Motivating school kids

Experts from WhichSchoolAdvisor share their tips on motivating school kids


Who wouldn’t like to think they’re raising a future Albert Einstein? Yet one significant factor which remains consistently overlooked in the pursuit of academic success is motivation.

Recent studies (and indeed Einstein himself) highlight that a motivated child is better able to concentrate and put in more effort. They’re more willing to begin new and challenging tasks, plus have a significantly more positive attitude to their work. As if that weren’t enough, they’re also capable of employing coping strategies and are much more likely to see a job through.

The good news is, teaching motivation can be done by any parent using simple actionable strategies, and to get you started, here’s the top tips for increasing motivation.

First and foremost…
It’s a no-brainer: develop, build and maintain a good relationship with your child. This allows for honest discussion, genuine dialogue and scope to explore their feelings regarding school, particular subjects and teachers. Without it, you’ll find it very hard to get to the bottom of motivational or indeed any issues which might arise.

Think about your behaviour
If your worry is causing you to push, nag, complain or cajole, then you’re not helping anyone, least of all your child. Do you find yourself punishing, yelling or begging? Then you need to change tack, and quickly! Negativity will cause a child to push back against your behaviour which they perceive as unfair and aggressive. Instead, focus on being supportive and encouraging.

Use Rewards
Every child is inspired and motivated by something, and whether that’s their iPad and Facebook or horse riding and Katy Perry, it can all be used to your advantage. Keep gadgetry under lock and key until the designated study/homework time is done. Get tough and only finance expensive sports and concerts when results are achieved.

Teach Organisation
The NYU Child Study Centre found that for some children, keeping track of assignments is the single biggest reason they are doing poorly at school. Talk to your child about how YOU stay organised. Create a quiet place of study at home and a designated daily time. In addition, make time in your schedule to discuss bigger projects and review those they’ve already completed.

Model Good Behaviour
Do you stick with things and see them through? Do you get excited about new projects and model good organizational skills? If you’re flakey, chances are your kids will be too. It’s time to consciously start thinking and changing your behaviour to be the very best example to your kids.

Great Expectations
Set your expectations high and the chances are your kids will succeed. Set them low, and you’ve guessed it, they’re very likely to live up (or is it down?) to them too. Children are acutely aware of your thoughts about them and tailor their effort to suit. However, do bear in mind expectations should fit the child. There’s no point expecting an Oxbridge graduation if your kid has little academic aptitude.

Resilience is Key
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is, “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”. To teach resilience, show your child how to create a strong self-view, remain positive about the future and accept change. Show them how to make and maintain friendships and how to help others.

Show You Care
All the parenting tools in the world won’t help motivate your child in class if you can’t demonstrate that education and specifically your child’s school matters to you. Get involved! Build a rapport and relationship with their teacher, join the PTA, and volunteer to help. Be enthusiastic about what’s happening and always remain positive when talking about it.

Goal Setting
By making conscious decisions to achieve something, we are much more likely to actually do it and the same with kids. Teach kids how to make and set goals, the process involved and how to evaluate them once complete. Not only does this give a huge boost to their motivation, but it’s also a life skill which will help them well past school. Discuss the planning process, get into the habit of writing goals down and make them specific and measurable.

Get to Grips with Learning Styles
It doesn’t matter how much support you offer, if it’s the wrong type, much of your time (and your child’s) will be wasted. But, figure out your child’s learning style and you will have a key to how they best absorb information. Mel Levine, MD, co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for the study of learning differences, suggests you start evaluating your child at six or seven years old. Once you’ve done this, you can start to build on their strengths and compensating for any weaknesses. Encourage their passions and remember to discuss your observations with their teacher. is the UAE’s dedicated school guide. The website offers parents free and comprehensive information on the expanding education sector, school news and reviews and up-to-date surveys.

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