I won’t beat around the bush and make you read the whole article to find out the answer. The secret to helping your teen develop strong study skills is autonomy and natural consequences.
Stop telling your teen how to learn. You’ve been doing that for years. You’ve modeled and given the tools. Now it’s time for the teens to test their wings and find their own formula for academic success.
How do we learn? Through experience. And although it would be nice to learn from the mistakes of others, the fact is that most of us have to learn from our own mistakes. So let your child make mistakes. Let the consequences follow, and let your teen discover what he needs to change to prevent the failure from happening again.
This is scary for a lot of parents. Understandably, we don’t want our teens to fail. And we don’t want to pay the price for that failure.
But letting them experiment and fail in the context of home is far better than doing it far away at an expensive college.
I used to do my homework while watching TV or listening to music. But today’s teens have the added distractions of texting, social media, and digital streaming. Their attention is constantly distracted not only by background noise and images but by notifications crying out for an immediate reply.
Many teens claim that they can work better while listening to music or while the television is playing in the background. And while there may be exceptions, most of us work best without distractions.
No matter how many times you click off the TV or demand the iPod, your teen is going to continue the habit of distracted studying until she comes to her own conclusion that it just doesn’t work.
Let her get to that point.
There’s reading, and then there’s reading. Cursory reading doesn’t stick. It’s reading half-heartedly and not interacting with the content:
- reading without a pen in hand
- not looking up key words
- not taking notes, drawing diagrams, or making flashcards
Those choices will result in wasted time because the teen will not understand or remember what she read. When she has to re-read because of cursory reading, she will learn to pause when she is losing focus and get back on track mentally.
Skipping Assignments and Procrastination
Although it’s fun to lessen your workload for a day or even a week, the price you pay later is really not worth it. But stop nagging your teen. Let him discover for himself that the joy of a carefree week is an illusion when he’s cramming without a break for the next two weeks.
Provide a planner or a calendar and let your teen figure out how much he needs to do each day to meet learning goals. If he figures too optimistically or doesn’t stick to the plan, he will learn from those choices.
As good parents, it hurts to see our children suffer in any way. But struggle is not always bad. Overcoming obstacles is good for our kids. Making mistakes in a safe environment when the stakes are relatively low can be the path to learning life lessons that make our children responsible adults.
If your homeschool has no deadlines, grades, or consequences, I encourage you to rethink your approach. Although I didn’t have any of that all the way through middle school, in high school I started outsourcing classes (either online or in person) where another adult was setting the pace and requiring assignments on certain dates. I have shifted to cheerleader, chauffeur, and benefactor (paying for classes) as I let Emma discover how she learns best.
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