A quick guide to how you can help your child stay interested and motivated
Brief one-word instructions: When you want to tell your child that he needs to get to a certain activity (like homework or music practice) be brief in your instructions. Just say “time to do your homework” and leave the child. This will avoid any unnecessary argument with a disinterested child. If that doesn’t work, gently lead your child to the work-desk and firmly tell him to finish his studies. Avoid a power struggle, where the child is likely to further slip into a state of rebellion and not finish the task at hand.
No nagging: Do not nag the child or taunt him for being lazy and disinterested. This will only aggravate the problem. The child will feel hurt at the accusation and is likely to want to hurt you back by not listening to your instructions. Look at the system and find out what is blocking the child from performing at his best. Talk to the caregivers, teachers and sort things out. Be positive and teach the same to your child. Inspire him to work harder and appreciate that work.
Goal setting: Ask your child what he wants to do in life. Work with him to find an answer. You could work with careers such as a doctor, pilot, fashion designer, etc. Or you could work with feelings- “I want to perform in front of people”. Or “I want to run faster than everyone”. Children are unable to articulate what they want. Try and find out what makes your child tick and you may discover a hidden talent that he was too shy to express or simply unable to. Then work with him to hone that talent.
Show consequences: Every action has an impact. Children understand that very well from an early age. Even children in cradles know that if they cry for their milk they will get it. Apply this principle to make children understand the consequence of their actions. Do it in a manner they can understand. Such as: “All your friends are studying hard and all of you want to go to the same college. If you don’t work as hard, you may get separated from your group.” OR “You may decide not to work hard, but let’s understand that as a result of that you may be unable to get the subjects of your choice. And have to take up subjects that you don’t enjoy. It’s fine with me if you want to do that. You should just be aware.” OR “If you don’t get good grades, then you will have to go to an average college. That may close some opportunities for you” While you show them the consequences, also tell them that it’s OK to fail if they take failure as an opportunity to buckle up (and because they don’t like the consequences of failure.)
Faith: Whatever you do, keep your faith in your child’s ability and exhibit it. As we have seen, children may get demotivated and disinterested for various reasons, but your faith and positive reinforcement in his abilities will augur well for him.
School feedback: Be in touch with school teachers and authorities on a regular basis. Do not miss out on parent-teacher meetings, and set up some for yourself if you think you need extra feedback on how your child is faring. It always helps to know why your child is not willing to give science another shot while he or she is exceeding in English. Besides aptitude, maybe there is some other crucial reason why the motivation level is dropping.
Beat resistance: When the child refuses to go to school or participate in activities always remember that he or she is using the inbuilt motivation to resist. Use this motivation to turn tables around. Let him know that by resisting certain activity he or she is actually missing out on a ton of fun. To get the child started, you may also want to show interest in what he or she is doing.
Praise and reward: Without going overboard, reward and praise your child every time, he or she participates. We know mornings are a troublesome time for parents, who have to get children out of bed and to school, but try and make this exciting for them. Develop games around who brushes first, who finishes milk and toast first, and gets the most number of stars from school. These might sound like simple ways but they can get younger children motivated.
Taking things back doesn’t help: Never take away the PlayStation or game boy you had gifted your child because that’s all he or she seems interested in. You could limit its use. Snatching things and locking them in the cupboard hardly makes a difference to the motivation a child will show towards studies or sports.
Talk: When your child is losing interest or motivation, talk to him. And listen to him. Maybe all they need is a willing ear, to air their feelings that are bottled up inside because they have no one they trust who they can talk to.
Provide a healthy home environment: Remember that a child who is well-loved, well taken care of, and has a healthy environment around him, is more likely to take interest in studies than the one who is struggling for the love and attention of his parents.