In our last article we spoke about initiation, focus and effort, three learning skillsthat go into building healthy study habits. Here we present the next three. In this two part series parents learn how to really observe, and understand all the aspects, and also gain insight into how to help in each area .
Emotion - How they feel about work
Managing Frustration- What do they normally do when the task gets challenging? Do they drop it, try to figure it out themselves? Ask for help immediately?
Managing Emotions - Studies, exams and tests can be frustrating and worrying for most children. It is good to observe what happens during those moments? Do they take a walk , or speak to a friend or is it difficult for them to move away from the frustration and anger?
Parents can take some simple pre-emptive steps to help and assist their children to manage their emotions.
Moving the body motivates the brain. Give them regular breaks according to their age and interests.
Have a routine, and regular time set aside for study.
Break the task into simpler chunks so they can experience success.
Acknowledge and empathize with their feelings when things get frustrating. Help them find ways to get themselves back into the calm maybe with deep breaths, a glass of water, washing their face, or getting up and moving.
Memory- Ability to retain and recall information
Are they able to remember facts that they have studied, and apply the concepts that they have learnt, in their daily life? When information is not used, it is discarded or replaced by some other information. If it is used, it goes into the long-term memory.
Hence when teaching or when helping with new concepts, it is helpful to work on a few at a time. Also, guiding them in finding ways in which the concepts (physics, chemistry, math, biology etc.) play out in their everyday life really helps them to internalize the material and see it as integrated, useful, and not just something separate they learn in school. Field trips, models, experiments, etc. assist in this.
Action- Understanding how children approach studying.
Self Monitoring- For slightly older children, it is good to see, if while studying they are able to ask themselves these reflective questions How well do I understand this information? Can I summarize it accurately? How thoroughly do I know this? What am I unclear about? What do I still need to learn about this? Am I learning and remembering what's most important? This meta skill is highly valuable as the children learn to understand their own study habits, patterns etc. Parents can help them learn and practice this by asking them these questions initially during the study process.
Self plan and work- In the process of taking action, we can help them with regulating their work Eg: setting goals, quiz themselves , read up more, watch tutorials.
Now if they fail to stick to their goals, we must understand that they are trying. Our children, just like us are trying their best , and just as we falter, they too make mistakes. When they do, before we react, it will be good to consider how we felt when we failed? How did support help us? Then we can approach the situation more constructively.
Lastly, when working with all of these factors of learning we have to keep in mind one key aspect, that affects the manner and speed at which learning occurs- INTEREST. This changes how we behave, what effort we put in and the emotions we feel towards the subject.
Ultimately the purpose of this whole exercise is to objectively see where our children may be struggling, need our help, and if the way we are currently helping is working. If a subject is difficult, it gives a roadmap on ways to simplify and break into smaller and doable chunks. When we approach study time in this manner, children begin to see their improvements more clearly. Hence, instead of thinking that they are not good at a subject, they look at engaging slowly and steadily with it. For example: If my child is wary of Math work, starting small and consistently doing 2 sums a days is a lot more valuable for his long term learning than a weekend 2 hour class.
Having read all this, some of us may be overwhelmed with all we have to do. Fundamentally, what is our parental role when it comes to helping our children study better?
Our children long for our attention and love, and they want our appreciation. We need to recognise and validate the effort they take, work they put in, rather than marks, then they begin to learn for improvement. Let’s be aware not to give appreciation as a form of manipulation, to get the child to do what we want them to do. It is not about making the child dependent on our approval. Our intention is to truly appreciate the child for who he/ she is. When children feel loved and valued, they are open to learning, hence, connection with our child is a vital factor to their learning.
Most importantly, it helps to remember that change does not always have to be big. Sometimes, the smallest shifts we make have the largest impact.
Author: Rama Venkataraman is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.