Family expert Sara Dimerman is here to answer any questions you may have. If you need to submit a question, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you encourage your unmotivated child to try and do well in school?
Understanding the reason for your child’s lack of motivation is the most important first step in helping to encourage motivation. Many parents say that their children are lazy, but this often leads to a self fulfilling prophecy, especially when children hear their parents say this (and children do hear much more than we even realize!)
I have found that most unmotivated children are not lazy. They are discouraged. Sometimes the discouragement is as a result of a learning difficulty or gap in learning that makes him or her feel that they are trailing behind, having difficulty catching up or staying on track. An academic and/or IQ assessment can help determine this.
Other children are discouraged as a result of what adults in their world are saying to them. Although we often think that comments such as “I know you can do better” are encouraging, they are just the opposite. Consider as an adult, how you might feel if, after you’ve put some effort into doing something, you are told that you can do better. The trick to encouraging more of what you’d like to see is to focus on effort, improvement and interest. As soon as you see your child behaving or studying in a way that you like, comment on the effort, improvement or interest he or she is showing.
In addition, instead of only focussing on the end result, such as the final grade on a report card, rather focus on the process. So, when your child brings home a report card with an A in Math, for example, say something like “looks like you really enjoy working with numbers.”
Simple comments such as this can go a long way towards fostering increased motivation in students.