Using Basic Psychology Can Help Improve Your Child’s Grades This Quarter

By Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D.
© Copyright 2021 Vista Health Services, Inc.

Posted February 5, 2021

“It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.” – Michel de Montaigne

Parents and homework have always had a “love/hate” relationship. Parents want their kids to do well in school and, since teachers want kids to do homework, parents have been turned into the Homework Police. Kids don’t like doing homework. How can anyone (that is, teachers, school superintendents, school committees) think that this situation ends well?

It usually doesn.t Especially during the COVID restriction, parents have a new respect for teachers and the stressors that affect kids and schoolwork everyday. Now, however, those stressors have struck home and parents realize just how difficult school – and homework – is for most kids. Who knew?

Well, learning specialists and child psychologists knew. But who listened? Now everyone is listening… to the kids when they complain about how difficult learning can be, to parents, child psychologists and (gasp!) even teachers when they complain about the difficulties of teaching and homework in the COVID age.

Some basic psychology can help in this area. Psychological knowledge is both old and new. Some things seem to be common sense and others are counter-intuitive (not common sense), but the thing about psychology is that you should use it to make your life better. In this post, I cover a basic, four step process to help you improve your kid’s grades this very report card period. What is this magic? A golden-oldie: helping with homework!

I know what you’re thinking: Homework? Is he crazy? Relax. This article doesn’t give you a full “How To Study” program, because I expect you already have one that you are using. This article will help fill in some gaps in the program that you are using and it just gives you a simple, straight forward action plan to help improve your child’s grades right now – in this report card period. The key is for the parent(s) to change their own behavior first.

It’s a S.N.A.P.

S – SUPPORT your child’s homework routine! Make sure your child has a space in the house that is set aside for her or him to actually do their homework. You’d be surprised how few kids have a regular time and area set aside for them to get their homework done. This is a small and easy-to-do detail that most parents, believe it or not, fail to arrange for their children. So the first thing is to be sure to set aside a particular time period and specific area for the homework to be done.

Try and get agreement, if you can, with your child about the time period in which to do the homework. Try not to interfere with after school activities your child highly values, such as sports, music lessons or other specialized interests. A specific, designated homework area can be anywhere, really, including a part of the kitchen or dining room table. Just be sure your child has his or her own place to work undisturbed.

Also, make sure it is QUIET for your favorite student to CONCENTRATE and FOCUS on what he or she must read or think about it. Noise is very distracting to young brains that are trying to concentrate. It’s also distracting to, ahem, old brains – no offense, Moms and Dads. Really, get your kid’s homework organized by starting out with a set time and space especially for homework completion. This indicates to your child how important parents think homework is.

Homework can account for as much as 60% of a student’s overall grade and if the student is having academic trouble in class because of medical absences, poor test grades or similar classroom work difficulties, good ol’ fashioned HOMEWORK completion is what many schools often look to as an indication of curricular accomplishment and performance. This is especially true if there are projects or other out-of-class assignments that have been made. If your kid misses many of these (and sometimes even only a few of them) there may be NO WAY to make them up in class or after the deadline has passed. So homework counts.

N – NO YELLING! (This means YOU, Dad and/or Mom.) What’s that? You never yell? Ah, yes you do yell – but here’s the tricky part. While most parents don’t think that they yell at their kids – most kids think they do yell! How can that be? Simple – kids and adults have different definitions of “yelling.”

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Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist on Cape Cod and a former Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Ten Lessons in Power Psychology; Psychology Tips and Techniques For People Who Would Never Visit a Psychologist’s Office.

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