Parents and guardians can, and should, help their young children develop good study habits from an early age, to help them achieve academic excellence throughout their school years and beyond, an education expert says.

“In primary school, learners will start bringing homework assignments from school, and be required to study for tests. These early years are the best time to guide children and equip them with the strategies and tools to ensure that study discipline comes naturally in later years,” says Clare Pretorius, Senior Deputy Principal at Trinityhouse High Randpark Ridge, a brand of Africa’s largest private education provider, the ADvTECH Group.

Pretorius says once parents have left behind the frazzled and often anxious toddler years, they will be faced with a whole new myriad of uncertainties and frustrations once their school going children are required to start studying and performing to the best of their ability academically.

“Every young person differs when it comes to attention and dedication to studies, homework and exam preparation. Some parents have intrinsically motivated children, while others need to constantly spur them on. Regardless of where a child falls on the spectrum however, parents can guide and equip them to ensure they are able to grow and develop to ultimately realise their full potential,” she says.

It is important for parents and guardians to first establish what a child’s intrinsic learning style is – auditory, visual, or a combination of the two?

“It is possible that the child learns through doing rather than seeing. The preferred method, if used correctly, will facilitate successful learning.”

It is also vital to ensure that children have a suitable study environment.

“This refers to both the physical environment and the atmosphere created for the studying child,” says Pretorius.

“Daily routine needs to be established, and this includes when meals are served and when family outings are arranged, as children need little to distract them from the task at hand. Preparation of the environment also includes ensuring that all necessary equipment is available. As children get older they will organise this themselves, but initially a parent needs to assist and demonstrate best practice.”

Once the groundwork has been laid, parents should assist – with varying degrees of involvement – with the actual study process.

“Intrinsically motivated children may need firmness and guidance as to when enough is enough. Avoid allowing children to study into the small hours of the morning only to sit their exams in an exhausted state. On the other side of the spectrum, many children will need firm encouragement just to get going. These children do well when study schedules are drawn up with the help of parents, with lots of encouragement to get with and stick to the programme.”

Pretorius says study programmes must be realistic and give adequate time to each subject.

“It must be flexible and make allowances for last minute emergencies such as power failures or illness. Such a programme should be set up well in advance, as that in itself brings a sense of control to the situation for both parent and child,” she says.

“Supporting your studying child can be a cause for stress, which is exacerbated if the child also doesn’t enjoy writing exams or studying. So parents should understand that they are key to the maintenance of a relatively stress free environment. There are years ahead of our children that will be filled with homework, tests and exams. If we can engender a positive attitude and a diligence in approach to academic work right from the start, it will go a long way to cultivating positive and diligent young adults who realise their potential.”