Last Updated on June 6, 2021
Keeping a child motivated during their school life is an uphill struggle. It has its ups and downs but generally speaking, a child will gain and lose interest in school depending on a number of factors.
From the very first time you leave them in daycare, it can be quite dramatic, with the child showing separation anxiety in the form of nervousness, sadness and crying. After a while they may begin to like the experience when they make friends and enjoy sharing school activities with others.
They gradually come to acknowledge school life as an everyday reality. But then this can take a turn for the worse by the time they leave kindergarten or further down the line when the subject matter becomes a bit more frustrating and the learning curve increases.
What motivates a child to do well in first grade?
Why Is My Child Not Motivated?
You may be certain that your child has the capabilities to do well in school but they are just not trying. Their teachers will tell you that they are doing just enough to get by, but not putting in enough effort to excel.
On the other hand, some kids do not even try to just get by, they put no effort in and do poorly, either because they lack the motivation or lack the ability. Doing poorly at school is a snowball effect and missing out on the education of one grade can negatively affect the next grade and those after.
They may even be acting, being outright disruptive and refusing to engage in class altogether. Their teacher will report their bad behavior which may or not be reflected at home and this could be a symptom of a complete lack of motivation.
When asked why they are not putting in the effort or doing poorly, the child is likely to respond with “I hate school, it’s boring”, “I don’t like a teacher” or you may notice that school makes them visibly anxious. This is something you need to get to the bottom of if you want to motivate your child to do well in school.
School Is Boring
Children these days grow up with ample entertainment, right at their fingertips. They have toys, TV’s, game consoles, tablets and sometimes even smartphones giving them a wide variety of entertainment choices that they can access when they want to.
With all of these fun activities to choose from, the subject matter at school is completely overshadowed seeming to the child like a waste of valuable entertainment time. Can you blame them of they think school is boring by comparison?
This sentiment stems from a lack of passion for some or all of the subjects that are taught in school. Some kids absolutely excel at science but may flounder when it comes to maths because maths just doesn’t interest them, and we can’t force them to enjoy it but we can inspire them to appreciate it at least.
They Don’t Like A Particular Teacher
It’s not always a question of “what motivates my child to do well in school”, sometimes its “who”. Teachers are there to make the classroom engaging, to inspire your kids and give them a reason to want to study.
If your child lets you know that they do not like a teacher, the majority of the time it’s not the teacher’s fault. The teacher’s personality may just naturally clash with your child’s or your child has arbitrarily elected the teacher as the source of their problems.
With that being said, it does not mean you shouldn’t take what your child says seriously, because you most definitely should. Get to the bottom of the issue, ask them why they don’t like the teacher and take it up with the school.
If it is the simple case of your child just can’t get along with that particular teacher, ask if they can move class. It does occur that some teachers are just abrasive and not fit for their job and this should also be raised with the school.
However, if there is a more serious matter relating to some form of child abuse, the issue should be taken up with your local police department.
Troubles at Home
Another reason a child may not want to go to school or do well at school is that they have an unideal homelife or a rough relationship with their parents or caregivers. Some families can put a high amount of stress on each other, with arguments, power struggles and a lack of respect from one individual to another and kids can carry this stress into their academic life.
This is one of the main reasons children misbehave at school, showing little respect for authority figures which will not serve them well if this attitude carries on into later life.
These power struggles and constant fights can be exhausting and stressful for the parents too, who may also feel guilty for yelling, and blame themselves for the rut the family finds itself in. But there are ways to break the cycle of stress.
One great example is Positive Parenting Solutions, a parenting course that gives caregivers the tools and abilities needed to turn the relationship between them and their children around. This course puts the power in the hands of the parent to turn the family around for the better and make the household a wholesome place of peace, mutual respect, and love.
Anxiety at School
There can be many reasons or underlying issues of why your child might be feeling anxious at school. Anxiety can affect a child on an emotional level causing low self-esteem and as a result, poor performance in school.
Anxiety can come in different forms:
Social Anxiety: is experienced by children and adults who are self-conscious to an excessive level. They are constantly holding themselves back from expressing themselves verbally or physically due to a fear of being judged by others. This makes it difficult for them to engage and socialize with their peers as well as perform to their best ability academically.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Is a disorder in which a person experiences a recurring unwanted thought enter their mind. They feel compelled to perform repetitive behaviors such as counting certain objects or washing their hands in order to relieve themselves from the anxiety-inducing thought.
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Is when a child experiences intense anxiety after being separated from their parents or caregivers. This is more common in daycare and kindergarten kids as they have yet to get used to being without their caregivers for extended periods of time.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Children with generalized anxiety tend to worry about a range of occurrences in their life. They may worry about their grades, their friends, their parents, and have general anxiety for their future.
Phobias: Phobias or irrational fears of something in particular, whether that is a person, type of animal, a situation or anything can impede your child’s learning and motivation to do well in school.
If your child is suffering from anxiety it could be the very reason they are having trouble at school. Even if they tell you that school is simply uninteresting or they don’t like a particular subject or teacher it may be some anxiety that’s driving their negative experiences or what seems to be laziness.
If you believe that your child has an underlying anxiety disorder, talk to the school and talk to a therapist. A therapist will speak to your child and be able to analyze the answers your child gives to certain questions in order to diagnose an underlying issue with anxiety.
If diagnosed they may be prescribed cognitive behavior therapy which will aim to support your child and move them away from their feelings of anxiety that they experience in everyday life.
Strategies to Help Motivate A Child To Do Well In School
Outside of seeking therapy for your kids or talking to the school directly, you may ask how to motivate a child who is unmotivated. There are some strategies that you can do at home to help to shift your child’s mindset into one that’s more engaged in their own learning.
The methods you are about to read require you as a parent to demonstrate certain traits. Traits such as persistence, consistency, patience and resilience are key and this is why:
Persistence: Is to keep trying even if it feels like what you try is not working. If you feel like you are failing, never give up and keep on trying until you hone your skills and get it right.
Consistency: Children need consistency to be able to learn, they don’t learn the first time right off the bat. By being consistent you are not bending the rules for certain situations but then being strict for others, it delivers mixed messages and is counterproductive.
Patience: Kids take time to learn, especially when you are expecting changes that are outside of the established status quo. For example, if you are trying to reconfigure the household to be a less argumentative one, it will take time and patience for your efforts to pay off.
Resilience: Is your ability to endure the worst, it’s a reflection of your power to be able to stay on track and strive for the goal you are aiming for regardless of setbacks.
All of these traits tie in together, and when you use persistence, consistency, patience, and resilience together, you will make one hell of a force. A force who can and will see a positive change in yourself and your family so that you can strive for a loving future together.
Mutual Respect, Positivity, and Openness
As parents we want our children to be able to tell us anything that’s on their mind so that we can help them deal with any problems that they may have in any way that we can. If we don’t know what they are thinking and feeling, then how can we help them?
Having a relationship with your child that fosters honesty and openness starts with you. You need to avoid any reactions to your child’s concerns with negative reinforcement such as harsh criticism or emotions of anger, frustration or sadness.
If you both open up to each other honestly, like a two way street, the respect between you both will be mutual and the;ll be much more likely to take on board what you have to say about school and education than if you were the kind of parent to lie, manipulate or use negative emotional backlash to your child’s behavior.
You may feel that the relationship with your child is not in a place that it can be repaired. That change seems impossible. This is where i’ll refer you to the traits that were just mentioned and refer you again to a course such as Positive Parenting Solutions which can help you and your child get back on track, no matter where the relationship is currently at.
How can you expect your child to garner interest in topics at school when you show no interest in them yourself? Especially when it comes to the drier subjects like mathematics, literature, science, history, kids seem to stray away from these and they feel too much pressure to learn something they have no interest in.
You need to be showing them that there are virtues to learning such subjects. Maths is functional and it feels great to solve mathematical problems, science is vibrant and makes the most mundane things in life seem new and nuanced, history is filled with stories that could not be encountered today – it is up to you to help sow the seeds of passion in them.
Even if your not particularly knowledgeable about these subjects yourself, it does pay to show great interest in the things they learn at school. If your child can teach you something new, then that’s even better because it will make them know that school has benefited them in a way; it’s allowed them to pass on knowledge and feel special for doing so.
It’s also important for you to be there when they need help with their school life, whether it’s a social issue or if they are struggling with certain topics or concepts. If they’re struggling, pull out all the stops, get out your books and read around the subject until you can explain to them in a way that the concept that they were struggling with clicks in their mind.
Be Kind, But Not a Pushover
There needs to be an emphasis on kindness and positive emotions within the household in order to establish a positive mindset within your child. Resist behaviors such as nagging, yelling or barking orders and replace that with a firm but fair approach.
Taking steps to be more positive and encouraging towards your child is much more effective in the short and long term. They will be much more willing to work to receive attention in the form of praise if they think it’s more easily received than in the form of scolding.
But this doesn’t mean to let them walk all over you, and the firm but the fair approach is actually quite a difficult balance to achieve in practice as children will constantly try to push boundaries. Again remember to have persistence, consistency, patience, and resilience.
Life is a Balancing Act
Even though striving for success and achievement is important for life, it isn’t the be all and end all and a child shouldn’t only be worrying about their academic performance constantly. They also have a social life, hobbies they may want to pursue, skills they want to learn outside of the school curriculum, places they want to go and see and family life.
Try to help them in all aspects of their life and don’t just expect them to be machines that need to be optimized for performance. Taking your kids out on day trips to museums, places of natural beauty, seeing the family and hanging out with their friends also helps to inspire them and it facilitates the development of passion in certain subjects which captivate them.
Structure and Organization
Some children and families have a much easier time if everyone’s daily activities are organized on a weekly schedule. This is especially effective for separated parents who are co-parenting and need to communicate dates, times and schedules to each other so they can raise the child fairly and to the best of their ability.
One of the best ways to plan and organize a family is to use a software called My Family Wizard, which allows members of the household to create, print and share schedules that they have made. This way everyone can easily follow the schedule and do their bit.
With the school child, their schedule can break down their chores, school work and recreational time into certain slots of each day so that it can all be divided fairly. This can teach them responsibility, time management and give them an idea of what to expect on a daily and weekly basis.
Recognize Anxiety and Fears
Finally, it’s vital to be able to recognize if your child’s behavior has dramatically changed, especially when it relates to school because sometimes parents mistake anxiety for laziness. You would treat laziness with a little less trepidation to anxiety, having a firmer hand which could only serve to exacerbate the anxiety more.
For example, your child’s teacher may tell you that your child is not engaging in school enough and they seem to be lacking in motivation. You may think that your child is being lazy and have a firm conversation with them about it but in reality, they are self-conscious about their abilities and therefore do not want to display any ability for fear of appearing incompetent.
This is why a relationship of openness, honesty, and mutual respect is important because when you ask, you want your child to open up and just tell you this from the get-go. From there you can then go about seeking help.
If you are not in the stage where your child is opening up to you in an honest manner, and may be hiding their anxiety form you it may take a little bit more time, some more observation and some communication with the teachers to determine whether it would be appropriate to consult a therapist or counselor as the next step.