It’s no secret that we live in an achievement-centric society, where it feels like there are insane expectations on us and our children just to keep up. In the frenzy of trying to give our children holistic childhoods and seek the best from them, we can end up imposing unrealistic expectations. How can we then motivate our children when it comes to academics? How do we continue to affirm them while they may not be doing well?
Here, we offer you the following tips to help you motivate your child to attain success in school and in life.
1. Have a vision for your child
When coaching a child, it is tempting to focus solely on academics – particularly if he or she struggles in specific subjects. Take a moment to step back and consider your child’s abilities and personality. What is your vision for your child? What sort of person do you hope they will be? What core values and attributes do you hope to see in your child? If you hope to raise an independent thinker who will be resilient and confident, incorporate that training into your academic coaching too.
2. Focus on the everyday achievements
While we tend to find fault with the things our children do, it is crucial that we focus on the positive. For example, when your child brings home a Mathematics test with an average score, you could say, “That’s a good improvement, you got six marks higher than your previous test!” In the same vein, when they do well in a test, praise their effort, not just their intelligence. Notice what they are doing well in or trying hard at, and praise them for that.
3. Create bite-sized goals
Children respond well to clear and specific instructions, rather than vague concepts. Instead of repeatedly telling your child “You need to study harder for English!”, break your feedback up into small, measurable tasks and goals – such as aiming to do an extra hour of English revision daily, and setting a target grade to achieve in the next class test. This will help your child to clearly understand what is required to improve their academic grades and stay focused when they revise their work.
4. Ask questions
Coaching is a two-way process – be careful not to turn it into a monologue of instructions and warnings for your child. Take the opportunity to ask them how they are coping with school, friends and life in general. By asking open-ended questions and listening closely, your child will feel empowered to openly share their thoughts and feelings with you. This will give you insights on suitable methods in guiding them effectively in academics and other areas of life.
5. Be encouraging when the rubber meets the road
Some days, children find it tough to pick themselves up when they have failed, especially if the failure is repeated. In spite of your disappointment, let them know that failure plays a big part in learning. Most achievements in school occur because of one key character trait – the ability to persevere through difficult and discouraging circumstances.
By encouraging them to be disciplined, put in the hard work and have a hopeful attitude towards challenging tasks, we can help our children develop perseverance. Make the effort to first empathise and understand their feelings by saying things like, “I’m sorry. You must be disappointed that you failed your Chinese test.” Then, encourage and coach them by saying, “Don’t give up, let’s try and think of ways to help you improve.” You can’t do the work of developing perseverance for your children, but you can be their greatest cheerleader, especially when the going gets tough.
With constant guidance and affirmation, your children can be motivated to overcome challenges and meet their potential – at school, and in life!
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Article contributed by Judith Xavier, Focus on the Family Singapore.
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