How do I improve an 8-year-old’s study skills?

Baqir asks: I have an 8-year-old boy of grade 4 in a Pakistani English medium public school, who is not taking interest in studies and resists teaching from mother. Do you have any suggestions?

Hi Baquir –


The first thing I want you to do is to take a very deep breath.  And then, every time you begin to worry about your son’s academics, I want you to take another.


Your son is eight years old.  This is a great time to learn – his brain is as powerful and receptive as it will ever be.  But he’s also growing.  What he learns now about subjects in school is extremely important, but what he learns about life is even more so.  And where they overlap is one huge thing:  Love Of Learning!


Every baby is born with Love Of Learning.  They are studying and examining everything they perceive from the very start.  Sure, they have some basic urges to meet (eating, crying, sleeping and such), but otherwise all they do for the first few years is Learn!  Learn to talk, learn to crawl, learn to walk, learn to please parents, learn to feed themselves, learn to use the potty, learn to dress, learn to play – it’s truly all they care about!


Then we send them to school, where suddenly they’re told “You Should Learn This.”  And for a lot of kids, that just seems ridiculous!  While some kids find math and science and languages exciting and invigorating, other kids see no connection at all between these subjects and what they want to be experiencing and learning.


And – here comes the reason I want you to take those breaths: Your anxiety about his academics might be making him want to avoid them even more.


Imagine you’re trying to learn a new sport.  It’s hard, your muscles have never worked that way, you’re trying to master the rules, etc.  Hard, isn’t it?   Then imagine you’re trying to do that while your parents are watching, and worrying about your future as a professional in that sport!  You won’t have a chance.


But what if instead, you’ve seen how much fun your parents have playing that sport!  What if you’re telling yourself “I want to get good enough at this so that I can play it well, and have fun too!”  Suddenly you’ll learn it immensely quicker!


So, maybe, instead of trying to teach your son study skills, what if tonight you (or his mother) sat with him and read one of your favorite books while he did his English homework.  And what if, while he does his math, you (or she) balance your checkbook.  And what if, when he’s doing his Social Sciences homework, you (or she) read the newspaper, and afterwards talk with him about what he read, and how it applies to what’s going on in the world today.  And what if, when he’s done with his computer homework, you (or she) sit with him and find some fun kids’ websites that he’d like to play on.


You see, you parents won’t have “taught” him any study skills at all.  But suddenly he’ll see what’s great about all his subjects.  And you know what will be the best thing about all of them?  YOU TWO!  You, who he’s been wanting to be like from the day he was born.


Now later, yes, he’ll probably need some help in developing good skills in time management, organization, and concentrating for long periods.  All kids do.  But right now, while he’s eight, your job is to plant the seeds of Love of Learning, so that even those difficult later skills are something he’ll actually want for himself.


Good Luck!  Let me know how it goes!




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