I gave this talk today for the PTA at my local high school:

1. Consider Location: Where Does Your Child Do His or Her Homework?
The bedroom is often the worst place in the house!

  • It’s lonely (no companionship or support)
  • It’s full of distractions, electronic and other
  • And there’s that sleep-inducing effect of staring at or studying on one’s warm, cozy, tempting bed

Better choices:

  • Dining room table
  • Kitchen table or counter (especially for younger students)

My very favorite study location: The public library

2. Stop lecturing, nagging, threatening, bribing and teasing.

  • Often, kids will provoke parents into arguments or lectures, as distractors from studying!
  • A fight with Mom or Dad deflects attention away from self-worry. Now the student can burn up lots of time and energy stewing and complaining about What a jerk Dad is! or how Mom is so unfair!, as a relief from focus on his or her own weak areas.
  • Resist being sucked into this tempting but time-wasting trap!

Kids are NEVER lazy, spoiled, careless, or unmotivated.

They often ARE: Frightened, confused, lacking in skills or information, frustrated, angry, sad, pressured, preoccupied, worried that they are “dumb” or otherwise “abnormal.”

3. Help Them with Their Homework

Providing guidance and support is not cheating, and it will not foster dependency or laziness. Helping communicates compassion and models generosity and humanity.

  • Brainstorm for paper topics (that blank page is so intimidating; it’s one of the main reasons kids avoid writing)
  • Preview history topics; share your deeper perspective and help them “get into it.”
  • For math and science: www.KhanAcademy.org
  • For science, psychology, research papers www.TED.com
  • Buy your child a Kindle to build vocabulary and to support and encourage reading
  • Get actively involved: Flip flash cards, read to them, listen while they explain math to you.
  • Model good learning habits, reflect out loud about your own solutions and challenges
  • Offer comfort: a snack, a break from chores on a heavy homework night, sympathetic words
  • BUT…don’t let ‘em off the hook! Challenge is good, hard work is healthy, and confusion along the road to understanding actually helps us learn better. Learning is not always easy or fun, and that’s OK!

4. Give Them More Responsibilities

We often excuse our students from chores, after-school or summer jobs, and volunteering (except for the kinds of volunteering that are “growth opportunities” and/or will look good on a college application). Our rationale is that our kids ought to focus their time and energy on their studies, their sports, their talents.

But, “menial” responsibilities provide necessary emotional and psychological outlets. It’s not a gift to be constantly self-focused (MY grades! MY scores! MY feelings! MY future!); in fact, it can be terrifying and depressing.

Baby-sitting, raking the yard, cleaning out the hamster cage, bagging groceries at ShopRite…these kinds of activities provide a change of perspective and a mental vacation from self-worry.

When students have more free time, they often spend it on FaceBook, iPhones and other technological distractions, not necessarily on studying more.

[photo of The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge University, so named because it connects a dorm to the room where exams are given]



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    Last reviewed: 13 Mar 2012

APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2012). Four Study Tips You Might Not Expect!. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/always-learning/2012/03/four-study-tips-you-might-not-expect/




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