Loving to Learn: Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Learn More
For a lot of kids, school is such a drag. Waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, and then spending hours sitting in a classroom with teachers who simply just aren’t motivating or learning things they’re just not interested in can sap the motivation out of anyone. Consider it the kid version of someone working an office job and nothing ever changes, nothing exciting happens.
It’s easy to spot when your child is definitely not interested in school or learning. If your kid gets the “I won the lottery” type of excitement when they don’t have to go to school, they’re probably not happy with school. But a more concerning emotion is that of anxiety, stress, and the look of extreme boredom. A child who isn’t excited about learning or has no motivation likely won’t learn as well as they could if they simply felt like learning was worth it or fun.
Everyone wants their child to perform their best in school, but just like you at your job, encouragement goes a long way to help you want to do more and do a great job. Thankfully, motivating your kids doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t mean becoming a helicopter parent.
Positivity Pays Off
It should go without saying that a happy worker works harder. When it comes to motivating your kids, the principal is still the same. It’s important you and your child can openly and honestly communicate. In order to even begin motivating your child, there needs to be a good level of communication between a parent and child or teen.
One that is established, conversations about school and learning should always be filled with positivity. Under no circumstance should you ever punish, threaten, or preach to your child when it comes to their education. If your child is struggling with learning or simply has no motivation to get stuff done, negativity absolutely will not help. They need to hear words of encouragement and have positive reinforcement. It is important not to transfer your frustrations or anxiety on your child by saying negative things.
Discover Your Child’s Learning Style
In a previous blog, we talked about a few ways to improve your study habits. One of the few tips provided talks about discovering the type of learning style that works best for you. The type of learning styles include:
When it comes to finding the motivation to learn, it’s important to discover the best way your child absorbs information. For example, if your child learns better by doing, they have a physical learning style. If they are great at looking at graphs, charts, and slides, then they’re more of a visual learner.
While it’s not impossible for someone who is an auditory learner to learn by looking at a Power Point presentation, it won’t be as easy for them to absorb the information versus if the same lesson was taught by a teacher.
If your child simply doesn’t have the focus to sit down and listen to someone talk, they’re not an auditory learner. But if they’re great at reading instructions and they enjoy reading, they’re more than likely a visual learner and this is the way to keep them focused better.
Create or Find that Perfect Learning Spot
Distractions can destroy a child or teen’s ability to stick to a structure that helps them get work done and stay motivated. For this reason, talk to your child about finding the best spot for studying and learning. If they work better without all the noise of siblings, TV shows, music, or chatter, find a quiet place for them to get all of their work done. Some kids prefer a little bit of noise like music to give them that extra motivation.
Whatever the space they feel is appropriate for them, make sure that they aren’t including things in their space that could easily serve as a distraction. Things like social media, phones, tablets, or TV can direct their attention away from what they should be doing. By the time they realize it, the distraction will have put them behind and they’re still suck working on something they could have finished much sooner.
Discover Their Interests
Learning is a lot more fun when you’re actually learning about something that interests you. Talk to your kids and ask them what kinds of things they enjoy learning about. Once you both have generated a pretty good list of the things they love, ask them which of the things they’ve talked about interests them the most.
Once you’ve narrowed down their interests, now the real learning can begin. If they love things like cars, pick up books for them about their favorite types of cars, take them to care shows to see them in person, or maybe even start a small project involving an automobile.
Don’t try to force an interest on them they don’t care about. Just because you’re into gardening, doesn’t mean you should force your child to have a green thumb. If they have a love of something, encourage them to learn more about it. As a bigger motivator, take an interest in what they love so that you have something to talk about. Ask them if they’ve learned something new recently about that interest and share something new you’ve learned as well.
Learning doesn’t just have to be about math, science, reading, and writing. Learning is learning and discovering how your child absorbs information is important. A child who spends their free time reading about dinosaurs, isn’t just learning about dinosaurs. They’re reading and building their vocabulary. If they’re helping you work on a car, they’re not just handing you tools and listening to you. They’re learning mechanics and engineering.
Be Enthusiastic About Learning Too
Want to your kids to show some enthusiasm about learning something they love? Take an interest in the same thing your child is learning or display the behavior you want your child to to participate in as well. For example, if you want your child to love reading more, start reading more things yourself. Read the newspaper, books, or read to your child before bed.
But by far the best way to get your child to love learning is to simply show an interest in the same thing they love to learn about. This doesn’t mean that everyday needs to be a day where you exchange new facts about things, but it does mean when your child learns something new they’re excited about, show interest and take it as an opportunity to ask them questions When you learn something new, show just as much enthusiasm as they do. This also creates great positive communication with your child.
Be Fair But Firm with Rules
Even while trying to be the positive, supportive parent, there still have to be some rules and structure when it comes to learning. Homework is a big part of structure and there absolutely needs to be well understood rules and consequences when it comes to homework time.
For example, if they refuse to work on their homework assignments, it means they also can’t do something they enjoy when they’re at home like video games or television. It might be tough, but everyone needs structure in their lives, especially children. They need to know there are consequences for not completing their responsibilities. But even while being firm, it’s important to not be negative. Consequences are not a form of punishment; they’re part of structure. “If you don’t do this, you can’t do that.”
Make sure your child understands that having consequences isn’t about you being mean. It is about showing you care about their educational success and wanting them to have an appreciation for learning.
Don’t Mistake Anxiety for a Lack of Motivation
Because kids aren’t the best at expressing the things they’re feeling, a parent might see their child’s lack of motivation or educational irresponsibility as a simple case of being lazy. But the problem could be much deeper than that. A child with anxiety about schoolwork and academics can behave in a way that makes a parent think they don’t care about learning.
At some point, everyone has gotten a bit anxious about something or other. Academic anxiety, especially for great students, can be both motivating and destructive. A little bit of anxiety can push a student to work a little bit harder to make sure they get the outcome they’re hoping for. But a lot of anxiety can have the extreme opposite. If a student feels overwhelmed or feels they simply can’t do the work, they may not be motivated to even try, sending those grades plummeting.
Don’t make the situation worse by adding your own emotions to an already stressful situation for your child. This is why talking and having great communication with your son or daughter is critical. You cannot support them in the way they need if they haven’t made the problem clear. Structure is everything when trying to be motivated to learn. Make sure they have what they need to be mentally prepared to study and learn. And if the structure isn’t working, sit down with them and find out what else can be done. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to talk to their teachers to find out if there is more the both of you can do to make sure they’re getting the best support possible.
No Future is Set in Stone… So Stop Worrying.
Look, your child’s future is not going to be ruined because they’re having trouble learning fractions or can’t figure out what Shakespeare is trying to say. Just because they don’t want to do their homework a few times does not mean their entire future is up in smoke. Not every kid is going to be cut out for college. Not all of them will be doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists, or anything else we’ve all been taught to achieve to be one day. And that’s perfectly fine.
This is why it’s important to find out what kinds of interests your child has. They might be horrible at math, but they may love cooking, gardening, or a host of other things that might not require them to know a whole lot about complex math concepts. The goal for every parent isn’t just to make sure kids are learning the things they’re learning in school. The goal is to give your child an appreciation for learning and taking an interest in things they enjoy. Encourage them to read more, take them on trips, work on projects with them. Do anything that shows you have an interest in their education and you’re part of their academic journey with them. You can’t do the work, but you can help them make sure the work gets done.