You’ve tried everything from rewards to punishments to screaming but you just can’t seem to motivate your reluctant learner. You’re on the verge of throwing in the towel and convincing yourself that your child is disinterested in studying and you start berating yourself for not raising him right.
Hang on mama! Just so you know, it’s extremely common for children to display a lack of interest in studying, at some point. It’s normal and not necessarily an indication of laziness, ill-discipline, a problem with your parenting or a switched off attitude.
There could be other contributing factors unbeknownst to you.
Why it’s difficult to motivate your reluctant learner
Here are three of the most common reasons that your child is finding it difficult to learn, which in turn makes it difficult for you to motivate them.
- Lack of understanding
- Lack of confidence
- Problem with retaining information, or memory skills
In addition, social and behavioural therapist Katy Harris, explains that children can feel intimidated when what it is to be a learner is presented to them in a narrow and constricted manner.
And here’s something many of us, Singaporean parents are guilty of: obsessing over academic performance. This can be another reason that students feel reluctant to learn.
The fear of not performing up to expectations can cause children to panic. This then deters them from work. They prefer to do ‘nicer’ things like day dreaming or doodling.
Well, we can imagine just how torturous and difficult it can be for you to motivate your reluctant learner but the good news is, you can change things. Here are 9 strategies that Harris recommends.
How to motivate your reluctant learner
1. Don’t pack them off to school just yet
Mums, I know that keeping a toddler occupied is no walk in the park, and you can’t wait to get them out of your hair for a bit. But sending them off to school when they aren’t entirely ready for it could cause some repercussions.
Starting school too soon can hinder a child’s academic interest later in life.
Harris shares that it’s ubiquitously proven that immersing your child in a play-based learning environment exposes them to more problem-solving opportunities. Play also piques their interest about the world around them and helps them to boost their confidence.
In addition, learning through play gives your child a stronger social and emotional life and sense of self.
This makes children want to be their best as opposed to just doing things in a perfunctory or routine manner.
So, if you must send them to school young, ensure that the school has many different activities and ample opportunities for stimulation and a curriculum that emphasises on holistically developing your child.
Most importantly, your child must return from school looking happy and fulfilled.
2. Change is the only constant
You don’t want your child growing up to be rigid and set in his ways for that would lead to him giving up or losing motivation when faced with change.
In order to raise your child to be flexible and adaptable, you must approach their learning and tasks from various angles and find out what works.
For example, you might have learnt your multiplication tables or spelling in a certain way. It might have been so effective that you swear by it. But if it doesn’t work for your child, it doesn’t work for your child.
A mismatched learning method might cause your child to lose interest and attention, so before that happens, try a different method.
Also, what works for your child at one point in time, might not necessarily work a year later. So even if you have to change your approach every year, be open to it.
3. Every child is unique
As mentioned, a mismatched learning method is pretty much a recipe for disaster. So it’s really important that you find out what works for your child.
There is no universal method of learning. Some children learn best in a hands-on manner, some have the ability to memorise huge chunks of information and some can only learn in a quiet environment with no distractions. Every child works differently.
There is no such thing as a child without strengths or the ability to learn. If they aren’t learning, it only means that we are not creating the right environment for them to learn.
There’s ample information available at your fingertips, so just do the necessary research, talk to the right people and figure out what works for your child. If you require professional judgment, don’t be afraid to seek it.
Don’t compare your child’s style or your parenting techniques with others.
4. Take baby steps
Yes, you need to have the bigger picture all planned out and you need to look far. But children aren’t always able to do that. They need to see more immediate rewards, otherwise they lose motivation.
In order to motivate your reluctant learner, you need to break things down to baby steps. Set one goal at a time and recognise the effort that goes into achieving each of these goals.
Highlight your children’s strengths and help them to recognise their own strengths. It is important that you do this so that they learn to identify these strengths and apply them in future.
5. A little bit of trickery does the trick
We all know how unpredictable kids are. They might do something diligently every day, and then one day decide that they just don’t want to do it anymore. And it’s frustrating to fight tears and tantrums.
Instead, to motivate your reluctant learner, keep some tricks at hand. For example, if he should be doing those dreaded sums, and is sulking before he even starts, try offering him a little reward like his favourite food for dinner.
6. There are second chances in life
Look mums, I know that you will go up in arms at this statement. But they only do their PSLE once! Yes, but there are students who have repeated and done really well, no?
Failure is part of life and children need to experience it. If they never experience failure, they will have no idea how to deal with it. And face it, everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives.
Also, you want kids to be able to look at themselves and want to improve and stretch themselves further. But if they fear your criticism or harsh judgement, they will never be comfortable with doing this.
So get them to understand that it’s ok to do something once and want to do it better the second time. Share with them stories of how your failures have led you to success. Teach them how to be determined and not to give up just because they failed.
Make your children understand that failing doesn’t make them a failure.
7. Let them have a say
If you want to raise children who are motivated, you have to give them a certain amount of autonomy.
Autonomy helps children to become independent learners and to trust their own choices.
This can start in the simplest of ways. The main idea here is for them to be able to make choices. Let them choose which book they want ro read, or where they want to read. And along with allowing them to choose, honour the choices that they make.
Tell less, ask more.
8. Losing interest is not the same as disobedience
Failure isn’t fun and it doesn’t leave children feeling good. So if they are facing difficulty learning, they think they have failed. In order to make up for the negative feelings that come along with failing, they make themselves feel good in negative ways.
For example, they start challenging rules, testing their boundaries or becoming more needy than usual.
It’s somewhat like a power struggle – they feel powerless about themselves so they seek this power over you, by manipulating you to get them a toy for example.
It is going to be difficult to stay calm and not lash out at them but it’s extremely important that you stay patient. Focus on identifying the root of the problem, then nip it in the bud.
To motivate your reluctant learner, you must be approachable and kind. Show an active interest in their lives and what they tell you. In this manner, they will definitely share with you the difficulties that they face.
9. Get help it it’s a learning disability
This is tricky. In this day and age, parents know too much about everything, albeit superficially. So they end up jumping to conclusions and stirring unnecessary panic.
Experts warn parents not to test for disabilities too soon as the child needs to be about seven years of age for you to get a proper diagnosis. But if you have your doubts, keep a close watch on your child.
You can speak to a behavioural therapist who can look at the child in relation to the bigger picture. They will take into consideration things like their personality traits, which the parent might not have thought about.
If you strongly suspect that there might be a behavioural or learning disorder, prepare your child to cope with the diagnosis, even before getting one. Once you know for sure, take whatever steps you have to, and work with your child.
Remember, if there is a disorder involved, you have to be extremely patient for it is not the child’s fault in any way. Also, don’t be resistant to getting a diagnosis or get defensive if someone with good intentions recommends that you do so.
So there you go, 9 simple yet effective strategies to help you to motivate your reluctant learner. Remember, patience is key and nothing is impossible so start making small changes to see big changes in the long run. Good luck!
Source: Channel News Asia