As parents, we naturally desire the best for our children. We want them to be successful at whatever they choose to do as adults, and that usually begins (in our minds, anyway) with doing well in school. We can’t help ourselves. Unfortunately, us wanting it for them isn’t enough. Our children have to want it for themselves. Of course, not all children will excel in school, some children have strengths elsewhere, and others may have learning differences that prevent academic success. But, wherever your child is currently standing, they can improve, and we’ll show you how to motivate them to do so.
10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to do Better in School
Here are 10 ways to motivate your child to do better in school while still encouraging and supporting them.
1 Develop Structure and Routines
The regularity of structure and routines are crucial to supporting your child. Stability at home will give them the confidence and motivation to apply themselves at school.
Often, when you’re trying to motivate your children to do anything, conflict can arise. Bedtimes, homework completion, or social times with their friends can all be the source of contention unless you have established structure and routines in place. Knowing the family’s regular schedule and what’s expected of them will settle matters.
Of course, you have to stick to your routines and lead by example. But also be willing to be flexible if the need arises.
In addition to the routines, think of creating structures to support them. For instance, along with having a set time for homework, also delegate a quiet space in the home for doing the homework.
2 Emphasize the Process over Results
Encourage your child to do the work that leads to doing better in school. Regularly completing their homework, being attentive in class, and studying can lead to better grades and other scholastic achievements. But they may not. Your child could do all the prescribed things and benefit from it, but not necessarily in higher grades. And if you only emphasize the end result of the activities, your disappointment may discourage your child from making any further effort.
Much like our own experiences as adults, results don’t always reflect the amount of effort that’s gone into achieving our goals. Whether or not your child gets high grades or takes home the prizes, they must see your appreciation of the work they put in.
The process alone will have enormous rewards for your child. They will learn discipline, focus, and patience – even if their grades aren’t stellar.
3 Teach Your Child Organizational Skills
There are times when you may notice your child struggling to manage homework, after-school activities, and their day-to-day life and wonder why they’re so overwhelmed. Remember, the organizational skills you have, need to be passed on to your child. There’s no reason why they should already know any of that.
Teach your child how to manage their time, prioritize activities, and organize their belongings. Show them the importance of making lists, using a calendar, and preparing themselves ahead of time for approaching activities. When they feel more prepared, their attitude toward school will improve, and they may do better as a result.
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4 Use Reinforcement
Of course, we must be careful about external rewards for good work, but there are ways to use extrinsic motivation to create internal motivation in your child. What may begin for your child, as putting in the work of doing better in school just for the praise and approval of their parents, can eventually feel good to them. When that happens, they’ll do good work because they feel motivated to do so from the inside, and your approval and praise will only be icing on the cake.
5 Help Them See the Big Picture
It’s easy for your child to become bogged down with the work of improving their grades and lose sight (if they ever had it) of the bigger picture. As a means of motivating them, help them see the big picture – why working harder is essential to their future goals and success. Discuss their career, and life goals and how doing better in school now may help those come about. When they see academics as more than temporary torture, they will feel more motivated to do the work that will pay off later.
Related: How to Teach Your Kids About Grit
6 Give them Freedom
Empowering your child with a sense of autonomy and control will go a long way in motivating them to do better in school. When they feel that they are shaping their own future by their actions, they will feel fulfillment and motivation to continue. It’s exciting to sense that level of responsibility and has long-term benefits to your child beyond school and grades. Early exposure to feelings of autonomy and responsibility for their own lives will empower them well into adulthood and build self-confidence.
Even when their decisions or actions aren’t in keeping with your expectations or their own good, they can benefit from seeing the consequences of their actions. It isn’t easy, but ultimately, it’s more rewarding for your child if they have pockets of responsibility where they’re free to fulfill their obligations or suffer the consequences. Not only will you never know what they’re capable of if you micromanage every aspect of their lives, but more importantly, they won’t know either.
7 Be Interested in All Aspects of their Lives
Your child is more than just a student. Of course, you already know that, but sometimes we can become so focused on a problem area that we forget all the rest. But your child is a whole person with other interests and other dimensions to who they are. By taking an interest in all parts of them, you will diminish any feelings of resentment or resistance in your child.
Your attention to other aspects of your child will encourage them to do the same. Realizing that they are more than their grades and finding different interests and areas where they may excel outside of school can all be very encouraging for your child.
8 Let Them Make Mistakes
It isn’t realistic to expect that your child will pass every test, always get the top grades, and never make an error. Mistakes are part of being human and are essential to learning. This is in keeping with the above point to emphasize the process over the outcome. If your child does everything they can to do well in school and still comes up a little short, praise and encourage them for the effort they’ve put in.
Mistakes are valuable, and you should encourage your child to take responsibility for their errors. It’s harder to learn from mistakes they’re blaming on others.
Remind your child that while they may make mistakes, they aren’t their mistakes. They can learn their lessons and make different choices next time.
Related: How to Motivate Bored Teens
9 Get Help
It may be necessary to find outside help to relieve tension in your relationship with your child. This help can be in many forms. For instance, you can employ an older student to tutor your child in a challenging subject. Other support may include the school counselor and their teacher, depending on the extent of the difficulties you’re facing. Others may come with perspectives and insights different from your own that may be helpful. Your child’s teacher is an excellent resource, and your child will benefit significantly from you and their teacher working together for their betterment.
10 Find a Mentor for Your Child
If the process of motivating your child to do better in school has caused conflict and tension between the two of you, your child may benefit from having a mentor. This could be another trusted adult who shares your values and wants to help your child excel academically. They can provide your child with the perspective of another adult (other than you) and hear advice and direction that is fresh and different from yours. You and the mentor may meet together to discuss your child’s progress.
What Not to Do to Motivate Your Child
In your eagerness to do good things for your child, it’s easy to find yourself doing more harm than good. Here are a few things to avoid doing in your attempt to motivate your child to do better in school:
- Don’t compare your child to other children. Your child doing better in school is about them doing their best, not matching other children – even if they are siblings.
- Don’t worship good grades. There is more to life than grades, and your child can have a happy, fulfilling life whether or not they ever achieve stellar grades.
- Don’t overschedule their lives. Allow your child time for hobbies, rest, and relaxation.
- Don’t encourage a sense of helplessness. Your child needs to feel empowered that they can affect change in their own lives.
- Don’t love and accept them based purely on performance. Your child is more than their grades. Let them feel your love and approval whether or not they ever meet your academic standards.
You’re an excellent parent for wanting the best for your child. And above are 10 ways for you to motivate them to do better academically. But as you attempt to draw out the best in them, be careful that you never communicate that grades or school performance are the most important thing in life. Being loved and accepted by you will do great things for your child.
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