Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
It can be difficult to keep your child motivated and engaged in learning with so many things competing for their attention. These strategies can help.
The teenager who falls asleep once a textbook is placed in front of them. The child who won’t stop yelling each time they’re asked to do their homework. All around us, it’s easy to find children that struggle to stay engaged or motivated at school. A few months ago, I noticed that my 8-year old son was finding it difficult to focus on his lessons. During classes, he would doodle or outright fall asleep.
Like any parent, I was worried about this newly-found apathy and how to respond to it.
Unfortunately, the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder for students to remain genuinely interested in schoolwork. The pandemic led to a transition from face-to-face learning to online learning. While this transition served a purpose to ensure that students didn’t fall behind academically, studies have shown that online learning for kids could negatively impact them, leading to a loss of motivation.
This brings us to the big question: how do we keep our kids motivated and engaged during school work? Well, if this has been a concern of yours, I’ve curated some key strategies that have helped me and my son:
Give your child a little control
I know what you’re thinking: why should we place our children in the driver’s seat when it comes to their education? After all, we’re the adults and we need to guide our kids through learning and school work. However, I soon realized from personal experience that children tend to get tired of control. They face control from teachers, coaches, and even us. We tell them to do things our way because that’s the “right” way.
The result? They feel forced and end up despising (or otherwise not caring for) the learning process.
It’s important to let children have control over their own learning experiences and choices. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hand over the reins entirely to them. It could simply mean offering them flexibility by providing them with options. For instance, if you’re assigning your child an essay or letter-writing task, give them the freedom to choose a particular topic they’d like to write about.
My son used to hate letter-writing because he found it too “boring.” In retrospect, I’d have found letter-writing boring, too, if I was always asked to write letters to a fictional pen pal. So, one day, I asked him to write a letter to anyone he wanted to and in no time at all, I had a one-page letter addressed to Aladdin. That was when it hit me: his problem with letter-writing wasn’t the fact that it was supposedly boring. The problem was that he wasn’t offered freedom or flexibility to make creative choices.
The more learning choices a child has, the more engaged and motivated they’ll feel about learning and studying.
Try out different learning styles
Here’s one mistake most parents and teachers make: believing that learning is a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many different learning styles, and each child has a specific preference. For instance, some children might have a particular dominant learning style while others prefer using a combination of learning styles.
When you use a different learning style other than your child’s preferred one, they’ll either get bored, distracted or outright unwilling to learn.
If your child is a visual learner, they’d prefer to learn by seeing how things work (showing instead of telling). My son is a visual learner and he certainly learns faster with YouTube videos and real-life practical examples.
On the other hand, your kid might prefer telling instead of showing if they’re auditory learners. So, try out different methods until you nail the jackpot and find one that works best for your child. By exploring different learning styles, you’ll be able to figure out the best learning method to use and improve their attitude to school work.
In some cases, experts also advise incorporating mindfulness into your child’s learning routine to help them navigate challenges easily.
Have you ever tried teaching math to your child? I’ve certainly tried and ever since then, my respect for math teachers has shot through the roof. When it comes to learning math for kids, it’s normal for your kid to feel unenthusiastic or unmotivated. This is because most kids tend to see math as an uninteresting and frightening hill that they’d rather not climb. This is where you come in.
As parents, we can improve our kids’ reception to math (and just about any other subject) simply by being enthusiastic.
Enthusiasm tends to rub off, and once your child sees how excited you are about learning, they’ll most likely get excited about it too.
Treat each learning session like a new exciting adventure for discovering hidden gems of knowledge. For instance, when it’s time for our home-based learning sessions, I tell my son: “we’re going to learn something mysterious today!” Of course, there’s absolutely nothing mysterious about solving fractions but it always makes him excited and curious.
Try as much as possible to stay joyful and enthusiastic while teaching, and in no time, your kid will get with the program.
Consider game-based learning
Contrary to popular opinion, game-based learning isn’t another big-tech ploy to distract children and keep them addicted to their screens. Instead, it can help motivate kids, improve their attitude to learning and make it seem like a fun activity rather than an inevitable chore. But don’t just take my word for it; what do the numbers really say?
According to studies, 80% of learners would be more productive if learning took a game-like approach. But it doesn’t just end at ‘would-be’s and ‘what-if’s. In reality, up to 70% of teachers who used educational games in their classrooms witnessed a significant increase in student engagement.
What does this mean for us as parents? It’s quite simple: we should incorporate educational games to boost our kids’ engagement and motivation for learning. This will help engage them, incite their competitive spirit, and motivate them to keep studying.
Use positive reinforcement
A great way to motivate your child to learn is by utilizing positive reinforcement. Encourage them and celebrate their achievements. For instance, if they finish an important assignment or task, praise them and possibly treat them. This will encourage them to do better, and subsequently, your child will be more willing to learn, thanks to the positive reinforcement and validation that they get from you.
As a reinforcement practice, I always hand my kid a gold star or cookie every time he does great on a school task.
It makes him really eager to learn and ever since I discovered this hack, I haven’t let go (shhh, don’t tell him).
Help your child with their day-to-day organization
Sometimes, children feel unmotivated to learn simply because they’re overwhelmed by too many tasks. However, you can nip this in the bud by helping them stay organized. For instance, you could help structure their tasks, setting deadlines for each one and providing sufficient breaks in-between. This way, they’ll be able to handle school tasks one after the other and stay on top of the situation instead of being bombarded with a plethora of homework.
Another way to help your child stay organized is by keeping their books and papers tidy for them. Young children tend to have a problem organizing their school materials, and by stepping in for them, you lower their chances of feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by the mess. Include them in the process so they can eventually do this on their own.
Trying to help your child stay motivated and engaged when it comes to school is certainly no mean feat. With the rise of the pandemic and online learning, it has become even harder for children to stay focused on learning activities. However, as parents, we owe it to our kids to help them in any way we can. Fortunately, with a few mindful strategies, you too can help your child stay on track and get the most out of school.
You’ll certainly notice a difference!
You may also enjoy reading Mindfulness in the Classroom: Learning from the Inside Out by Laura Bakosh