If you have one of those kids who barely wakes up and jumps out of bed eager to start whatever kind of class is scheduled for the day, whether it’s a fully online, hybrid, or in-person model, then you need to read no further. If, on the other hand, your child is just as confused as you are about this school year and needs some motivation, keep reading.
The fear and uncertainty of this school year are not what any family wants. But children are surprisingly resilient and like to learn new things. When you find out what motivates them, all that’s left to do is watch them fly for themselves. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what your child responds to best. Just remember: your goal is to help them further their own goals and aspirations. Leave the pressure of being on the honor roll for when things get back to normal. This year, let the joy of learning guide your decisions.
How to start
Children may motivate by different things than last year. Your child who is used to getting A’s may no longer work for gold stars, and your usually lazy child may rush through her homework just to get out of it. Don’t make assumptions about what will work. Ask questions instead: see how they are performing, ask them how they feel, determine what they want to achieve, and find out what you can do to support them.
Teach By Example
Your energy will rise and fall, but keep a positive attitude and a consistent approach. If you feel like your child is falling behind, look for role models—in movies, books, or real-life—whose determination can inspire them.
Develop Your Work Ethic
Yes, many of us want our children to go back to school in person, but remember that learning is for life. When you talk about school work, focus on the skills children are developing, the courage to get things done, and the sense of accomplishment. Most kids can push themselves when it’s something they love, like creating a hit game or mastering dance choreography. Ask them to use the same skills that drive them in other areas.
Congratulate Him For The Effort
Maybe you got a problem wrong but answered the right questions. Perhaps he easily finished today’s reading assignment when yesterday’s was difficult. Now, more than ever, noticing and giving your child positive feedback about how he’s growing and progressing can really give him a big boost.
Motivation Basics: Proven Motivation Strategies For Nearly All Types Of Kids
Establish a structure and routine. Sticking to a schedule provides the stability kids need to stay focused. Also, it minimizes their instincts to rebel. When you state what you expect it to do, it’s more likely to do it. You can try digital tools like to-do lists, site blockers, and screen time limit settings when kids need help staying focused.
Find a responsible partner. You may not be able to motivate your son, but his best friend can. Ask him to schedule daily communications with a friend, either by text or on social media. Stewardship helps children realize that they are not alone and gives them a real reason to work hard.
Encourage them. Kids can be motivated by rewards, but the idea is that they feel like they really earned their reward (or that can end in a vicious cycle). If they finish a task, they can choose a board game to play; two chores, they can make that brownie mix you’ve been saving.
Make It Special
Celebrate the occasion. This school year children will not be able to have pizza parties or dances on Fridays. But you can still give them something that makes them excited. Plan an (online) celebration with family and friends, such as a virtual party, a Zoom dance, a trivia night, or a movie to watch together.
Let them see the progress. Some children respond well to visual cues. Use a calendar or other visual aid to mark time so they can see how much they’ve accomplished and how much more they have left to do.
Do a related activity. One positive aspect of distance learning is the flexibility to delve into topics that children love. Build and extend what they are learning with a task that is logically related. If they’re learning about the solar system, give them permission to stay up late on a weekend night and use an astronomy app to map the night sky.
A Little Of Everything
Be open to experimenting. If a child is struggling to read a book, try reading aloud or get an audiobook. If math seems “too boring,” solve the problems on a blackboard or outside with sidewalk chalk. A change of scenery can do wonders for a child’s motivation.
Split the day. If you have some control over when they do the work, split things up a bit. Let them have a quieter morning and do their school work after lunch. Make an agreement in advance: “If you take the morning off, you still have to finish your homework before you can play online with your friends later today.”
Change the schedule. The hours from 8 am to 3 pm are really nothing special, it’s just the time that children are normally in school. Of course, if your kids are taking classes online, you need to accommodate those schedules. But for things like working through a teacher’s assignments, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with different times of the day. Sometimes making a change is all it takes.
In Case You Have Problems
Seek help from a favorite teacher
An encouraging word, such as a recorded video message, text, or email, from one of your favorite teachers, maybe all you need. Surely your son will not want to disappoint his teacher.
Rule out other problems
Sometimes what looks like a lack of motivation is actually a child hiding a problem. Investigate the underlying problems and solve them. If you just need a break from your mental health, these apps can help.
Your child may not adjust to the new learning environment. Insist that they do at least all the chores, and set logical punishments if they don’t (maybe they’ll miss an online playdate ). Empathize with your child’s feelings and move on. Give yourself a moment to gather strength and recharge. Celebrate small victories and start fresh tomorrow with a fresh vision.
For more tips and resources like these to help your family prepare for distance learning, check out our Wide Open School Back to School Guide.
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