Study Smarter, Not Harder: Helping Your Charge Succeed with Schoolwork


By Caron B Goode, Ed.D., NCC, DAPA founder of Academy for Coaching Parents International, author of “Nurture Your Child’s Gifts” and co-author of “Raising Intuitive Children”

Have you watched your charge faithfully study for an exam, only to see him return home from school upset and with a less than desirable score? Have you witnessed your charge’s frustration as she attempted to do her homework, but was unable to remember key concepts or lessons that were taught earlier that day in class?

If so, it’s likely not for the lack of trying.

Just as each child is different, each child learns differently. While each child is a unique and special individual, there are four separate and distinct categories of learning, or interactive styles into which children can be grouped. These groups include the achievers, the thinkers, the harmonizers and the influencers. While there are bits and pieces of each interactive style in all of our children, individuals typically exhibit one or two dominant styles that direct how they best learn and interact with their world.

When parents and caregivers understand the child’s interactive style, they can coach the child to approach studying in a way that best matches his style. With the right tools and study tricks, parents and caregivers can help end the child’s frustration, help him make the most of his study time and help him find a new level of success and enjoyment in school.

The Achievers
Achievers are children who are often bold, willful, productive, competitive, and self-reliant. They rarely talk about their problems or emotions, and instead they set goals, and independently take action. They love a good challenge. Tell them they can’t, and they will figure out how. Achievers tend to be leaders and enjoy being recognized for their achievements. They tend to be independent learners and prefer real-life examples over abstract theories or discussions. Children who fall under this interactive style category enjoy structure, dislike control, and will question authority if their parents fail to present a united front.

Study Dos for Achievers
• Have a set time for studying and doing homework.
• Provide a set place for studying and doing homework.
• Allow the child to study and do homework independently.
• Use role playing or real-life scenarios to help the child understand key concepts or lessons.

Study Don’ts for Achievers
• Avoid micromanaging.
• Resist the urge to offer help.

The Thinkers
Thinkers are children who need ongoing affirmation and understanding. These children are deep thinkers who like to thoroughly examine issues, follow lists, and be part of a team, like the family. They value intimacy, respect, and good relationships. Thinkers take instruction well, and they tend to admire expertise and knowledge. These children are organized, enjoy working with data, and can be perfectionists. Because their talents often lie in abstract thought like numbers and mathematics, children who use a cognitive interactive style may want to spend hours at their computers, reading books, or pursuing a solution to a problem.

Study Dos for Thinkers
• Provide a set time and place for studying and doing homework.
• Have an organized environment for studying and doing homework.
• Use visual learning tools like illustrations, flashcards, notes, outlines and diagrams to help the child understand key concepts or lessons.
• Provide additional reading material on a topic the child is having trouble with.
• Provide background details and data to help the child understand key concepts or lessons.
• Makes lists, categories, or organize information in some way.

Study Don’ts for Thinkers
• Ask the child to listen and repeat as a method of learning.
• Allow the child unlimited time to study or do homework. Since he is detail oriented and likes to think, he can easily lose track of time.
• Don’t leave the child unattended. This child likes conversation, being checked on, and keeping in touch. The need for touch and grounding is even more important for a child who lives in and loves the world of ideas.

The Harmonizers
Harmonizers need appreciation and trust. They are highly perceptive children and require honesty in communication and relationships. These children are the family peacemakers and worry if there are arguments or illnesses amongst people close to them. They tend to feel disharmony deeply, and will often internalize it. Children who are harmonizers are sometimes shy, and they tend to value secure relationships and stable environments. When it comes to transitions, these children do not fare well unless they are well-prepared in advance. Harmonizers are strong in auditory processing.

Study Dos for Harmonizers
• Have a set time for studying and doing homework.
• Have a set place for studying and doing homework. Harmonizers like to be around people so the kitchen table is often an ideal place.
• Use auditory learning tools like books on tape, reading aloud or making up poems and songs to help teach key concepts and lessons.
• Coach the child to read aloud to better grasp key concepts and lessons.
• Be available to talk and discuss homework and study topics.
• Don’t try doing homework during times of high emotional energy.
• Do teach stress management.

Study Don’ts for Harmonizers
• Use timed quizzes or tests as study methods.
• Ask your child to write out what he remembers.
• To tackle bigger or difficult assignments, start with easy assignments, breaking into smaller steps, and coach the child to work his way towards more difficult ones.

The Influencers
Influencers are highly creative and artistic. As adults, they are often called visionaries or dreamers. These children learn by doing, and need to feel through things before making decisions. Influencers live in a world of creativity and inspiring ideas, and are drawn to expressive outlets like writing or organizing games around friends. These children enjoy variety, like being the center of attention, and crave acknowledgement for their creativity. They also value their friendships and easily enjoy life.

Study Dos for Influencers
• Encourage hands-on learning.
• Visit museums, galleries or other places that allow your child to experience key concepts or lessons.
• Make a game out of homework.
• Encourage group and interactive study.
• Set time structures to keep the child focused.
• If they have difficulty learning something, have them talk through feelings or act it out. Be creative, but nor cognitive.
• Get creative when trying to teach key concepts or lessons. Write spelling words on a soccer ball that your child can toss around and cook together to demonstrate science and math concepts.

Study Don’ts for Influencers
• Coach the child to study or do homework for long periods of time.
• Force the child to study in silence.
• Use lengthy essay writing as a tool for learning or studying.

Some children learn best by hearing, others by seeing and still others by doing. The better you, the parents and the child understand the child’s interactive style, the better you all can coach him or her to study smarter, not harder, and help him or her to achieve maximum school enjoyment and success!


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