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How to encourage good study habits without nagging

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines, psychology journals and professional sourcebooks. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girl...

How to motivate without nagging

Let’s face it — kids dislike homework. They would probably procrastinate indefinitely if a parent didn’t intervene.
Avoid homework harassment
Mom helping daughter with homework

The only problem is that our intervening can quickly develop into nagging and even yelling, both of which seldom have the desired outcome.

Parents want their children to learn and develop the necessary study skills for success, but so often our well-intended efforts end in mutual frustration and arguing. If homework time is making your child cranky — and turning you into a homework nag — try a few of these tips.

Make an attitude adjustment

Chances are you as the parent dislike and dread homework almost as much as your child! Homework battles can simply elevate these pre-existing attitudes. Remind yourself that homework isn’t something annoying to check off the list, but a way for your child to practice and learn new skills. This doesn’t just help them to pass a test, but also helps them succeed beyond academics.

Identify the problem

Is the problem with homework motivational or does your child actually lack the specific skills or abilities necessary to do the assignment? Assessing the issue as one, the other or a combination of both will help you pinpoint the best response.

Set goals

Help your child to set goals regarding homework. Together, establish an age-appropriate reward system for completing a week of homework. This can be done with a chart which provides visual documentation of progress.

Study smarter, not harder

Research demonstrates that consistent study routines and environments do NOT facilitate learning. In fact, alternating study environments results in deeper learning as does varying both the study routines and the content being studied. Studying in different environments is better because it forces the brain to make multiple associations with the same material thus encoding it more deeply. This may actually be a huge relief for many parents. With busy after-school schedules, parents may often get stressed about the ability to complete homework in “a quiet, consistent environment.” Parents need not be afraid to have a child study at a game, a friend’s house, in the car or at the dentist office.

Build confidence

Connect a child’s success with the effort they make. Rather than praising their abilities, focus instead on how hard they studied their spelling words and how that effort paid off with a good grade.

More about homework

Tips for creating the perfect homework space
Helping your child complete homework independently
Don't correct your child's homework

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