How to Motivate Your Child to Study?
You know your child has to study, the teacher knows it too. But how do you impress that upon him or her without destroying the parent-child relationship? You don’t want to end up setting them against the books entirely.
Welcome to the dilemma faced by parents and care-givers of children in today’s educational system.
Table of Contents
What Can a Parent Do?
What the parent can do depends on the level the child is at.
- When a child is at K-5 (aged 5-10) and the elementary stage of their education the parent can expect to face one set of challenges.
- When the child or teen advances to middle school (grades 6-8 and aged 11-13) the challenges change and become perhaps even more demanding.
- Parents of High Schoolers, the students aged 14-18 who make up the cohort in grades 9-12, have many years experience in dealing with school going youngsters under their belts. Yet they still feel challenged.
Different age groups call for different motivation techniques. And motivation can come from many sources. Schools and teachers are involved in motivating children everyday.
But parents are the first educators the child meets and the primary motivators of school going children.
Continue reading for some tips on how to motivate your child.
Don’t Forget Your Own School Going Years
Do we ever think about and empathize with what studying is really like for the child?
To motivate the current crop of school-going children to study we need to cast our minds back to our own school days.
Remember coming in from school, tired and hungry and only wanting to grab a bite to eat and then get outside, watch TV, or head to our rooms to engage in games?
And remember the frustrated parent saying when the dishes had been cleared away, “Homework now.”
Your first and most demanding task in motivating your child to study will involve laying aside the grown-up perspective. You know the child has to do well in school if they are to have rewarding academic and work careers. But the child has probably already heard that much too often.
The child wants to have fun. And children do their best learning when they are enjoying themselves.
1. For K-5 children, Make Study Fun
If your child is in K-5 they will need help with homework and the best way to motivate them is turn a dull routine into a game.
For example if they are challenged by Math and are having difficulties with numbers, adding and subtraction you could perhaps turn it into a “clean the kitchen cupboards game”. Cans of food have to be counted, sorted, arranged into groups of 4 or 5 or perhaps more.
If their problem is with reading or understanding words, get them books. Bring them on the shopping trip with you, if possible allow them to select a book and set a special time aside to read it with them when you get home.
By doing this the child becomes accustomed to having a book in their hands and listening to the story being read will open their minds to the possibilities of further reading.
Explain words they may not have heard before. Encourage them to ask questions and discuss events that they have experienced.
And don’t forget to reward them for making an effort. Your show of appreciation will motivate them to go further.
2. Middle Schoolers Can Be Challenging
For the older child, the child at Middle school your task will become more difficult especially if they insist on studying on their own and refuse your help.
And if that is their choice you can see it as them taking the first step towards independence.
However as a parent you still have to make sure the work gets done but without getting involved. It will be difficult to sit back and ignore mistakes they may be making but by being there you are showing them you are interested in what they are doing.
And your being there lets them know you are interested in their work. This is precisely the motivation they need even though in those pre/early teen years they will not admit it.
Another difficulty you will have to contend with is how reliant students at this age become on their friends’ opinions.
This may not be a problem if the friends are interested in sport or other healthy activities. However if they are dismissive of school and study this can increase the challenges you are faced with.
You will now have to convince the child of the value of putting in the work while at the same time showing interest in the friends who may be causing a distraction.
And on a warning note, don’t ban those friends unless you have very good reason for doing so. Banning them will have your child equating school and study with losing friends. If your child begins to resent anything school connected, motivating them will become even more difficult.
You probably found that rewards worked well while they were at K-5. However despite the grown up attitude they may be presenting to the world they are still children inside and will not turn their noses up at any reward you may decide to give them.
They will learn to equate a good effort with a treat.
And yes, this is bribery but only for a short while until they emerge from those difficult years with their academic prospects still intact.
3. High School and Preparing for Real Life
A parent who has seen a child move from Middle school to High school will suddenly realise the pre-teen years are gone and the challenge of motivating their child has moved to another level.
The youngster is still your child but no longer a child in the real sense of the word. This is an individual planning on what they are going to do when they leave school and begin “real life.”
Suddenly they can see where all this study is leading to and with this change your role as motivator undergoes a change also. Discussions now focus on what career appeals to them, or if attending college or university is an option they want to pursue.
You will find yourself now having to play the role of career guidance counsellor. This will involve sourcing information on careers and colleges for your child and yes, you will have to impress on them the need to continue studying if they want to go in a particular direction.
When They Lose Enthusiasm
Motivation at this stage should be easy but given the nature of teenagers they will flag, grow tired of the incessant study, perhaps even fall in love at a critical point in their academic careers.
To motivate them you can still give rewards but you now have the bigger picture to hang in front of them.
In theory they know what a particular career may do for them but consider showing them what it is like in real life.
If for example they want to attend medical school there may be “real” guidance counsellors to explain what a doctor does. But to motivate them to achieve their aim you need to present them with a picture of the rewards their chosen career may bring them.
And also you will have to present them with the harsh reality of a life where they will have to fund their own lifestyles and pay those bills.
A Hard But Rewarding Task
Motivating a child to study will draw on all your resources. You will find yourself moving from being parent and caregiver to being a teacher and career guidance counsellor to a giver of rewards but what could be more rewarding than helping a child fulfil their potential?
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.