There is a lot of pressure these days on children to achieve success right out of the gate. That pressure is probably felt double by parents who know the expectations on their kids and themselves. And it would be nice to take an above-it-all attitude and say “let kids be kids”. But it is also true that getting things done in the early days is important. During the formative years, minds are developing and we learn more easily. It’s a fact.
Whether you are a parent who homeschools their children, or one whose kids go out to school, that success is important. With a strong record of achievement comes more opportunity in the job market. A greater chance of scholarships, acceptance letters from top schools and the college diploma you want. You also want a child to grow up balanced, so it can sometimes feel like you’re spinning plates.
There are many challenges involved in taking a child through the educational system to adulthood. Overcoming those challenges can require some creative problem solving. Above all, as paradoxical as it sounds, it is important to ease the pressure on your kid and yourself. Stress can be a motivator. It can also be such a restrictive factor, without you even knowing it. It can impair decision making, stop you sleeping and make you prone to illness.
When it comes to getting the best results – and not just in exams – the most important thing is to have the right tools. That’s true from a material point of view and a metaphorical one, too. Making sure that all of the best opportunities are there for your child may require going above and beyond. However, that doesn’t need to mean that you are running yourself into the ground to keep up with the challenges.
Cramming Is Stressful And Ineffective
It’s one of the greatest tropes of TV and movies. The kid with exams around the corner, burning the candle at both ends, falling asleep on their books. Not leaving their room during a period of enforced seclusion which only ends when the exams do. As students, we probably did it ourselves. And we may have got results at the time. But it may well be in spite of that cramming rather than because of it.
Research has shown that cramming is not beneficial for exam study. It includes research from the school of psychiatry at UCLA – who should know a thing or two. Cramming creates stress, interferes with sleep and plays havoc with body rhythms. It is not what you want when there are exams around the corner. Studying is important, but works when done according to a schedule that allows time to relax.
Eating Right Is As Important As They Say
We always hear how important it is to eat healthily, but too often when people are studying, this is junked in favor of convenience. Particularly for teens, the balanced diet that is recommended by every doctor gets replaced with energy drinks and bars. Aside from the high sugar contents, these products have negligible nutrition. They may make a kid more alert for a spell, but they’re like energy loan sharks. What they give you short-term, they take back with interest.
During exam periods it is all the more important to eat things like leafy green vegetables, oily fish and eggs. Mental clarity is vastly more important than energy when studying. Two hours of focused reading will get more beneficial output than ten hours of frenzied leafing through notes. Water, also, should be a focus. Just throw away any and all energy drinks and give brain and body the hydration they need.
Assistance Is Not A Short Cut
When it comes to studying, be honest. When you were at school, what form did your study sessions take? Was it books open in front of you, reading through what notes you had and then trying to answer questions off flash cards? If your answer is “yes”, then that’s the same approach 95% of us take even through college, and it’s not really that effective.
When we study alone, the usual outcome is that we are getting closed loop feedback. If we come away from the books thinking we’ve taken everything in, then it’s probably because we only have our word for it. Studying with someone else, meanwhile, allows you to say what you know, or think you know, and get feedback.
Often, even when we have proofread a paper we wrote multiple times, it comes back with a stupid error on it. The reason this happens is because we know what we meant, and when we read it we immediately substitute that in place of any error. Studying with friends can help a kid pick up on those errors. Also, tutoring services for kids are beneficial here because they can focus on areas of weakness.
Educational achievement is so highly prized, and in so many ways the system is unfair. We cram so much of what we need to know for life into its first eighteen years. If you’re in your thirties now, ask yourself: Are you the same as you were at eighteen? Almost certainly not, but the whole education system can feel like we’re expecting adult responses from kids. It’s unrealistic and potentially damaging.
So by all means, when it comes to educating children, let them know how important a good education is. It’s true. But don’t turn straight-A report cards into a Holy Grail that they absolutely must achieve. Maybe they’ll peak as they get to senior year in high school. Better that than load them with the pressure before they’re into double figures.
Don’t let your kids have the impression that they can skate by doing the minimum of work, as that mindset is as hard to break as the opposite. But at the same time, don’t let them feel like going to bed is something they do when they’re too tired to study. Achievement is its own reward, and that should be what motivates kids to study.