How to Encourage Good Study Habits in a Child

Encouraging your children to develop good study habits from an early age is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. By demonstrating to your kids that it is important to value education and to work hard, you will help them develop a life-long love of learning and put them on the right path for future career success and happiness. The skills and values your children pick up from you will allow them to blossom into independent, self-motivated achievers.


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    Begin introducing "academic" activities to your children as early as 2 years old. Some suggestions include reading books, drawing/painting, learning simple arithmetic, engaging in basic grammar exercises, learning a foreign language, picking up an instrument, and learning new vocabulary words through drawing pictures.
    • Feel free to pick up toys, games, art supplies, workbooks, flash cards, and other commercial learning materials for your children. You can also create your own or make them with your children.
    • Make sure this is quality time that you are spending with your children, so sit down with them and watch as they complete the activity. Don't hand them a book and walk away. Even if they are capable of reading on their own, it's more fun for them if they have your company, so let them read aloud to you.
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    • Children love spending time with and getting the attention of their parents. If you can let "academic time" be a regular and fun part of their routine, your children will associate learning and teaching others with satisfying feelings.
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    When your children begin receiving homework from school -- most likely during Kindergarten -- instruct them to set aside time right arriving home from school to complete their work. Tell them that the hour right after school must be set aside for homework time, but they are free to play earlier if they finish their work earlier.
    • Instead of making your kids work right after school, you can also designate a set amount of free time and then schedule the hour of work time. It's usually easier to get the kids inside to do homework before they've begun to romp around outside, however.
    • Scheduling a routine "work period" for each day of the week at an early age is important because their homework is relatively easy and enjoyable. As young children are malleable, they will gladly follow your guidance and complete their homework right after school. If you continue to enforce this as they age, they will begin to want to set aside this time on their own in the future.
    • On weekends, you should also set aside an hour (e.g., 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.) for your kids to complete homework assigned by the school or academic work prepared by you. This would be a great time to continue activities mentioned in step 1.
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    When your children begin developing independence, pull back a little from your involvement in work time. Late elementary school or early middle school (5th - 7th grade) is a good time to do this, depending on how quickly your children mature.
    • Start by reminding them to start their homework right after school, but don't micromanage the process of how they choose to complete it. You don't necessarily need to know what all their homework is before they do it. However, you may want to continue checking their assignment sheets and knowing the due dates to ensure that your children are completing the work.
    • In middle school, your children will begin to have homework from multiple classes with various due dates. Discourage them from starting an assignment the night before it's due. Instead, make sure that they do a little bit of work every day. This way, they will be forced to start their assignments early.
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    When your children are in 8th grade or high school, reduce your reminders of work time, and see how your children respond. Do they continue to complete their homework after school without your prompting? If so, congratulations: you have successfully instilled effective study habits! If not, punish them for their irresponsibility and continue to monitor their work time as necessary.
    • Tell your children that if they show self-initiative in completing their work and therefore can earn your trust to manage their work independently, you will reward them by backing off.
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    As your children are exposed to more and more difficult material, teach them effective study strategies for dealing with the new workload. Suggestions include:
    • Writing down every task in a to-do list or agenda booklet with the due date
    • For long-term projects, setting due dates for certain stages of the projects before the actual final due date
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    • Making flash cards for memorizing vocabulary words, key figures, dates, foreign language concepts, etc.
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    • Starting to study for tests at least three days before the actual day of the test to maximize retention of the material
    • When studying for midterms or final exams, dividing up the studying into units and deciding when you want to study each unit beforehand
    • Finding classmates to create study groups
    • Taking meticulous notes in class and reviewing them after school to reinforce the material early on (so that when the night before the test arrives, absorbing everything will be much easier)
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    Even when your children are in high school and should be managing their own work, ask about upcoming projects/tests and inquire about their plan for completing them. Even if you don't ask your children to divulge the details of their planning, your question will remind them to start ahead of time, create a plan, and finish early. You should continue to show that you care about their academic success and that you will reward them for their good study habits.


  • Don't let your children get away with violating work time without some sort of punishment. Strictly enforcing work time is the only way to establish studying as a consistent routine for your children.
  • When preparing academic activities for your children, switch up the curriculum every so often. For example, Mondays and Wednesdays can be math, Tuesdays and Thursdays can be reading, and Fridays can be art. That way, your children are less likely to get bored of these activities.
  • Allow your children to negotiate work time with you. If they have a reasonable justification for postponing work time, hear them out. Be willing to make reasonable compromises to encourage independent thinking in your children.
  • Reward good behavior with treats and freedom to play with their friends, especially as your children become more independent. That will encourage them to be good about doing their work in the future.
  • Practice what you preach. Let your children see you do productive things like keeping up with current events, reading books, preparing presentations for work ahead of time and looking and acting differently,etc. That will set a great example for them to be proactive.


  • If your child isn't naturally gifted in and/or doesn't enjoy a subject (e.g., math), help them out with the work and continue to encourage them. Start off by providing easier problems you know they can complete successfully on their own to give them a boost of confidence for the harder ones. It would also be a good idea to pair work in this subject with another subject that your children do enjoy on the same day.
  • Don't get frustrated if your children are uncooperative or protest work time right after school. Insist that your routine is just the way things have to be in this house. Be patient, offer to help your children with any questions they might have, and tell them that their hard work will pay off in the future.
  • Remember that some children may learn very differently from their classmates and siblings. There are reputable companies, such as Sylvan, Kumon, and Appleton, that have physical locations across the country and can provide additional support and structured, personalized tutoring for children who continue to have difficulty establishing good academic habits. Sometimes children may respond well to both parent guidance and other adult role models.

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Categories: Learning Techniques and Student Skills