Now that school and activities are in full swing, if you listen closely you can hear that faint sound of parents across Bergen County saying "do your homework!" and "don't forget to study for your test!" All parents want their children to succeed both academically and socially, yet many families struggle when developing a positive approach toward study habits. Achieving academic success, however, goes well beyond working hard in and out of the classroom (although that part is important too, of course). "Humans take math tests, not brains," says Scott Doty, founder and CEO of of BrainStorm Tutoring. To begin, "Acknowledge the whole person, and recognize that every child has a unique genius, and is brilliant in a unique way." Here, Doty provides tips on providing your child with the tools they need to succeed.
While starting a new school year can present a number of challenges, perhaps the most intuitive – and simplest – is that kids don't take into account that each grade presents an increase in terms of the rigor and demands. "A good number of students are surprised [at the new level of difficulty] and their expectations are not where they're supposed to be," says Doty. To start, parents should help their child understand new time management needs, and adapting their personal habits. "Students need to create new personal habits that match the intensity of the new grade," says Doty.
Use a Holistic Approach
Students who have a harder time with the back to school transition typically do so as a result of non-academic reasons. "People think they're struggling in math because math is hard, but it's usually for non-intellectual reasons," says Doty. Help your child identify good sleep habits, proper diet and hydration, social dynamics and address any mental health concerns – all of which can impact a student's performance. "A parent's primary role is to have engaging, compassionate conversations with kids about the non-academic factors," says Doty.
Provide At-home Support
Establishing a focus-friendly environment at home is key when helping kids develop good study habits. Doty recommends creating a boundary around time and encouraging your child to do their work before 6 pm when possible, as the brain does not work as well after that hour. Additionally, if your home setup allows for it, create a study-centric zone to eliminate distractions. "Don't let kids do their homework in the bedroom – they should have a specific workspace," says Doty. "If you don't have room for a space like this, consider somewhere outside the house, such as the library, where they can focus."
Both you and your child should engage outside help to begin establishing a positive relationship with schoolwork. For kids who may have a harder time, speak with the guidance counselor, build a relationship with the teachers and principal, go to back to school night, and get involved. Your child, specifically if they are in high school, can also involve their peers and find a classmate that they feel is ambitious, diligent and would be a positive influence. Encourage them to become study partners in one or more subjects, which could include phone calls or texts and in-person study sessions to hold each other accountable.
Additionally, Doty suggests being aware of Parkinson's Law. "Parkinson's Law says the amount of work you have expands to the time allotted for it," says Doty. Meaning, whether you have two months or two days to study for an exam, your brain will fill the time you give to each project. Most people are programmed to do work at the last minute, but high school students should work toward beating this mentality. "While things like midterms and SATs may seem far away, set time frames and milestones to the process, and create a roadmap for success with clear and specific deadlines," says Doty. Consider using an outside academic coach, like those offered at BrainStorm Tutoring, or a reliable classmate to help accomplish this goal.
Above all, understand the importance of using empowering language to inspire and motivate your child. "There is no such thing as smart and not smart. Children are special in their own spectacular way, they are just finding that way," says Doty. Instead of focusing on pushing your child to work harder, creating an inspiring energy by using the growth mindset to tackle any challenge. Let them know each challenge is simply an opportunity to thrive, grow, and develop their unique abilities.