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Carrots & Sticks: How to Get Your Kids to Study

EXAMS: I could make this a very short post and say “You Can’t.” Sure, you can pay to have them sit in the school study hall for several hours a day, or you can lock them into their bedrooms with just a bag of textbooks for company, but nothing you do will make your child study. I know.

My eldest did the Leaving Cert last year, and the middle child is facing into Junior Cert. Neither boy could be described as a swot, so my efforts at getting them to study veered from encouragement to bribery to threats and back to encouragement again. I’m no expert, but here’s what I’ve learned about increasing the likelihood that your child will study:

Create the Right Environment

Ensure the space where your child sits down to study is suitable. Whether he studies in his bedroom, the kitchen, or somewhere else, make sure there are no distractions. If that means disabling your broadband for a few hours each day, so be it. Turn the television off and remove his phone. He will not like this at all, but if you show him that you are locking it in a drawer where he can see it, at least you can reassure him that you are not checking his messages.

Establish a Routine

Life will get in the way, but try to schedule study for the same time every day. If your child can get into the habit of coming home from school, walking the dog, having dinner and then settling down to study, it makes it far less of a struggle. Like all habits, it will take time to create the routine, but once you do, conflict will be a lot less frequent.

Teach Them How to Study

Too many kids think study is “looking over” a subject. Most schools now organise seminars on the appropriate study methods, involving mind maps, taking proper study notes, and learning to summarise material in the student’s own words. If such resources are not available in the school, research them yourself. You will find that the best methods work by adapting the material to your child’s way of thinking, so, once the text has been reviewed, get your child to create their own notes and focus on them instead of the book.

Keep Them Healthy

It’s not all about locking them in a room for five hours. Your child cannot process and retain information without frequent breaks, so make sure they get away from the books for 10-minute intervals every 90 minutes or so. Intersperse study with fresh air and exercise, and prioritise healthy meals and adequate sleep.

Teach Consequences

After all those carrots, here comes the stick: Make it clear to your child that the less they study, the fewer options they will have in the future. The realisation that repeating the Leaving Cert means an extra year at home under your thumb can often be all the motivation a teenager needs to get studying!

As always, we would love to hear your opinions. Please leave a comment below.


About the Author

A separated mother of three, juggling self-employment, two teenage boys, a tween girl, a needy dog, and ever-expanding grey roots.

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