Helping your children develop healthy habits is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent. It can also be one of the most challenging things you ever do. You have a chance to give that a gift to your children and that will help make their lives easier. By creating a routine, sticking with it, and helping your child succeed, you can show them what is possible through hard work and determination.
Here are some tried and true ways to establish healthy homework and study habits with your kids.
Create a Routine.
This can be the hardest part of all—getting started with a new routine, or any routine for that matter! With work schedules, after school clubs, sports, classes or events, it can be difficult to get into a regular after-school routine.
If children are staying after school and doing homework in latchkey, one way to set up an evening homework routine is simply to review the homework with them.
For elementary children, they may have a spelling list to study or a worksheet to complete. Get into a routine of asking them if they completed their homework, and check the worksheet with them. This gives you an opportunity to help answer their questions, check that they got all of the answers right, or to review for the upcoming quiz or test one more time.
Give Them a Choice.
Do your kids need a half hour after school just to decompress, play outside, walk the dog, or change clothes? Maybe they need a healthy snack right after school? Some kids may choose to dive into homework immediately to get it out of the way. Let your kids have a say in what works for them and ask for their input in the routine. They’ll be more likely to stick with the routine this way, and you won’t be fighting an uphill battle.
Set Up Incentives.
Think of rewards and incentives that work for your child. Does she love to spend time playing with her toys, or is she obsessed with a new game on the tablet? These can be good incentives for completing homework and chores. Some kids will be less motivated to finish homework if they’ve already had an hour of TV, and then they have to stop watching to get their homework done. Every child is different and responds to different types of rewards. Set up your routine so that your child knows he or she gets to ______ after they complete their homework:
- Play outside with friends
- Watch TV or play video games
- Go out to dinner
- Take a family walk or bike ride to the park
- Spend time on favorite hobbies
- Read comics/novel alone
- Read a book together
Create a Homework Station.
The kitchen table, a quiet desk in the corner, the dining room, the den or office—wherever you choose, make a designated space for homework. Here are some ideas for creating a study area where your kids will feel comfortable and be able to focus on homework:
- Plenty of clear desk space for writing and spreading out papers
- Set out healthy snacks (bowl of fruit, pretzels, fruit snacks)
- Stock with school supplies (pens, pencils, paper, calculator)
- Basket or organizer for papers, assignments
- Expect kids to tidy/clean the space after homework is done
Every child learns differently and may require a different kind of environment for concentration. You may have one child who needs quiet music in the background, while another child needs complete silence. In that case, you might make sure they have headphones or separate study spaces. In all cases, remove whatever is distracting to your child. Phones, games, TV, toys, tablets and laptops (unless needed for school work), music, pets—whatever keeps your child from focusing, get them in the habit of removing it during study time.
Use a Checklist and Timer.
Teaching your child to use a checklist is a wonderful habit that can last a lifetime! The humble checklist is a powerful tool for getting things done. It can be easy to forget steps or get distracted; the checklist is just a visual reminder of tasks they need to accomplish. And when they finally check off that very last one—sweet rewards! Free time, food, rest, TV, or whatever incentives lie in store for those who complete their checklist.
Along with a checklist of homework tasks and chores, set a timer. If you have older children who are studying for a difficult test, make sure they study in shorter blocks of time. A timer will help with avoiding burnout and trying to “cram” for the test.
Be Prepared. Avoid Cramming.
Speaking of cramming, it isn’t healthy and usually doesn’t lead to good outcomes anyway. Studies show that students perform worse when they stay up late and cram for a big test. So, how do you instill good study habits to help your child avoid cramming?
Plan ahead. Does your child’s teacher post homework assignments and tests for the week on their website? Find out how these assignments are communicated to parents. You should also ask your child questions about tests and assignments that are coming up. Then, help them develop a study plan. Make a plan for studying in chunks throughout the week and month to get prepared for the test. Finally, give them a pop quiz or review their assignments to ensure they’re ready. All of these things will help reinforce how to prepare, study and do homework the right way. As your children grow and develop these habits, you can slowly start expecting them to prepare and study with more independence.
Revise and Improve the Homework/Study Routine.
As your children grow, their routines will change. Take a look at what’s working and what is causing a lot of strife in the family. Are children running around in the morning, telling you about last minute assignments they forgot or can’t find? Are children leaving papers or assignments in their lockers after school? What reminders or incentives need to change in order to smooth out these rough spots in your routine?
Keeping to your routine, enforcing discipline, and encouraging your children in good study habits is an ongoing labor of love. It’s not easy! But if you do your best and put in the hard work, you and your child will reap the rewards many times over.
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