Helping your child study
The school term is coming to an end and in the next couple of days students will be preparing to sit for their end term examinations. Just as in days gone by, parents still have a huge role to play in ensuring that their child is fully engaged in his or her studying. Indeed, the parental role goes beyond just laying down the law, breathing fire when the report card comes and attending the child’s open day. Without a doubt, helping your child study and enjoy it is an ongoing process that requires patience.
Yet for most individuals, studying isn’t always the most enjoyable of activities. Remember when we were younger – we probably thought we could and even tried to fool our parents or teachers into thinking that we were studying while in actual fact we were reading some comic or other book? Back then, most of us did not even understand what studying means and we would get into last minute cramming. Apart from our daily homework, the exam week was the only other time when we actually looked at our books and once that was over, the books were back on the shelf to gather some new dust.
Times haven’t changed much and even today, children still try and will try those same old tired tricks. However, history does not have to repeat itself and it is actually possible to get your child to enjoy studying. According to Lucy Nduati, a pre-school teacher in a Montessori institution, getting a child to enjoy studying is something that needs to start when the child is still in the foundation classes. As she says, “letting your child get away with years of wrong study habits and then expecting them to suddenly pick up the right one when they are about to sit for their national exams is unrealistic.”
Nduati identifies cramming as one of the bad study habits a parent needs to help their child break. She says, “last minute drilling and cramming does not work because information acquired this way is placed by our brains in the short term memory storage. This storage only stores everyday information and over a period of time or under duress, the information may get distorted or lost all together because the brain does not store it for long. When it comes to studying,” she continues, “we should aim for the long term memory storage which can only be achieved when we make a conscious effort to remember something repeatedly. If you are studying something new and hard, it is only a constant review and trying to remember specific information that will ensure it gets burned into your memory.”
Because information storage into the long term memory bank requires conscious, consistent effort, she urges parents to really get involved in encouraging good study habits in children. She gives the following tips:-
Relate studying to everyday activities - during a child’s formative years, they are very imaginative and curious which is a great resource. Doing everyday things together and relating them to study is key e.g. when preparing food together, ask your child to fetch five carrots – it will make him or her count; you can also ask that they name other vegetables they know which will improve their general knowledge.
Provide your child with all they need to study effectively – this includes a private and quiet study place that allows you to monitor the child, provide the necessary stationery and books. Ensure that your child isn’t experiencing physical discomforts like hunger, thirst, cold etc because these can make the child unable to concentrate.
Be involved in their study - maintain a genuine interest in the child’s work. Encouraging, gently correcting and praising your child when they get something right communicates to that child that what they are doing is important and beneficial. As the child grows older, teach them the benefits of studying for themselves, that is, the impact their studying will have on their future.