There is nothing more frustrating than trying to motivate an unmotivated child, especially when nothing works. You lecture them tirelessly about the future, and how important it is to do well in school. Try as you may, their performance doesn’t change. So, what do you do?
I have exhausted myself trying to keep up with my youngest son’s school work. He is unorganized, his grades flip flop (mostly flop), and there is always at least a minimum of 3 assignments missing at any given time. It’s endless, and on more than one occasion I’ve thrown in the towel and told him he was on his own. Then, I remind myself that he’s only 10 years old, and I just can’t give up like that. But what do I do?
According to www.empoweringparents.com, there are 10 ways to motivate your child to do better in school, and I have been missing almost all of them. I’ll give you a short run down of them, but for the full effect, I would suggest you go to the website and read it thoroughly.
Keep an open relationship with your child that is respectful and positive.
Don’t stay on his/her case all the time. You need to show them that you’re on their team, and work with them, not against them.
Use the “When you” rule.
Don’t allow them to do the things they enjoy until after they have completed their assignments, projects, reading or study time. This will give them something to work toward and offer some motivation.
When You Are Invited In.
Don’t wait for everything to get out of control. At the first sign of grades dropping, that is your invitation to involve yourself fully in getting him/her back on track.
Ask the Teacher.
Sit down with your child’s teacher and together make a plan to help your child get on track and stay on track. Teamwork can help get the job done.
Identify a Study Spot.
Some kids work best in quiet places, while others do better with commotion around them. Try having your child work in different environments until you find the one that works best for them.
Break it Down.
If your child feels overwhelmed, especially with big projects, help them break it down into small chunks on a daily basis, so it is easier for them to handle and alleviate the anxiety.
Be Kind but Firm.
Being on his/her case all the time is not going to give you any positive results. Stay positive and helpful versus aggravated and controlling. This will get you nowhere, only shut out and avoided.
Lack of Motivation or Anxiety?
This may be the most important one. Recognize that your child’s laziness or irresponsibility may be a mask for his anxiety and shame about his academics and schoolwork. (More on this in a bit.)
Teach Life Balance.
As important as it is, life is not all about school and work. Get involved with your child and help them become well rounded with extra-curricular activities, friendships and other functions outside of school.
Don’t obsess over what the future holds for your child by putting a negative spotlight on him all the time. Try to focus on his positive traits and help him work on those in the present.
All of these are very helpful, but I would like to concentrate mostly on the lack of motivation or anxiety. I have spent a gross amount of time accusing my son of not caring about his school work and being lazy. When I read these helpful hints on the Empowering Parents website, it hit me like a ton of bricks: my son does not have faith in himself. I have actually heard him say “I’m dumb” and “I’m not smart.” This is very painful to hear.
So imagine, your child starts off trying their very best and are very motivated to succeed. But then, every quiz gets handed back to them with a grade of 70 or lower. They really thought they had done well, and they just don’t understand what they’re doing wrong. They become embarrassed when they see that the rest of the class is doing better than they are. Instead of continuing to try, or letting this negative grade motivate them to do better next time, they develop a new technique. Avoidance.
You have to ask yourself, if you are feeling like a complete failure, and you just can’t seem to do your job correctly no matter how hard you try, what would you do? Perhaps, to get around the humiliation of feeling like a failure, your child would just rather appear lazy, as if it is his choice to get the bad grades, and not just because he can’t do it. When I read this, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is what was happening with my son.
The key to helping your child past this lies in all of the other steps above: Positive reinforcement, encouragement, and structure. Structure, structure, and more structure. Ask them about their schoolwork with interest, not with judgment. Offer to help. Point out the areas that they are doing well in. Use corrective criticism carefully to help them identify their weaknesses.
There are some children that are very equipped to handle everything in their lives. In these kids, the front part of their brain is developed early, allowing them to be highly functioning individuals. Not all kids are like this, and if you are comparing your child to one of these children, therein may lie the problem. Most kids do not develop this area of their brain until after adolescence. So, if you hang in there, you just may find that they improve on their own, in time with maturity.
Of course, you should always make sure that your child does not have a learning disability or some other illness that could be keeping them from being successful academically. Start off by having a discussion with your child’s pediatrician and go from there. Once you have dealt with that issue, just realize that no child is the same. Everyone learns differently, and you may have to work very hard to find out what learning type your child prefers. Sticking closely to the steps mentioned above should help to get you and your child on a much less anxious path to success.