Tired of Arguing with Your Child about Studying for Exams? Read on to Discover a Simple Way to Convince Your Child to Start Studying for Mid-Term Exams Now!
Our students’ concept of time is “Now” or “Not now” – and, if it’s “Not now”, it’s off their radar screen! Parents may be feeling particularly frustrated by their child’s “skewed” sense of time right about now. For many high school students – and even some middle school students – the month of January marks the time for mid-term exams. With mid-terms looming overhead in just a few short weeks, and the significance of those exams in terms of final grades, you argue that your child should be focused on studying for them … now! Your child, on the other hand, may argue that these exams are “weeks away” and there’s really no reason to start studying for at least another week or two! What’s the answer? Help your child see the “sense of urgency” to prepare for these exams.
Notice that I didn’t say “create a sense of urgency”. This would imply that you do it – and, ultimately, that won’t work. If you genuinely want your child to be motivated to start studying now (and not just “give you lip service”), you have to help them to see the need to start studying. The reality is that our students have challenges of executive functioning, which means that many of our students, even those who are in high school, do not understand what or how to study and they lack the ability to comprehend time, let alone manage their time effectively. Here’s a simple exercise that will help your child “get their arms around” how much time is actually available to them between now and when their exams are scheduled, and create that “sense of urgency” that motivates them to start studying this week rather than right before the exam.
In a comfortable environment, open up a dialogue with your child that encourages him to work through the situation on his own. DO NOT offer solutions -assuming your child is willing to listen to you without arguing, the most this will do is get them “through the day”, so to speak. The goal is to motivate your child to do the right thing by engaging her in a conversation in which you ask her questions and encourage her to consider and explore the following:
- The steps involved in preparing for their exams. Encourage your child to write down the units or chapters that will be covered on each exam, and what materials they’ll need in order to study each of these units or chapters. Ask them whether they took notes in class and/or whether they were assigned portions of the textbook to read that they’ll need to review in order to prepare for the exam. Do they have all the notes or do they need to get notes from a classmate for the days that they were absent? Is this an open book exam? If so, how will they prepare their book and notes so that they can access the information quickly when taking the exam? Is there a review packet that they need to complete in order to study for the exam? And so on.
- The amount of time that is needed to complete each of these steps. Estimating time is particularly hard for our students and they notoriously underestimate the amount of time it will take them to prepare for exams. By breaking down their studying into individual steps or tasks and then assigning an amount of time to each step, the student begins to see that they need more time than they originally thought. Some students will be hesitant to commit to a specific amount of time for each task, but you should encourage them to at least make a guess – and maybe add a little extra time “just in case”. Take the pressure off of them by helping them to see this as a learning exercise: encourage them to record the time they begin and end each task so that they have the opportunity to learn, firsthand, how much time it actually takes them to study. This will be much more persuasive and powerful, going forward, than you telling them how much time it should take them to study.
- Create a calendar that details how they will study for exams over the next couple of weeks. Please note: I am not suggesting that you create the calendar. This is something your child should do, on her own. It’s not enough for your child to put each task on the calendar – they have to be helped to see whether they have enough time to complete each of those tasks on the appointed days. The best way I have found to help them do this is to encourage them to use a calendar that breaks down each day into blocks of time; and then encourage them to block out the time that is not available to them to study, such as the time they will be in classes, or after school appointments and commitments, even the amount of time it takes them to get ready in the morning or to travel to and from school.
Now – here’s the added “kicker”! By engaging your child in this exercise, you’re not only giving him a sense of control over the situation (which is what he wants most), you are also explicitly teaching him the process of planning, prioritizing and organizing his studies – in a way that he is more likely to actually hear you and learn from the experience. The benefits to this are as far-reaching as the old adage, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”. In short, you’ve not only helped her to do what is right for today, you’ve laid the foundation for helping her to begin to gain a sense of achievement and become self-sufficient and able to plan going forward, without your needing to step in and monitor the situation. A “win-win” for all!~