Schools are reopening in many parts of the world as the pandemic subsides and gives way to normal life. While many children will be excited to go back to a school routine and meet their friends, there will be many who will be not showing any interest in it. If your child is in the latter category, this will be useful for you, because with the schools reopening you would definitely want your child to be excited about going back to school.
A lot of children like the school atmosphere. They look forward to waking up every morning, getting ready, and leaving for a new set of activities and fun with friends. However, there are some children who resent going to school every morning. They just don’t feel motivated enough to get out of their bed, rush the morning and reach school.
A lot of books have been written about how to deal with children who are not motivated enough. These children don’t feel the urge to participate, compete and be a part of the entire learning and growing cycle like other children. Also, some children start off very well, but once they lag, they just give up. So why do children lose interest and stop trying?
Every child is different
All children learn at a different pace. Some might be able to grasp a new concept instantly while others might take time. Some children thrive in group situations, while others need individual attention. Class size, the length of a topic, the child’s relationship with the particular teacher, and the way the topic is being covered, all make a difference to how well a child responds and picks up a topic that has been discussed. The same applies to other non-academic activities. Children’s interest and motivation decrease if they find it difficult to understand what is being taught. Older children even “switch off” because they have decided that what is being taught is irrelevant to them.
The trick is to understand the reason for this lack of interest. If you have open lines of communication and take care not to be judgmental in your discussion; children share the reasons of disinterest easily enough.
Areas of strength
Try and recognize their hidden talent. Observe closely to see which subjects or activities your child picks up easily. Try and develop his skills in that area. In the primary years of education, all children have to study the basic subjects before they can select their specializations for further education. You will have to make sure your child understands this fact. Tell them that if they want to specialize in a certain subject (say math) or if they want to take up a competitive sport (say cricket) they will need to get through school/college with good grades. Otherwise, those opportunities will not be open to them. Once they understand that the way to what’s close to their hearts is through school- the chances are they will pull themselves together.
Change. Has the child suddenly become disinterested?
One of the most common reasons for lack of motivation is anxiety and/or depression caused by some change in the environment. This could be a change in school or moving house or tensions in the house between the parents. You may suddenly find that your child is not interested in his favorite activities, leave alone the ones he dislikes. This may be more prevalent in the Covid era as many families have been through financial trouble due to lack of jobs causing stress and unrest in the home environment. Many have even moved homes to smaller houses or moved back to their hometown, so if you are one of those you will need to pay special attention to your child and understand that his lack of motivation may be due to the new environment.
Fear of failure
Sometimes children find it easier to shy away from an activity rather than face failure. They may be generally insecure or may fear coming short of their parent’s/teacher’s expectations. While it is fine for parents to expect their children to do well in all fields, unrealistic expectations of performance can have a reverse impact on the child’s motivation. Work on creating an internal drive in the child rather than pushing him to live up to your expectations. If parents and teachers work together, they can achieve this easily.
You have to let your child blossom in his own time and space. If your try and make him conform to everything that you want him to do; if you don’t give him space to make mistakes and learn from them; if you give him extra love and attention only when he excels in something; if you help him too much in an effort to make him look good in class; if you do any or more of these things- you are exhibiting controlling behavior. The time to stop is now.
Don’t try to live your life through them
Many parents want their children to achieve what they themselves couldn’t. Some think they have achieved a lot and want their children to emulate them. Don’t do that. It’s your child’s life -not yours. As a parent, you can help them get a good education and impart the right values, and help them recognize what they want to do in life. Do not try to make them what you are (or what you wanted to become). They may follow your instructions but without any interest.
Children sometimes lose interest in activities that they were happily engaged in earlier. They become involved with new friends or start straying into unnecessary activities that take up a lot of their time and energy. Sometimes these may be harmless- like hanging around with friends for hours or chatting for long hours on the phone or addiction to electronics (TV, iPods, Internet etc). At other times it may be risky especially if children stray into areas such as drug abuse. As a parent, you must always know who your child is interacting with and what they are doing together even in your absence. This will ensure that your child is not at risk. You must also keep a tab on how much entertainment time is allowed. And help your child to focus. Keeping routines will help.
Routines and timetables
As a parent, you must help your child have a structured timetable of when he has to study and when he has to make time for other activities. Be sure not to make the calendar too full or completely inflexible. A full calendar will make the child resent all activities over a period of time and he may lose interest in everything. A completely inflexible approach does the same thing. So work with your child and slot the necessary activities. Keep enough free time when your child may want to do “nothing at all”. Discourage clubbing things -like doing homework in front of the TV. Time family fun or gatherings after the child finishes his studies. This will help the child develop the right priorities early on in life.
Right food, the right play, and good sleep
Always remember a healthy and well-rested child is likely to be more attentive than a child who hasn’t slept or eaten enough. Morning breakfast before the child leaves for school is of crucial importance. Do not hand over a glass of milk as breakfast, it’s not enough. Without enough rest, the child’s body won’t cooperate with him. Hence make sure that the child has a good sleep pattern and is getting adequate rest corresponding to his age. In families with both parents working, children get time with the parents only in the evening. Consequently, they may be habitual late sleepers. If you can’t change that routine then ensure your child gets an afternoon nap to make up for the amount of sleep his tired body needs.
Slow and steady
Children today are exposed to a world of instant gratification. Everything is quick and fast. Results follow actions very quickly. This sets a certain expectation pattern even for other things. Unfortunately, any kind of study or extracurricular activity requires patience and practice for the results to be good.
It is important that you make the children understand this difference. And appreciate the rewards that constant practice and perseverance brings with it.
Addictions (Alcohol/Drug abuse)
The two biggest worries that each parent has is drugs and alcohol. These two factors are seen to affect the smartest of kids and get them unmotivated to do anything that is good for them in the long run. Once under the influence, children become brash and defiant. Grades usually drop. This problem may typically appear in teenagers Parents need to keep a watch out, and if they suspect their child is on to any such addiction-take appropriate actions (also see topic Addictions)
It is possible that a child who is not trying enough or remains unmotivated despite attempts from home and school might have forms and degrees of neurological problems that affect writing, numerical reasoning, and reading. Sometimes even abilities to concentrate in noisy group discussions or a classroom atmosphere might be a problem. Even bright and intelligent children can exhibit motivation problems because of their physical limitations. It is best that you have your child undergo a medical check-up; the problem could be as simple as a need for spectacles. Or as serious as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or Autism.
Do not medicate your child on your own
The markets are flooded today with tablets and tonics that vouch to increase the strength and concentration of your child. A lot of these contain medications for anti-depression, which is not the best thing for a child to have. Do not pick up any formulations or medicines off the counter or on recommendations (unless by a health expert) to treat lack of motivation.
A quick guide to how you can help your child stay interested and motivated
Click here for Case Study on Unmotivated and Disinterested Child
Top Questions on Unmotivated and Disinterested Child
- My son, Farooq does as little as possible and necessary to get by – be it academics or other activities or chores. What can I do to help?
- My child has lost interest in studies and says everyone cannot be good at everything. She is brilliant at music and wants to make that her career and wants to give up school. She says that there are a lot of good musicians who do not have basic education. Help!