goes a long way. If you think it's appropriate: challenge him or her with rewards, such as CDs or tickets to a sporting event, to bring home good grades.
7. Don't do their work
Offer assistance if needed, but kids won't learn if a parent does their work for them.
8. Don't expect perfection
Let your child know that struggling with a subject is normal and that he or she can learn from mistakes.
9. Learn advanced study skills
Teenagers, especially if they're taking Advanced Placement or honors-level courses, might benefit from learning study and test-taking skills geared to college students.
10. Use technology
Educational software can help your child with subjects they are struggling with.