Strategies to Help Motivate Your Child in School

How do we keep our children interested in school when the last academic year was spent less engaged in class material taught from teachers on 2D screens?

Of course, your child’s teachers are the real superheroes of the COVID-19 quarantine, doing their very best to keep a full classroom of young children interacting in a virtual class while learning brand new material without in-person assistance! It’s not their teachers’ fault if your child has lost some interest in school and it isn’t your child’s either, but rather the isolation situation in general. So, how can you as a parent, help your child regain interest in their school work if physically going back to school hasn’t already reignited a passion for learning?

6 Strategies for Helping Your Child Stay Motivated

We as adults understand the limitless value of being a self-motivated, disciplined, hard-working individual. Putting in the time and effort that it requires to fail and fail again until you succeed at your goal is a skill that is typically learned with guidance and a lot of encouragement. And, let’s face it, it’s also a skill that comes more naturally to some than others. The good news is that everyone–and every child–can learn how to be self-disciplined, resilient, and learn to love school with a little bit of practice, a whole lot of love, and guidance from parents or loved ones using these 6 strategies.

1. Establish a Peaceful Study Spot in Your Home.

One of the best ways you can help your child stay motivated while doing their school work is by creating a quiet, peaceful and separate place in your home designated only for doing their school work. Find a corner of your home and put a desk there with everything your child could possibly need for school. Just as a bed is for sleeping, establishing this little area as a place only for your child to do their work will condition their brain to know that this area is for being productive. An added bonus is that your child can feel special knowing that you put a lot of time and effort into making this space unique especially for them. If you have other younger children who don’t yet have school work, make sure that they understand that this area is only for your one specific child, and is not to be used by anyone else. This will also allow your child to take pride in the time they spend there, and transfer into a positive space and attitude in which to do their work.

While some children will find that their learning style and focus level requires that this special spot is in a room by themselves, other children may find that a little bit of noise or action around them is a good thing and in fact helps them to focus better. This is something your child can experiment with, with your help and guidance. It may also be advantageous that this special spot is near where you work or study so that you can be a clear example of how to focus and take pride in your work, or so that you can be readily available if they need help from you during their studies!

2. Remain Patient and Positive.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, your child’s ability to focus and find a passion for learning via worksheets and reading assignments won’t blossom overnight. If you think back to your childhood, it’s more likely than not that there were certain subjects (or teachers) in school that had you doodling in your notebooks, passing notes to friends in class, or staring at the clock hands agonizingly ticking by–anything you could do to pass the time without actually having to pay attention! This is normal and your child has probably done this at least few times in their early education, whether it was intentionally or not. What your child needs in these situations is your positive attitude and a new perspective. 

When your child doesn’t want to do their homework, this is really an opportunity for you to patiently listen to what they learn about that doesn’t interest them, and instead help them to think of the subject material in a way that does interest them. For example, if your child is learning about the solar system and has no interest in space, you have an entire internet of cool and interesting videos, stories, inspiring astronauts, and experiment how-to’s that you can share with your child outside of the classroom. Sometimes all your child needs is for you to sit with them and show them just how excited you are about the subject they thought was boring to see how incredible it can really be. A positive attitude can make all the difference. Or, if you’re feeling really excited about a subject, a field trip can make an even bigger difference! You have the power to show your child just how cool it is to learn new things, and to teach them individually in ways that are geared toward their interests, as well as ways that their teachers can’t in group settings.

3. Stay Consistent with Rules– Work Before Play Makes for a Fun Day!

Did you know that simple cooperation and productivity can release the “happy hormones” in your brain? This fun little trick works to increase your child’s happiness as well! 

“Work before play” is a good principle to live by, and it is a great rule to enforce as a parent for your child to learn self-discipline. You can teach your child that not only will they be psychologically happier if they get their work done first before having tablet time or playing with friends, but it will feel great to have all of their work done before having the entire day or evening to do whatever they would like to do! This will help condition your child to get their work done first (whether it be homework, chores, or any other task they aren’t thrilled to do) and make them a more productive, responsible and driven young adult. However, this skill won’t stick if you aren’t consistent with this rule and respective consequences in your parenting. 

If you want your child to learn self-discipline and trust them to get their work done before doing the activities of their choice, you must establish and follow through with the consequences you communicate to your child. If your child doesn’t get their homework done by a certain point in their daily schedule, what will the consequence be? Make sure to communicate this consequence with your child before they make the decision to do, or not do their work. If they complete their work, this can be positively reinforced with praise. If they do not complete their work, sometimes the natural consequences of a bad grade or scolding from their teacher is more than enough for a typically responsible child. Whatever you choose the consequence to be, be sure to remain consistent so that your child also learns to be consistent in their choices (which will hopefully become a habit of good choices)!

4. Create Visual Progress and Manageable Lists.

Providing your child with the tool of a visual progress tracker of some sort can be a highly effective way of helping your child stay motivated in their progress at school. If you have a local library that has a summer reading program, they probably provide a worksheet where you can fill in a stepping stone for each book read, or maybe your child gets one bead to put on a necklace for every several books they read. If this reward system isn’t familiar to you, the basic idea is that your child gets to physically see the progress they make as they read each book, which will ultimately earn them a toy or some other reward in the end for all of their hard work and dedication. It can be in the form of a poster of a hand-drawn caterpillar they hang above their study space of which they color in one section of the caterpillar each time they get a good grade on a homework assignment, or a jar you put a coin in each time they finish a homework assignment in a  subject they dislike most. There’s no need to wait for the summer for your child to have a visual progress tracker when they do most of their hard work throughout the school year; they can create their own visual progress tracker that they will be proud of all year long!

Another good skill to teach your child when it comes to motivation is the skill of list keeping. Some of the most productive people in the world keep a to-do list each day, and make sure to complete each task before the day is done. It can be critical to your child’s success that they learn the skill of not only keeping an organized to-do list, but also learn how to prioritize tasks from most to least important. Prioritization is a skill that will help them to become successful young adults. Another skill to keep in mind for list making is that your child knows how to break seemingly overwhelming tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can make even the biggest, most intimidating projects feel easy when they are broken down and chipped away at slowly over a longer period of time!

5. Don’t Add Pressure to an Already Anxious Child.

Not only are some children seemingly born with a predisposition to academia coming easily or having a natural born passion for education, but oftentimes those children also have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed. On the other hand, children who don’t excel in school can also feel pressure to do better or “catch up” to the other kids in their class who do excel. If your child is feeling anxiety about school, whether it be reading aloud in class with a learning difference, hoping to get a higher grade than they received after working really hard on a project, or even the social expectations from keeping up with their peers, your child may be feeling a lot more anxiety about school than you realize. 

Keep open communication with your child and be sure that you are encouraging them rather than adding pressure that will only make them regress in school. If you feel that your child isn’t opening up to you, seeking a counselor’s help is a wonderful resource that could help your child open up about their worries and help them succeed in school like never before.

6. Privately Track Progress in Ways Only You Can– Without Getting Too Involved!

As parents, we want to help our children in any way we can. When it comes to completing school work however, it can be tempting to want to solve problems for them or do some of their work when they get stuck. Refrain from doing so when you can, and instead just be there for them to bounce ideas off of you, talk through difficult problems, or show them examples without doing their work for them. Being there for them when they need help, being open to patiently sitting with them when they need support, and being a trusted adult to come to when they are feeling frustrated are all amazing parts of our roles as parents. Just be sure not to get in the way of their problem-solving skill development, but instead be an asset to it. 

One thing you can actively do on your own is to keep a private log of your child’s progress, whether it be handwritten or merely mental. This can be important for your child’s motivation because you may notice trends when it comes to their academic life and health. Do they get frequent headaches at school? Perhaps they need glasses to see the board or their papers. Are they learning to read significantly slower than their peers or have trouble reading aloud to you? Perhaps they have a learning difference, such as dyslexia. Do they dread going to school when they previously had an overwhelming passion for their education? Perhaps they aren’t being challenged enough, they are being bullied at school, or they are having a hard time keeping up with the material. 

Keeping a personal and efficient record of how your child is performing at school can help you find ways to help your child in situations that they don’t know how to help themselves. Fixing problems such as these can help your child succeed in school and find motivation again. You as a parent know what is best for your child, and play an enormously significant role in your child’s motivation to succeed in school. Remember to stay patient and positive, believe in your child, and be confident in the motivational strategies that you integrate into your child’s new school routine.

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