“If my kid can’t do well in school, how is he going to do well in life?”
As a marriage and family therapist, I often get this question from parents. My answer: The best thing you can do to help your child succeed is to hold hope for them. When they look in your eyes, they need to see that you believe in them and have faith in their future.
And how do you get to a place where you can hold that hope and motivate your children to do well in school? The foundation of academic success begins with developing good study habits. There are three key ways you can help your child develop these practical skills: becoming aware of your own attitude, helping your child set and align with clear goals, and teaming up with them to create a plan for success.
Check in with yourself
Helping your child create good study habits starts with paying attention to the emotions you’re bringing to the table. If you’re anxious that your child isn’t going to succeed, they will pick up on that. The result? Your child starts to associate school with stress.
Before you sit down to talk with your child about their study habits, check in with yourself. Are you scared, angry or stressed? If you are, what do you need to do to approach the situation with a sense of calm, confidence and assertiveness?
Consider taking a walk around the block to reflect on your approach. Reframe the situation, focusing on where you do feel confident about your child’s future. Do a short meditation where you visualize your kid at their best in school. Do whatever helps you shift your attitude.
Connect your child to their motivation
Once you’re able to relax and hold hope for your child around their schoolwork, the next step is to help them tap into their own motivation.
When it comes to studying, many parents worry that their children aren’t motivated at all. However, most children do want to succeed in school. The problem is we generally don’t ask them to think about school or study habits in a conscious way. They go to school because they have to. They do (or don’t do) their homework because we tell them to.
So, when you’re trying to help your child tap into their own motivation, it’s important to have them stop and reflect on why school matters. Here are some questions to start with:
- How do you feel about how you’re doing in school?
- Where are you doing well?
- Where could you improve?
- What kind of grades would you like to get?
- Why do you want to do well in school?
Throughout the conversation, give your input. Be enthusiastic about what’s working. Be encouraging about what’s not. Your goal: help your child get excited about the prospect of doing well in school and creating their great future.
Make a plan — together
Once your child is plugged into their desire to do well in school, it’s time to sit down together and make a plan for how they’re going to succeed.
Here are some key aspects to consider:
Who? Learn your child’s study style. Some kids need to work alone, while others are more productive in a study group or with a parent working on their own projects close by.
Where? It’s important to create a study space where your child can focus but still have fun.
When? Some children need a break after school. Others need to get down to their homework right away and play afterward.
Since every child has different needs, you want to try out different strategies until you find ones that work. Observe where they’re struggling and where they’re thriving. Approach it like a fun experiment that you and your child will work through together.
Ultimately, the more your child feels you’re on the same team pursuing a common goal, the more likely they are to succeed in school — and beyond.
Jesse Giunta Rafeh is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified success coach. Based in Calabasas, Rafeh launched her company, Live Better Today, in 2005. She is the best-selling author of “Life Launch: A Roadmap to an Extraordinary Adulthood.”