Motivation for the year ahead

Jan 2016
Build you rewards around what motivates them.
Build your rewards around what motivates them.

The festive period has come to an end and you are back into the usual routine of work and school runs.

The days are still short and it's cold outside; it can be hard to feel motivated at this time of the year, but your lethargy could rub off on your child.

January is an important month for any child as they are adjusting to being back at school, the excitement of the last few weeks is still fresh in their minds, but they need to focus on the months ahead, as the end of the school year lurks in the not too distant future.

It may seem your child's motivations are somewhat askew as they focus on spending time with friends, playing computer games, listening to music or on their phones.

Here are a few tips to help you focus that motivation in the right direction:

Get their buy in: it's not enough to hammer the point that children need to do well in school. They've heard that hundreds of times and it doesn't really mean anything. What they need to understand is why it is important. They must realise the importance of doing well for themselves. Give them real-life examples of where success in a particular subject could take them and what their life might look like with that success.

Have an open door policy: your child knows you want what is best for them, and that you want to push them to do well. But don't make them feel they can't express any difficulties they are having. Trying to motivate them through threats, punishments and open frustration can be very detrimental. Their apparent lack of motivation may not come from a lack of will. If they are struggling to keep up, or don't understand their teacher or are having other difficulties affecting their success-rate, they need to feel they can express them without receiving an emotional reaction. Knowing you are on their side and are there to offer help and support will make it easier for them to strive for better, but also admit when they need extra help.

Let them reap the rewards: rather than taking away TV time or computer games when they don't do their homework or get a disappointing result in a test, try rewarding them for good behaviour. For the younger children this might be a sticker on the fridge or extra time at the park at the weekend, and for older children more simply "Yes you can go to Sarah's house, once you've finished your maths homework." Or "Why don't we watch that film you've wanted to see, once you've worked on your history project for an hour." Find out what works best as a motivator and build your rewards around that.

Build study time into their daily routine: at Kumon we ask our students to study their worksheets for around 30 minutes every day as, aside from helping our students learn more efficiently, we know creating this routine makes learning a natural and expected part of their day. Create a time every day where your child is expected to sit down and do some work. It could be further reading if they don't have any homework, or revising what they've learned that day. Once this is ingrained in their day it will seem far less of a chore.

Create a homework spot: as important as establishing a routine, is establishing an environment conducive to study. Create a space which is quiet, with a desk at which they can sit comfortably, perhaps away from siblings. Somewhere with good lighting which is free of distractions.

Listen to his/her unspoken cues: sometimes their lack of motivation comes from anxiety. If something seems impossible or insurmountable to them they may simply try to avoid it. While a little fear can be motivating, too much will just cause them to freeze on the issue. In these instances it is important to be kind and understanding, recognise their genuine anxiety, but be firm that they cannot shy away from the issue. Work with them on an action plan to get them back on track.

As with anything in life, the importance is finding a balance. School work is incredibly important, but so is spending time with friends, playing sport, and nurturing a hobby. Let's make 2016 a year of success in all these areas!