How Do I Motivate My Son To Study (A Parent’s Guide)

Boys and girls are different. No question. I have one of each and they are like chalk and cheese. My boy will only study if I lay out exactly what has to be done. This is how I got my son to study for his exams.

Boys like structure and routine. In order to achieve the best possible outcome for your son’s study you need to put the following in place.

  1. Study Plan
  2. Good notes
  3. Encouragement
  4. Start prep early
  5. Rewards

Boys need to be told in several different ways what needs to be done in order to achieve goals. Just because you understand what you are telling them doesn’t mean that they are listening. Let me share what I put in place in order to get the job done.

Study Plan

Boys in general are difficult to motivate into doing schoolwork. If you have a son who eagerly hits the books well I’m very jealous! My boy is not a complainer, he will study when asked but the voluntary action is just not quite there yet.

He’s heavily involved in Archery and if there is a chance that he could be doing that instead of looking at books, well there’s no question where he would be! But I don’t think he’s out of the ordinary, most boys would rather be kicking a ball, or playing a computer game.

But at the end of the day no sport is going to solely get you into college, or through it, you need to have some kind of grades to go along with your skill.

I found that if we sat down and went through his schedule then we could concentrate on what areas were weak.

A study plan was key. Each Sunday a new pan was drawn up for the week ahead. Class tests and assignments had to be factored in aswell as revision work. We found that just writing a subject in the plan was no good.

How to write a study plan that actually works is another one of my posts that goes more in depth into study plans.

We needed to be more specific, or else when we sat down to study ‘History’ or ‘Science’ the course was so vast it was overwhelming and time was wasted deciding on what topic to study.

We also realized that we needed to have a plan that is flexible. Topics need to be covered but then a teacher throws a curveball and sets a test for Thursday morning. So items may need to be adjusted.

Generating a study plan is an art in itself, over time this will become easier but initially it will be hard to stick with. I found that my son didn’t study well alone whereas my daughter is completely self-motivated.

This could be just mine but other moms I have spoken to were experiencing the same thing, so I have put it down to girls and boys being different.

By laying out what needed to be covered and sitting with him and being his study buddy helped enormously. I know, people are busy, and who has that kind of time? But even if it’s for 40 minutes a day, or a couple of evenings a week.

It’s so worth the effort and hopefully it will inspire them to study on.
It’s very important when the study plan is being created that breaks are included. Generally every 40 minutes a quick break is needed. But we also have to be mindful of sports and extracurricular activities.

These are so important when it comes to studying as they relax the mind. Every substantial break needs to be factored into the study plan, otherwise, we end up with too much downtime and not enough study time.

Good Notes

In order to study or revise, your boy needs material to look over. It is a good idea to try to get good note taking practice in place early on. Lots of different tactics can be used to end up with effective notes.

It is up to your child to find the one that works for him. Bullet points, highlighting/underlining, using margin areas. There’s no point in trying to write down everything a teacher is saying, one; they’ll never keep up and two; every word is not necessary.

If they are trying to write everything down, then they are not absorbing the goodness of a class. If a teacher is charismatic then listening to them and taking brief notes is more beneficial, as they will remember the actual class for what was taught, rather than the notes that were written.

However, sad to say only a handful of my son’s teachers manage to hold their attention, and so they must work hard to grasp the true elements of a lesson.

Notes need to be concise. They need to be condensed information. They need to follow a logical pattern and most importantly they need to be readable and understandable at a later stage in order to study.

So why do they need good notes? We always need them to be mindful of the bigger picture. Notes are going to make their lives a whole lot easier when it comes to end-of-year exams. In order for notes to be useful, they need to be all in one folder per subject, per topic, and categorized.

Obvious, you say. Well yes, however, I spoke to a mom of a boy recently, who was nearly pulling her hair out because her son is so unorganized. How? You ask. Well, because he is not prepared for class, he arrives with no spare paper to take notes. He borrows some paper and takes notes but this loose sheet then goes into his satchel.

By the end of the week, all these loose, crumpled pieces of paper at the bottom of his bag are of no use to anyone. They are either torn, crumpled or not titled, the list goes on. The mom is not at her wit’s end trying to get copies of notes for him to be able to study for his high school finals.

Each subject needs a named folder. My boy was willing to take this on board, as I began to make him rewrite any notes that were on loose sheets into a folder. He realized quickly enough that he was just generating extra work for himself.

In their schoolbag needs to be pads of blank lined paper that can be filed at the end of each class. If you can instill this basic organizing skill early on, then revision time will go much smoother. Without good notes, no revision can take place, without revision, good grades cannot be achieved.


Everyone likes to be praised, not just children. It’s important to me as a mother that I keep in sight that if my son is motivated then goals will be achieved. By setting small stepping stones of goals then my son was more willing to be on board. If the goals are not realistic then they will give up more easily.

With each goal that is achieved, encouragement plays a large part. I know that if he has studied hard for a test, and the grade is not as high as we would like, encouragement and paise work better than chastisement. If he knows that I believe he did his best then he will be more eager to do better next time round. We go over the test, see where the gaps are, and encourage a little extra study on that topic.

It’s hard for teens to deal with setbacks, but if we show them that they are challenges that they need to work on then they will want to succeed the next time. They need to get to the stage where they want to achieve for themselves, not for us.

Start Preparation Early

Management of time is an important skill. Women are good at organizing, unfortunately, most teenage boys are not and chances are if you are like me then you are doing most of their organizing for them. However, being organized is also something that needs to be learned. By starting early, hopefully, they will absorb some of your knowledge. It’s good to try and keep on top of what projects, assignments, and tests they have coming up.

If they have been set an assignment, try to get them going on it. Even i is just an outline of what needs to be done. Leaving it all until the last minute is going to generate two things, stress, and a low grade. If they have a week, ten days to write an essay, well then a teacher is looking for something substantial, not a few paragraphs thrown together in morning recess.

Encourage a to-do list. Get them to break the work down into a manageable load. Creating structure to assignments generates a good work ethic and ultimately a feel-good factor when they complete the work on time and get a high grade. By prioritizing work for longer tasks they will see the benefits of being organized.

In relation to this, you may also be interested to read my post; how early should you submit your college application?


All work and no play….. By getting my son into the pattern of studying it became easier to manage. Less arguing and procrastination. He ununderstood that with hard work comes rewards. Setting weekly goals along with a reward is a great way of staying on track. This could be as simple as an hour of gaming, or a meet-up with some friends on the weekend.

How late should I let my teenager stay out? is another of my posts that you may like to read.

By setting goals and sticking to them, they will relish the small rewards even more. They feel they deserve them because they have earned them. By early preparation, you may start the year with a reluctant child that doesn’t even want to open a book and hopefully by year-end have like me, a child that wants those high grades and certainly will have earned them.

I felt so proud of my son that he actually wanted to study. I knew his exam results were going to be fine because he now saw the value of his study time and hopefully that is now embedded within!

As parents, it’s our job to get them through. I’m probably too hands-on with my son, but whatever works.

In this house I knew if I had left him to his own devices, that yes, he probably would have struggled through and got average grades but I wanted him to start to take ownership of his studies and boys especially need to be shown how to do this.

I can hand on heart say that by leading him in the right direction and giving him the tools and knowledge he needed he is now self motivated to get the job done.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

Recent Posts