As an adult, you know that much of your child’s future depends upon the effort he expends in school and his attitude towards education. It’s not easy to motivate a chronic underachiever, especially if he’s dead set against participating in school or earning high marks. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, though. If your child isn’t performing well in school, there are steps you can take that may help give him the motivation he needs to boost that performance.
Determine the Scope of His Abilities
Before you start putting pressure on your child to try harder when it comes to schoolwork, you may want to consider having him tested by an academic specialist or seen by an expert to determine the scope of his abilities. He may be suffering from an undiagnosed learning disorder or having difficulty processing information, which means that he could very well be working his hardest to achieve the mediocre grades he’s getting. Keep in mind that being diagnosed with a learning disorder is far from the end of the world for your child; in fact, once you’re able to determine the best ways of teaching him, you may find that his academic performance increases dramatically. Either way, it’s still important to know where he rests on the spectrum before you berate him about a lackadaisical attitude when he’s actually working as hard as he can to impress you.
Cut the Criticism
If you’ve determined that your child has no learning disorders or processing difficulties, there’s a good chance that he’s struggling in school simply because he’s not motivated to work any harder than he is now. Frustration at his apathetic attitude and refusal to work can make you itch to lash out a bit, but you should keep in mind that criticism isn’t likely to make the situation any better. In fact, it may very well make things worse by damaging your relationship with your child and making him even more sullen and disinterested in school.
Even if you mean well, comparing your child to a sibling or his classmates will almost certainly backfire. Your child is not his brother or his classmate, and it’s important for you to realize that. Setting these standards that your child feels are unrealistic and unattainable will only discourage him more. If he knows that he’ll never live up to the people you’re comparing him to, then he may feel like there’s no point in trying at all. Asking your child why he can’t perform as well as his sister or best friend is downright insulting, and ultimately counterproductive.
Think Before You Bribe
When you know that your child is capable of better grades and you’re desperate to find a means of motivating him to do his very best, it’s easy to reach for your wallet. Before you bribe your kids to bring up their grades, think about the message that you’re sending. Knowing that there’s a cash prize hanging in the balance may entice your child to cheat in order to reach the goals you’ve set for him. It also makes him look forward to getting a good grade for the sake of earning a reward, not taking pride in the feeling of earning good grades themselves.
Praise Strong Efforts
It’s essential that you know just how much your child is capable of, and that you place an emphasis on praising his efforts over praising his accomplishments. When you offer your child encouragement and positive affirmation for trying his best, he learns that the value lies within making his best effort, not just reaching the goal by any means necessary. Help your child learn to be proud of how hard he works, even if he’s not always reaching the brass ring. The value is in the determination, and your child needs to know that.
If your child’s performance simply isn’t reaching the level that you know he’s capable of, it may be time to discuss the matter with his teachers. They will almost certainly have more insight into his classroom habits than you will because they’re observing him directly, and may be able to give you some valuable tips for motivation and encouragement that will work with the unique needs of your individual child.
Thanks to aupairjobs.com for this helpful article. I want to add that many times help is needed outside the schools. Expert assessment of the student's processing skills can shed much light on the roadblocks which may be causing poor motivation. If your child feels defeated due to slow processing speed, visual muscle imbalance, or poor decoding skills, NOW is the time to act, before bad attitudes are confirmed and self-confidence is in the basement.