Saturday, 17 May 2014

How to Motivate You Child into Becoming an Avid Learner

How many times have I had to remind my kids that they had tests and assignments and that they should not squander their time away on pointless things like sports, cartoons and games? Too many to recall I'm afraid and with little success I might add. And let's be real, to a child those are not pointless activities at all. In fact what kids learn in play hold no parallel to rote learning. This got me to thinking how I could bring about a revolution of sorts and have them pester me about helping them with their school work instead of it being the other way around.

It's a bumpy ride, but with enough persistence, I just about pulled it off and here's how:

1. Realistic Expectations/ Achievable Goals: Granted that a certain standard of work is required for school related work, however expecting an average child to present an exceptional standard means putting undue pressure on the child. Remember that the work done independently and happily will benefit the child in the long term. This however doesn't mean that you can not subtlety push your child towards improvement but just keep his natural talents and limits in mind.

2. No Competition: It's not a wise approach to compare your child to another who is doing better or worse as the case may be or even to compare with siblings, it just fosters negativity and disrespect. True learning comes from a place of acceptance and tolerance. It is important for you and your child to know that being imperfect is human nature. But this does not mean that greatness can not be achieved.

3. Be Involved: Showing that you are there for your child, listening to his problems, pin pointing the weak spots and building on those play a vital role in motivating your child. All anybody ever really craves, especially kids, is attention and support. So jump on the chance to really have a heart to heart next time your child reaches out to you about anything school related, or anything really.

4. Learning from Mistakes: I find that the best way to learn is to make mistakes first. Condemning a child because he didn't get the answer right is the perfect way to demotivate your child and make him feel worthless. And to taunt and mock the child, as all parents are guilty off at some point in their lives (not out of spite, but frustration) maybe your immediate reaction, but just restrain yourself. Ask your child what went wrong, why the mistake happened and how will he make it right. Analyse, do not criticize. 

5. Group Study: There is no doubt that when kids get together to study they retain more and actually come up with ingenious ways to solve their school work. Your job is to monitor the children from time to time and create an environment free from distractions. Providing nutritious snacks and some sort of reward for the bunch at the end of their study session shows your support. I suppose this tactic is obviously not applicable to kids in primary school, but it is a highly underused tactic starting from the secondary level.

6. Chart Progress: If a skill like reading, or memorizing tables, or improving handwriting (you understand where I'm going with this) are issues, then charting the progress in a little diary is a great motivator. It provides amazing satisfaction to a child that his efforts are paying off.

7. Role Models: Nothing puckers up a child in the dumps than a good success story. People, who despite the odds being against them manged to achieve great things. Simple reassuring sentences like, "I believe in you", or " You can do this", or " Don't give up, you're no quitter", or even just a " Give it your best shot", can change the mind set of your child.

8. Unconditional Love: Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we all love our children no matter what, but we seldom let those sentiments get across to them. We get flustered about why our children are not doing better and better and why they are not scoring perfectly, and then we only see the negative and the mistakes. It is in my experience, the saddest thing we can do. If criticism is indeed in order then at least start with praising the child for what he has done right and then ease into suggestions as to how he could do better next time.

Dealing with kids is such a touch and go subject. What works for one kid may not for another. Our job as parents is to accept our children, support their natural abilities and work with those, motivate them and believe in them.

As always I would love to hear how you have motivated your child to do better in school.


  1. Very well written, I 100%agree with your points. We as parents must definitely must play an important role in motivating our children. As a parent we should never compare our kids with other children. If they do something right no matter how small, we must praise them. If they go wrong sit with them and discuss how they can get it right the next time. We must instill confidence in their mind that if they work hard they can achieve anything they want to in life.

  2. Yes, your comment is nicely packed in a nut shell.