From kindergarten to college, motivating your kids in school can be a challenge. Whether they are naturally book smart or constantly have to work for their grades, lack of motivation plagues students of all types. But motivation is a tricky thing.
As a parent, you want to ensure that your kids are motivated to do their best and be successful. However, you can’t force motivation. It has to come from within for real and lasting results. The goal shouldn’t be to convince your kids to do the work when they have to; rather, they should learn to be self-motivated. This is the development of character.
But how does one accomplish this? Yelling, bribing, and begging are tried and failed methods. So what is the key to positive motivation? This will depend on each individual child, but here are five things I have learned in my own parenting experiences that have worked well in my family.
Here’s five tips for motivating your kids in school:
1. Get involved in sports or extracurriculars
Some parents may use sports as a negative consequence in their motivating efforts. They take away sports privileges if the child underperforms. However, I have found that the extra time required to participate in organized sports (or other extracurricular activities) after school teaches valuable lessons in time management, personal accountability, and healthy competition.
Most afterschool sports require a certain grade point average in order for students to participate in regular games and practices. This serves as a built-in motivator for your child as their teammates and coaches expect them to achieve. Outside peer pressure and expectations can encourage kids much more effectively than the nagging of a parent.
For example, my daughter Rory decided to do cheerleading last year. She was so excited about it that I allowed her to participate under the conditions that she always finished her homework and stayed caught up in school. Since the team does require the girls to put school first, cheerleading has been a very easy motivator for Rory.
Even if the activity doesn’t require a GPA standard, the extra time spent participating forces a student to plan their time and use it responsibly. So encourage your kids to participate in activities that interest them, with the understanding that poor performance will result in the natural loss of that privilege.
2. Set goals
One of the biggest factors in encouraging my girls to do well in school has been through goal setting. Planning reasonable goals at the beginning of the school-year and throughout each term can help give your kids direction and motivation to perform. When the goals are challenging, but attainable, this often motivates students to stretch themselves in order to achieve
Talk about those goals each week. Check up on their progress and encourage their efforts. As they consistently reach these goals they will feel good about themselves, which works as a positive reinforcement to continue to do well and work hard.
3. Encourage study groups
Self-motivation can be like pulling teeth for some students. Instead of banishing your kid to their desk to finish their homework, plan study groups with their friends and classmates.
Sometimes having that camaraderie and support is just the right push to help your child get motivated to do the work. Just be careful to monitor the study sessions to make sure the kids are staying reasonably on task. After all, it’s not a play date, it’s a study group.
4. Create an environment of learning
A love of learning starts early and it starts at home. Make your home an environment of learning. Make a point of reading and keeping books available around the house. Go to museums, talk about school at dinner, and be active in your children’s education.
If you are excited to learn, they will learn to be too. Show them why education is important and make it a priority in your home. Kids learn by example. Be that example.
5. Give praise when earned
Sometimes we are too quick to give praise. However, when your kids do well, tell them. Show them your support and encourage them when they fail. Focusing on progress, rather than the quality of the results is often more beneficial in instilling motivation in your child. Failure is a part of life, so let it teach them how to improve.
Recognize their achievements and support them in their efforts. Positivity is always more powerful than negativity. No one appreciates being constantly criticized. So don’t assume that it will work on your kids.