How to Keep Your Child Motivated, Focused and on Track in School
Part of being a parent is your absolute belief in your child’s unlimited potential to learn, do well in their studies, and become a successful and thriving member of society. As a parent, you understand that the grades your child earns in high school are both relevant and impactful for many years to come.
That knowledge is what makes it so frustrating to see your child not doing well in school, coasting to an average grade, taking the path of least resistance, and refusing to make the effort when you know they’re capable of so much more! How can you, as a parent, address their lack of motivation in a constructive and productive way?
A frequent question among parents is: what motivates my child to succeed? How can I help start and maintain my child’s motivation for school? How can I motivate a child who doesn’t care, or who thinks they know it all, or who doesn’t understand how their schooling will shape their future – and do it all without creating friction at home?
La Jolla LearningWorks is here to give you some helpful tips and tricks for motivating your child through your own actions, through creating structure, and through positive reinforcement.
The 10 Best Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated in School
1. Remain Positive
It may sound like a cliché, but keeping positive attitudes and outlooks, and effectively using positive reinforcement, really is the gold standard for encouraging your child. So much of the messaging in today’s society is negative and focuses on what we lack; having a leading figure in their lives to highlight their attributes, achievements, and what they’re capable of is more significant than any YouTube vlogger or Instagram influencer.
Encourage positive attitudes, such as acknowledging mistakes and turning them into learning opportunities, rather than lamenting shortcomings. Reinforce positive behavior with support, praise, and even rewards.
2. Empower Your Child
Part of motivating children is allowing them ownership of their future. For much of school children are given explicit directions, forced to learn within a rigid structure, and taught a curriculum designed to align with consistent standards that leaves little room for individual adaptation.
In addition, some well-meaning parents seeking to protect their children may in fact over-protect; combined, these circumstances can leave little opportunity for your child to actually think for themselves, ask themselves what they want, what they like, what are they interested in. Here at La Jolla LearningWorks, we offer Career Interest Coaching to help your child identify the answers to these questions, and give themselves a stake in their future.
3. Be Supportive
It takes a second to tell a child “great job”, a second to reward them for hard work through praise or another reward, and yet the effects of these actions carry your child through their life. Positive Reinforcement and Operant Conditioning are a basic staples of psychology, the general belief being that introducing a reinforcement stimulus following a specific behavior increases the chances of that behavior being repeated in the future.
Brainstorm a few ideas! Use our growth mindset worksheet to help you think of a few motivating praises
4. Be Accessible
You’ve probably heard “just be there” for your children, but what exactly does that mean? The fact is, it would be impossible for most parents with jobs outside the home to be physically present all the time, and as we’ve mentioned above, it’s important for children to have space to explore and make their own decisions. When we say “be accessible”, we mean “make sure your child knows you will be there when they need you”. It sounds obvious, but the importance of being there for questions, advice, or simply a non-judgmental ear cannot be overstated.
5. Create a Structured Plan for Success Both Short- and Long-Term
It is a common understanding that children need structure, and the main source it comes from, and can be reinforced by, is a parent. Starting small – such as helping them create simple ‘to-do’ lists, sharing examples of your own lists for reference – can set your child on a path to organizing their success on a daily basis.
Help your child set monthly or even yearly goals that they can envision, track their progress toward, and achieve themselves (with encouragement from you, of course!). Highlight the big picture and then break down big goals into smaller manageable steps that can be celebrated as your child progresses.
6. Break Tasks into Manageable Pieces Using S.M.A.R.T
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for:
S – SPECIFIC: Be specific about what you want to accomplish. Consider who needs to be involved, what you need to do, when you need to do it, any obstacles or requirements that stand in the way, and the reason why you are pursuing this goal.
M – MEASURABLE: Determine how you are going to measure progress across the period of time involved in achieving the goal, and how you know when the goal has been met.
A – ACHIEVABLE: Focus on how important the goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable. Do you have the skills to attain the goal? If not, where and how can you learn them?
R – RELEVANT: How does this goal fit into ‘the grand plan’ or ‘the big picture’?
T – TIME-BOUND: Provide realistic target dates for achieving each step and the overall goal.
7. Highlight the Big Picture
As adults with life experience who have seen consequences to their actions, parents understand that there is a ‘bigger picture’ with life, and that it is harder to see it when you are young. At the same time, it is often overwhelming for a child to confront the reality that what they do now will matter later in their lives, and that there are no do-overs. A combination of gently highlighting the reality combined with encouraging your child to explore their own interests and take ownership of their ‘big picture’ is the best way to approach this topic.
8. Encourage a Learning-Friendly Atmosphere
Be engaged with your child’s schooling, but don’t do it for them. Stay engaged with their teachers when appropriate. Small gestures like asking if they learned anything interesting at school go a long way, and parental interest at home can help stimulate a child’s mind, encourage them to think more deeply about what they’ve learned, and combine it with positive emotion when discussing the topic with you. Utilize your child’s interest in the subject or topic in the learning process, encourage them to explore and find their own answers, and help guide them to foster their interests in learning.
9. Encourage Open Communication
A combination of factors like positive attitudes and reinforcement, parental support and accessibility, and encouraging an open atmosphere all combine to promote open lines of communication between children and their parents. We know it can sometimes be a balancing act for parents to walk the line between interested and supportive vs. invasive and ‘helicopter parent’ status. Set an example for your child in the way you communicate with others: children are much more observant than you may think!
10. Seek External Help and Coaching
At the end of the day, even if you’re doing everything you can, your child may still struggle with learning and motivation. Sometimes a change in tune, or a new voice, is a fantastic solution to reaching your child and an effective way to help them get and stay on track. Here at La Jolla LearningWorks we offer individualized one-on-one Academic Coaching to help students gain a solid grasp of fundamental learning concepts necessary for success in school.
Foundational Issues with Children’s Learning Beyond Motivation
There are some cases in which there may be reasons beyond simple motivation as to why your child isn’t doing well in and/or isn’t enjoying school. As difficult as it may be to consider, your child may have a learning disability that is impeding their progress.
Learning disabilities aren’t rare: according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, one in five children has some form of learning disability. Some of the most common are:
- Processing Disorders
- Memory Disorder
Learning disabilities can’t be “cured” or outgrown, but they also don’t need to be limiting. Early detection via learning disability assessments, coupled with individualized academic support, give your child the opportunity to overcome the challenges presented by a learning disability. At La Jolla LearningWorks, our knowledgeable and compassionate teachers are eager to work with students to help them excel no matter what their unique challenges may be.
There’s no rulebook on raising a child, but we’re here to help. La Jolla LearningWorks offers numerous resources to help you help your children to reach their full learning potential, including Academic Coaching and Career Interest Coaching. We are proud to support you in giving your child the best chance of doing well in school and helping them develop a lifelong love of learning. Connect with us to learn more.