How to Motivate Your Child to Learn

Do you have a child who comes home with failing grades year after year—or straight C’s when you know he could get A’s? You assume, based on his abilities, that he should be more successful in school. It’s enough to drive you crazy—especially because you know how important it is for him to do well so he can get into college someday—or even just graduate. You’re worried sick about his future, so you nag and get on his case about his laziness, lack of motivation and irresponsibility. You just don’t get why he’s so uninterested in doing well, so you try everything you can think of to motivate him. But try as you might, the situation doesn’t get better—in fact, it gets worse.

As a parent, it’s difficult not to become invested in our child’s academic life because we know how important it is for their future. From our perspective, it makes no sense that our kids would put things like friends or electronics before their work. The truth is, most kids are motivated, but not by what we think should motivate them. Look at it this way: your child is probably highly motivated and not at all lazy when it comes to things that excite him, like video games, music, Facebook and what cool new jeans to buy. One thing for certain is that if you pressure your child in order to motivate him, it almost always makes things worse.

Understand that kids need to buy into the value of doing well. Think about it in terms of your own life—even as an adult, you may know it’s best to eat right, but actually following through is another story! In a way, your child must own the importance of doing well himself. Of course external factors may also get in the way (mental or physical illnesses, learning disabilities or behavioral disorders, family issues and substance abuse, to name a few.)

For some people, all the stars are aligned at the right time—motivation, skill and attitude combine to create a successful outcome. But for most of us, it’s way trickier and a much more uneven path to motivation and success. When you think about it, not every kid asks teachers for help, does all their homework on time all the time, reviews the material they learned each night and puts aside all the other distractions to get down to their studies. The ones who do are typically the kids who have what is called “good executive functioning,” because the front part of their brain is more developed. This plays a significant role in school achievement. It helps the regulation of emotions, attention span, perseverance, and flexibility.

For many, many kids their functioning often does not develop until much later in the adolescent years. This is particularly tough if you are a parent who was responsible at an early age, but you now have a child lagging behind. It’s hard to imagine that they’re not just lazy, irresponsible and unmotivated. Of course, if you start believing these things about your child, you will simply get annoyed, frustrated, angry, and reactive to their laziness—which will contribute to the power struggle and to their to their defiance. How can you avoid doing this? Read on to find out.

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