Fostering Good Study Habits in Your Children

Over the last few years I’ve discovered my attitude toward homework and studying is somewhat misguided. Deluded may actually be a more accurate description. Maybe it’s naïve, but I assumed that I would handle my children’s studying the way my mother handled mine. “The Madeline Method” consisted of the following:

  • My sister and I had to do our homework before we could play, watch TV, etc.
  • If we asked for help, our parents would provide minimal assistance.
  • We were expected to maintain “good grades” in order to engage in most social and extra-curricular activities.

It was simple. For the most part, we thrived in the system. (There was a brief math debacle for my sister in middle school). It’s ok. She’s a doctor now.

Fast forward 30 years and now I have my own children. One thing I know for sure, “The Madeline Method” is not going to work for my family. Now I understand the shocked looks I’ve received from friends and family when I’ve suggested this approach to them. So, what’s a mom/dad to do?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Actually, I don’t claim to have any answers. So, what I did do for the inaugural feature article of the new Inclusions website was to tap the people who do have the answers – you.

Below, I’ve compiled some of the best tips from parents on fostering good study habits in children. Since the experts also have some worthwhile advice, I’ve also compiled links to several articles from the experts and organized them into categories. Our goal is to bring you good information so you can make the right decisions for your own family.

Almost every parent I (informally) polled agreed on some of the basics.

Help with time management. “For older kids, homework assignments are often due over the course of a week or a long-term project due in 2-3 weeks. I found it is critical to help my kids with time management so they do a little each day instead of doing the entire assignment the night before.”

Set up a study space. “My children each have a spot where they do their homework. This is where we keep all their books and assignments together so they don’t get lost around the house. I don’t allow music or other distractions.”

Do YOUR homework. “I find it helps if I sit with my children at the kitchen table and do my own work, pay bills, etc. It says we are in this together.”

Creature comforts. “It seems obvious, but make sure your child is not hungry, thirsty, cold or hot. Bad conditions can easily derail a study or homework session.”

When it came to homework contracts, using rewards to foster good behavior, and parental involvement, opinions were more varied.

Homework Contracts. Simply said, a homework contract is an agreement between student and parent that lays out how and when homework will be completed, as well as the responsibilities of the student and parent. Regardless of whether there is a written document, most parents I polled agreed that parents should discuss their homework expectations with their child(ren), including why it’s important, and any consequences that will take place if homework is not completed to agreed upon expectations.

Rewards. According to the experts, “students who do not yet have powerful intrinsic motivation to learn can be helped by extrinsic motivators in the form of rewards.” In other words, rewards can be a powerful tool. The question that came up most often, when I was polling parents, was not whether rewards were ok, but rather what was an “acceptable reward.” Clearly this answer will differ for each family. Some families use stickers or stars or homemade certificates, others used more screen time, and some resorted to outright bribery. Not surprisingly, most experts suggest non-monetary rewards.

Parental Supervision. Based on my research, parents have a varied definition of the word supervise when it comes to their children’s homework. Although everyone I spoke to agreed that parents should not “do” their children’s homework, some thought it was o.k. to correct mistakes while others limited their role to confirming that the homework was complete.

In addition to the regular old homework and studying struggles, many of us have children with special needs that may create even greater challenges.

Below are links to several articles and resources that provide more information on creating good study habits, motivating children, how to help with homework, and strategies to help children and children with special needs be successful with homework and studying. I hope it’s helpful.

We want to hear from you. So, share your best tips with the rest of the PS 372 community by commenting on this article.

And, just when I thought my research was complete and my article summarizing common wisdom was done, I picked up the New York Times and read an article stating that much of the common wisdom about studying is inaccurate. I’ll let you decide.


“Completing Assignments: Autism Spectrum and Homework Issues” from

“Eight ways to help your kids stay caught up with school.” The Daily Herald.

Helping Your Child Series from the U.S. Department of Education (available in English and Spanish)

Homework Help from

“Homework Help For Kids with Special Needs” from

“Homework Without Tears: 12 Ways to make homework less stressful for your child with ADD, ADHD or Dyslexia” from ADDitude Magazine.

“Parent Guide to Homework” on

“Parent-Tested ADD-Friendly Strategies for Helping Kids Do Their Homework” from ADDitude Magazine.

“Supporting Children with An ASD with Homework” from the National Autistic Society.

“What kind of Homework Helper Are You”