How often do you find yourself doing your child's homework? Are you their homework concierge? Do you hold yourself to blame if your child does badly in a subject?
A common conflict between children and parents in most households is around education, particularly "study time." Parents usually grumble about their children not studying enough and children complain about the difficulty of their studies, or the lack of support from parents.
The first thing is to establish the factors preventing a child from studying. Every child has capacity, and it's just the matter of giving that help of hand. Without getting to the roots of the problem, there's no point complaining and expecting a child to create miracles. As parents, we have to face these challenges head-on. The usual suspects are typically related to attention deficiency, behavioural issues, possibly learning disability, or even more serious clinically diagnosable mental health issues. Even problems at school can be a sign of depression in children and teenagers.
An interesting statistic is published by the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom (UK). Approximately 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a mental health problem (e.g. anxiety, depression), and yet 70% of these children who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. What does this equate to? Let's take a closer look at the numbers.
In 2016 the population of the UK was 65.6 million, and approximately 16% are aged between 5-16 (10.5 million), which is around 1 million children and adolescents with a diagnosable mental health condition (10%). Out of that 1million, approximately 700,000 had no form of intervention. This is a staggering number. It's important to observe a child and seek help in advance as it is more likely to disrupt the child's life and turn into a long-term problem.
We should be realistic about expectations from children. Every child's development surrounding education is unique and bound to be different. They eventually learn it's just the matter of time. You should not force children to meet your expectations, but instead, it should be set according to their abilities. Work through your child's weaknesses by taking baby steps.
You need to find ways of motivating your child, and with a little perseverance and DISCIPLINE, the job is done. You may have noticed that I have highlighted a word in bold, red and uppercased, and here I repeat it, because it's so important, DISCIPLINE. That's what all children desperately need. It's the mother of all rules, a phenomenon in life we should all embrace and accept.
Discipline is a set of rules and regulations that remind us of the proper code of conduct, which is ever more important throughout our lives. I wasn't a very bright child, but I have managed to complete my studies all the way up to gaining a Ph.D. (doctorate). I don't remember my parents waking me up to go to school or telling me to do my homework.
I never had any private classes or tutoring. Gosh, if I had a tiny fraction of what most parents offer their kids nowadays, I would probably be at another level. I owe my successes to one thing and one thing only, the discipline that I have acquired since day one. You don't have to be born intelligent to succeed, and whoever says you do is not entirely correct. Don't believe in it. Intelligence is not inherited, it's learned. That's why disciplining children is critical to achieving goals and dreams later in life.
When it comes to studying, everyone is different, there isn't a rule of thumb, but there are some basic principles to adopt. Studying techniques should be tailored according to each student's needs, so the method that best works for you can only be established by yourself, with a bit of trial and error. Finding the best way to study is an ongoing process. You should continually be improving your study skills to understand better what works (and what doesn't).
No matter how studying is desired and how well planned, external factors can prevent it.
From the moment a child starts school, parents continue to orchestrate their lives at every turn to try and guarantee their future success in life. According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, an American academic and the author of "How to Raise an Adult," she argues that the more involved the parent, the less able the child at standing on its own feet, and blames parents for excessive hand-holding and says that micromanaging is mad. While parents are acting in the best interest of their children, but in fact, they deny them the opportunity to look after themselves.
A recent survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that only 16% of 18-25-year-olds said they had reached adulthood. One of the key life skills our children must develop is the ability to live without us. The danger here is after so many years of spoon feeding it's difficult to let go of their hands completely, but instead you might want to consider this process in stages. Let your child make a mistake, which is your child's greatest teacher, so welcome them when it happens.
As parents, it is our responsibility to create a pleasant environment for our children, be decisive and be in control. There is no point in worrying on their behalf, as it sends the wrong message to your kids. Time and time again we see parents seeking ownership of their children's studies, and the child then assumes that studying is something to be carried out for the sake of their family and not for themselves. Studying then becomes a weapon or a tool used against mum and dad to fulfill their wishes. Remember, it's their responsibility, and they will have to put up with the consequences, whether if it's good or bad. It is our duty as parents to show the right direction, but surely we cannot keep reminding them forever. We cannot keep pressurizing our children to do their homework.
I am also not entirely in favour of offering privileges to children, and in return, they study and/or complete an educational activity. For example, telling your child that after school every day they can eat a snack and then do their homework. This is bribery which gives the impression that every time they study they expect to have something in return. You're not raising a dog, it's a child.
Similarly, empty threats are a waste of time too, for example, "That's it. You're not watching TV," and 10 minutes later they're in front of it. During study time it is your responsibility to limit (restrict) or control your child from activities like watching TV, play computer games, or any other activities of interest. They should know that they have access to all of these leisurely activities after having completed their studies. Learning comes by choice, not force!
I know that for me, yelling, punishment, and lectures don't work for getting kids to listen, show respect, or connect. Children thrive on encouragement, guidance, and understanding. Fill it with love, trust, silliness, happy memories, and most of all you! Make their world bright, so one day they can shine their light on the world. Now it may take a significant amount of time and effort, but remember it requires patience and perseverance, you need to work as a team, and eventually, victory is around the corner. If everybody does their share, identify problems in advance and solve it accordingly, studying will not become a nightmare, instead, it may even turn out to be an enjoyment.
Occasionally children may find it difficult to study because they don't see their parents do it. Perhaps if as parents you set aside 30 minutes each day to study - or simply read - the child may follow the example. A lot of younger children just want to copy whatever their parents are doing. This may be an excellent way to start things off for children perhaps under seven years old.
As an expert in Decision Sciences (a branch of Mathematics), if somebody had asked me, "Mathematics or Reading, which one is more important?" Well, it's a difficult question, however, nobody can argue with the fact that both subjects are equally as important as each other. We need Mathematics in our everyday lives, and without it, we wouldn't have made all the advances in technology, medicine, engineering, manufacturing, finance, business, and the list goes on.
Despite the importance of Mathematics, if I had to choose between the two subjects, I would probably say, earlier in life particularly between the age of 3 and 11, it is imperative to expose children to regular reading. It is much easier to form a habit of reading at an earlier age than later in life.
According to many academic and education studies, reading has a significant impact on children's educational performance, and those who read for enjoyment not only do they perform well in reading (in comparison to those who don't read), they develop broader vocabulary and increased knowledge and understanding when they listen. Furthermore, they don't just do better in language and literacy subjects (social sciences) but in all of the other subjects as well; they also learn to concentrate and sit still for longer periods of time, a problem that many children suffers nowadays.
I wished my parents had encouraged me to read - at the moment I spend a lot of my time reading academic articles and newspapers, but hardly any novels. I always struggled with social sciences, and now I know the struggle was due to lack of reading.
On a regular basis, I would ask my ten year old daughter to read at least 20-30 minutes per day, make sure she understands by writing a short summary (a paragraph or two) of what she's learned (describing the scene, characters, etc.). Parents, please do not underestimate the importance of reading, so encourage your child to read, read and read more.
Any closed form of assessments, whether if it's a test or an exam, is a source of stress and anxiety for all ages, not just for kids. I have come across many senior academics at the University who were about to collapse due to very high levels of anxiety (Ph.D. examinations). So, even the highly experienced worry and expecting a child not to be is rather strange. It's not age dependent. A little stress and anxiety is not a bad thing, as it encourages children to go that extra mile to do some work, listen a bit more to the information during lesson time and work a bit harder.
The downside of too much pressure and anxiety is that it can make them feel bad. This may mean that your child is unable to concentrate on his/her work and may find that they are over worrying about how they will do in their exam(s).
According to Anxiety UK (www.anxietyuk.org.uk) if your child answers "yes" to one or more of the following questions, it is possible that they are experiencing exam stress/anxiety:
Negative thoughts and the assumption that they will do so badly are the sources of stress and anxiety. Stress indications can seriously have a detrimental impact on every aspect of life, including exam performances. These anxieties are more frequent in children who fear of failing, particularly when these anxieties are instigated by parents. For instance, if a child feels that his parents desperately want him to do well in the exam, and if this is overly exaggerated, he might assume that he will only be loved if he succeeds. This situation will inevitably exacerbate both stress and anxiety.
We often hear and see parents saying to their children, "don't worry about the exam, just try your best, it's not the end of life, so what if you do so badly." On the other hand, the same parent says "you must work very hard, and when you pass your GCSE's, A-Levels and go to a good University you'll have a great career and a prosperous future." What a contradicting statement. You then see parents who are highly surprised to see their kids stressed and full of worries.
Anxiety amongst children is highly correlated with parent's expectations, especially when they make it so obvious. Typical symptoms of anxiety (but not limited to) includes boredom, sweaty hands, feeling tense and fidgety, finding it hard to concentrate, continually worrying or having negative thoughts, not sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams.
It's a good idea to seek professional advice and help if your child is consistently anxious. For further support and details, please see https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/school-college-and-work/school-college/exam-stress/.
As parents, there are a number of things that can be done. For example, change their negative thoughts to positive by having a regular conversation, especially when they have negative thoughts like, "if I fail this it will be the end of my life, my family has made a lot of sacrifices, I cannot look at their face, and if I fail, I will be ashamed, what are my friends going to think about me".
During important exam periods like GCSE's and A-Levels avoid saying things like "I'm very optimistic, you'll succeed" or "if you don't want to study leave it." Instead, create the best possible environment for them to study. Get them to be in a position to wholeheartedly say "I don't care how hard my exams are, I have my mum and dad to ask, and they will help me all the time." That would be a wonderful feeling for both parents and children, knowing that support is always around the corner, which then minimises stress and anxiety. They should know that you love them unconditionally, which means they don't have to do exceptionally well in their exams or anything in particular to earn your love. You love them exactly as they are.