Is your teen unmotivated about school and studying? Perhaps they’re not getting the grades you know they’re capable of? Perhaps you just want some tips to make sure you’re helping your teen to the best of your capability?
Whatever your situation, the tips below for helping your teen should resonate with most parents.
Help your teen make a study timetable for the week
Let’s start off with something simple and tangible.
Making a study timetable for your school weeks can be a god-send. Just a few of the benefits of having a study timetable include:
- Your teen is much more likely to study and complete homework when they have scheduled time to do so in advance. Having a study timetable makes your teen accountable for their time.
- They reduce stress levels. Yours and your teen’s. When the week is planned out in advance, everyone know what’s happening that week and when. There are far fewer surprises. In other words, everyone is better organized.
- They encourage the development of good study habits. Sticking to a routine and good habits go hand in hand. Making and sticking to a study timetable will help your teen get used to studying regularly.
Click here for a previous article containing specific instructions on how to help your teen make a study timetable.
When exams are approaching, we strongly recommend that all teens make an Exam Study Timetable, and you can help your teenager with this too. While the timetable discussed above is for a normal week during semester, an Exam Study Timetable should be drawn up to cover the period of your teen’s exam study. Check out this article to find out more about Exam Study Timetables (includes instructions on how to make them).
Get the most out of incentives
As your teenager’s parent you are expertly positioned to put in place incentives to help your teen find their motivation and work towards getting the grades they’re capable of.
The key with incentives is to base them on the work your teenager puts in, and not the grades they end up getting.
For instance, a good incentive looks something like rewarding your teen at the end of every week that they complete however many hours of study they said they would. A less effective incentive on the other hand, would be basing an incentive on your teen getting, say, a B grade average in their exams.
The reason why the first incentive is good and the second is, well, much less likely to work, is because your teen can’t directly control what grades they end up getting, but they can control how much effort they put in to get them.
An exam could be much harder than expected, grades to an extent can depend on the examiner, something might happen in the exam that your teen couldn’t have foreseen — and so for all of these types of reasons, it’s not fair to base an incentive on a specific outcome.
Furthermore, basing incentives on outcomes is much less likely to motivate your teen.
Because your teen can’t exactly control what grades they get, striving to get particular grades is an intangible goal. They can’t see the carrot dangling right in front of them like they can with an incentive based on their inputs.
This means that when they get home from school, the idea that they might get a reward if they get certain grades, which they might not get anyway, because who can predict something so specific, is unlikely to provide them with the motivation they need to head to their desk to crunch out a couple of hours of decent study. Whereas, knowing that they’ll be rewarded as soon as, say, the end of the week, if they head to their desk and study, is going to be MUCH more motivating to the average teenager.
For more on this really important topic check out this previous article.
Encourage, don’t nag
Nagging might work when you’re asking your teen to help with chores around the house. But when it comes to your teen’s education, nagging is highly unlikely to provide your teenager with the motivation and inspiration they will need to reach their academic potential.
As we discussed here previously, your teen’s grades will benefit the most if their motivation comes from within.
So what can you do to encourage your teen rather than nag them about their homework and studying?
Firstly, applying the first two points above — helping them make a study timetable and using incentives — are a great start.
Beyond those things, here are a few other suggestions:
- Discuss with your teen what they’re good at and how this could inform what they might do after high school.
- Encourage your teen to focus on the positive outcomes of studying and trying your best — more opportunities after high school, better employment prospects etc. Your teen might be focusing only on the negatives of studying right now (it’s hard, it can be boring etc).
- Help your teen realize that high school is not forever, because it CAN seem like forever when you’re a teen, which is a big part of the motivation problem for a lot of students. They can’t see beyond the tip of their nose, which means they can’t see beyond high school and therefore can’t readily appreciate the importance of high school. Enter parents.
- Help them find study techniques that they enjoy more and find effective. Starting with our massive archive of resources will be great for this.
Ask questions about what your teenager is learning and what they’re going to be examined on
This should be done as a study exercise that you and your teenager do together.
Your teen shouldn’t feel like they’re being nagged when you’re asking about what they’re learning. You could pitch the idea as a useful study technique — which it most certainly is.
As we’ve said before with respect to improving memory retention, we found discussing what we had been studying and what questions were likely to come up in the days leading up to an exam INVALUABLE to our exam success.
Doing this with your teen will help to consolidate what they have studied and therefore improve their memory retention, and it will also make evident what they don’t quite understand well enough yet. If you can’t explain something clearly to someone — chances are it’s because you don’t understand it well enough.
This exercise is also more interactive than a lot of other study techniques, and so your teen might find it a lot more engaging than simply reading or writing study notes in isolation.
Consider private tutoring
This one is not a must, but if it’s open to you and your family private tutoring is probably worth investigating.
I had a terrible chemistry teacher for my last year at high school, which was most unfortunate because up until that point I had enjoyed the subject and done reasonably well at it — AND I wanted to get good grades to get into Biomed. Thankfully, I ended up having a few sessions with a university student who knew her stuff, and it was fantastic. She cleared up concepts for me that I had been struggling with for weeks. (Bear in mind this was before educational YouTube videos existed.)
Sometimes an hour with a tutor can work wonders, and can help your teen reach a level of understanding that might have taken them weeks to reach on their own.
Obviously paying for a private tutor might not be a realistic option for your family, but if that’s the case there are other options. You could ask your teen if they know anyone at school who could help them out on one on. Perhaps a friend who is doing well in the relevant subject or a student in a year level above who’s willing to give up a bit of their time.
Other ways you can help
There are myriad ways you can help your teen with school and studying. The ideas above are just a few to get you and your family started. You are a hugely important contributor to your teen’s success at high school, and with your help and support they will go far.
Implementing the ideas above probably won’t happen overnight, particularly if your teen is starting from a very unmotivated position, but there are always things we can do to help our teenagers make their study more engaging, effective, and we daresay — even enjoyable.
Be sure to check out these other relevant articles about helping your teen:
- 3 Ways To Make Studying Fun For Your Teen
- Where To Start With A Lazy Teen
- What To Do If Your Teen Hates School More Than Anything
- 3 Simple Tips For Improving Your Teen’s Memory
- Why Punishing Your Teen Is So Last Century