Written by: Christina Rodriguez of Triangle Total Tutoring

How many fulltime jobs does a parent have? Career. Household. Children. These are each a fulltime job. You may feel that a disproportionate amount of time and energy are required by school demands. You’re not alone! Most families experience tremendous stress due to school work. Helping your children manage their academic responsibilities is one of the most time consuming components of child rearing. But your child’s academic success can increase her self esteem exponentially and reduce the family’s stress level dramatically.

Today’s young adult navigates a competitive environment that is more intense than ever. As a parent you want to help your child do well in school to prepare him for college and the future. Unfortunately, academic pressures can wreak havoc on the present by taking a toll on family life and zapping vitality and exuberance from your teen or even pre-teen.

Although modern day academic pressures are unique and greater than ever, some of the best study tips have been around for a long time. Combined with a few new tools at our disposal today, you can help your child maximize his success and also his sense of accomplishment and well-being.

You can help your child harness his energy for positive results, thus helping him achieve his potential and breaking the cycle of stress and worry.

Procrastination. Often, a young person hardly taps the extent of his potential because he doesn’t get started on his assignments early enough, or she squanders her time and energy by procrastinating. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, which propagates the cycle. If she can just get started, she’ll build momentum and a desire to carry through what she’s already begun. Set boundaries and help your child to structure her time.

  1. Allot a specific time each day for focused schoolwork, and be clear to your student that he is expected to be on-task.
  2. Provide a quiet space to do homework. Eliminate distracting electronic gadgets for a set period of study time. (No phone zone.)
  3. Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Enforce a bedtime if necessary. If your child is a zombie at school, the whole day is practically worthless. Even if he wants to stay up late to finish an assignment, the cost in sleep is too great.
  4. If your child resists putting aside time and space each day to focus on schoolwork, don‘t be afraid to bring in a third party, such as a tutor who can jump-start study sessions and guide your student to work efficiently and develop effective study skills.
  5. Rewards can be motivating; keep rewards timely and simple when used. As a last resort, consequences also work for some children who otherwise refuse to do homework or study.

The right attitude. You can model a positive mentality for your child. Rather than agreeing with her that she’ll never use math (or chemistry, or whatever it may be), point out the benefits she is deriving: the strong writing skills she’s developing; the ability to think critically; the ability to focus; the building of “brain muscle”. Just as it takes work and practice to develop a good backhand or jump shot, the same is true of mental skills that will last a lifetime.

  1. Continually reinforce the importance of education.
  2. Focus on school work — make it a priority.
  3. Encourage your student to discuss his difficulties with the teacher, and attend “extra help” sessions after school.
  4. Emphasize consistency. One bad grade will not ruin a semester. Good study habits will pay off over time.

Watch for warning signs. Nip problems in the bud — do not let things reach a crisis point. Intervene at the first signs of trouble. Nowadays you can monitor your student’s progress and academic standing via class and school web pages. Emailing with the teacher can also provide insights as to how best assist your child. Though he may view it as somewhat intrusive, internet tools are available to you for a reason. Don’t neglect to know if your child is floundering. He may assure you that he’s “got things under control” but he may not be able to “handle things” as well as he thinks. Get him the support he needs.

Don’t be reluctant to enlist outside help; a good tutor. When it comes to schoolwork, parent-child encounters can be fraught with tension, making for a potentially explosive situation. By partnering with a tutor who can work with your child, you can remove family dynamics from the equation and avoid a lot of stress. Seek out a tutor who can really connect to your child. A tutor should have expertise in their given field and strong communication skills. Look for a tutor who will build a rapport with your child. Your student will appreciate having someone outside of his family who he can count on to provide academic support and positive encouragement. Make sure to receive periodic feedback and updates from your tutor.

An experienced tutor knows how to get the most productivity out of a study session. She should be able to keep the session moving by asking and answering questions, giving drills to enhance skill mastery, and explaining concepts. She should be able to present a topic in a manner that reinforces the method the teacher is using in class, or alternatively, be able to present the material from another angle, thus finding the method that is more suitable to your child’s style of learning.

In addition, a tutor should be patient and work at the student’s pace, but also guide her get her work done in a timely manner. The tutor will keep the ball rolling, both throughout a study session and throughout the semester/ school year.

Achieve balance. Today, more often than not, family tranquility is affected by how well things are going in the classroom. You can help your child harness his energy for positive results, thus helping him achieve his potential and breaking the cycle of stress and worry.

As your child grows up, you want to encourage him to develop independence and to take ownership of his responsibilities. However, it is not yet time to relinquish parental support and oversight. You can help your child stay on track by putting in place some structure and routines that will help her use time well and circumvent procrastination.

Utilize today’s technology to help your child stay on top of his academic responsibilities. You or a tutor can help manage your child’s academic affairs by staying on top of due dates and upcoming tests and quizzes via the class webpage, and such using that information to pass on reminders to your child.

Though he may fight you initially, your child will appreciate it when he’s able to truly enjoy his free time knowing he’s completed his academic objectives for the day or week. A more positive and less stressed-out outlook will help him be motivated. Improved study habits will result in better grades, and in turn a happier family.

For more information contact: Christina Rodriguez, Triangle Total Tutoring, (919) 961-3365, total.tutoring@gmail.com. Specializing in SAT Preparation, Calculus, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, Geometry, Algebra I & Algebra II, Pre-Algebra, and Middle-School Math.

A note from Dr. Lepage…

When a child comes home with a D or F, often those poor grades get more attention than the good grades, since they are an area of concern. That attention can span from the “I’m disappointed in you” conversation and being grounded when the poor grade is a result of a child not doing their schoolwork or not studying, to a fairly pleasant conversation about putting in place a study plan, hiring a tutor, or developing some sort of an action plan when the poor grade has occurred after a child tried their best. In both scenarios, often times the conversation about the poor grade overshadows the successes on the report card. Remembering to make an equally big deal – maybe even more of a big deal – about a child’s accomplishments is a great way to build pride in his or her strengths and build overall self-esteem. I suggest when a child comes home with a mixed report card, celebrate successes first. Say something like, “You did a terrific job in ‘xx’ subjects! I am so proud of you! I see you didn’t do as well in ‘xx’ but we can talk about that after we celebrate your accomplishments. Tonight (or this weekend) we are going to celebrate your successes!” Then develop a celebration plan with your child, and refrain from mentioning the poor grade during that celebration. A day or two after celebrating your child’s success, address the poor grade. The point is not to ignore the poor grade, but rather to make sure the good grades don‘t get lost in the shuffle, so your child experiences a balanced reaction to their grades that focuses equally on the positive. So remember, when report card time comes around, celebrate!

When to get help: Sometimes a poor grade can be addressed by parent intervention at home in the form of study help and study organization, and/or rewards and consequences. Sometimes a tutor can turn things around by teaching effective studying and test-taking skills, and by helping the child understand the material. Other times a psychologist is needed for testing or therapy, as some poor grades result from a learning disorder, AD/HD, test taking anxiety, social stress at school, or even family stress at home. Testing can determine the presence of LD or AD/HD as well as anxiety, depression or any mental health condition that could impact academic performance. LD and AD/HD can be overlooked when a child has done well in school previously; however, children on the mild end of the spectrum of these disorders sometimes do well in lower grades and then struggle when the difficulty of the material increases. Testing provides diagnostic clarity so interventions can be targeted and effective; even when the result is that there is no disorder, that is highly valuable information as parents then know the interventions need to be study / tutoring / rewards / consequences based. When stress of some kind is causing a child to do poorly, a psychologist can provide therapy to address the problem. For example, teaching stress-reduction and focusing techniques for test taking, improving social skills, or decreasing anxiety or depression. Research has shown anxiety and depression can reduce academic performance, and therapy to address these can both improve academics and provide the child with emotional relief so they feel better. Please feel free to call any doctor at Lepage Associates should you have questions about your child’s academic performance.


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