Help! My Child is Unmotivated to learn

In a study by Stanford University, researchers found that intrinsically motivated students, that is, students who had genuine interest and enjoyment in learning consistently outperformed their peers who lacked adequate motivation. One striking example was seen in a group of elementary pupils who participated in a science project. Those pupils who were intrinsically motivated, that is to say, those pupils who were curious, who desired to understand the topic, completed the concept with higher quality retained the knowledge, and consolidated it a lot better than people who needed to be externally motivated.

This blog is geared towards answering the question of what I can do to motivate my child. What can I do for my child to be intrinsically motivated? A good number of learners do not think or consider the importance of studying until there is an exam facing them. The truth is that the rule of learning states that there is a need for enough interaction with the subject matter.

The concept of motivation as regards learning, is the inner intrinsic drive or desire that compels an individual to engage and participate in educational tasks. We have intrinsic motivation which is driven by internal factors such as curiosity, enjoyment, desire, self-motivation, and self-regulation. Extrinsic motivation is the weakest form of motivation, though it can be used to spur learners. Extrinsic motivation is the weakest because it is dependent on external factors and in a case where it is not available the learner will procrastinate, and defer learning.

Why Learners are Unmotivated.

  1. Lack of relevance. Many learners struggle to see and identify the relevance and importance of what they are learning in their lives.

  2. The fear of failure. For many children, instead of the fear of failure spurring them, it demotivates them because a child who consistently struggles with a concept will be unmotivated. They think, “I did this thing last time and I failed it, so why should I now try again?
  3. The lack of self-efficacy and self-confidence. When children do not believe in themselves and do not have confidence in their ability, when they have a fixed mindset that says, intelligence is fixed, they begin to relinquish the ability to succeed in learning to the people whom they consider as high flyers forgetting that learning is not fixed, but it is transcendent meaning if you do the work, you get the prize.
  4. Lack of self-mastery. Your child’s temperament can affect their motivation, not just in learning, but also in their study patterns, the way they navigate life, chores and so on. Temperaments have their strengths and weaknesses. For some children, the weakness of their personality and temperament is that they lack motivation and need external motivation to motivate them. Another factor is that the parents of these children would like to use fear and threat to motivate that child meanwhile the personality of that child is averse to those triggers you are using to motivate the child. 
  5. Learning difficulty. When a child finds it difficult to learn, it could be a major reason why they are demotivated. For instance, imagine you move to another country that speaks a different dialect than you, and there is no Google Translate, to help you understand. How will you feel? It’s the same way your child struggles to understand when there is a lack of understanding of a concept. If your child is unmotivated, you must check if they have learning difficulties or disabilities.

Tools For Motivating Your Unmotivated Child

1. Understanding the relationship between motivation and personality. Motivation and personality cannot be separated, they are interrelated. We have the extroverted child, as well as the introverted child. The way to motivate the extroverted child will be different from the introverted child. One of the ways to motivate an extroverted child is to find a way to tactfully use external motivation because they are motivated by extroversion and socialism. They just want to be out there. If you are not intentional, the extroverted child will struggle to learn. There are certain tools you can use to help an extroverted child like a peer coaching system, which is a system of accountability for example having a friend who would always call them to study. For the conscientious and introverted children – the self-aware, melancholy perfectionist children, one of the ways to motivate them is to set goals for them. They are willing to go through anything to reach that goal. The strong-willed learners love novelty and innovation. They are driven by curiosity. They are easily bored as they love teachers who are kinesthetic in their teaching. For this kind of child, their learning process must be innovative. Teach them skills like mind maps, highlighting, and annotation. For the agreeable learners who just want peace, you would need to employ extrinsic motivation while you work towards intrinsic motivation. The intrinsic motivation for these learners will be dependent on your parenting skills because they are usually laid back. They naturally lack that internal push so parents must intentionally use extrinsic tools on their way to building their self-regulation.

2. Equip them with study skills. Overwhelming workload load and distractions can be a demotivation to children. Study skills are very important for every child, every personality, every age group and learning style. Study skills include skills such as:

Spaced repetition – When a child studies this way, according to the neuroscience of retention which states that a lot of times when an individual has studied a material for a while it would take that person a period of deep sleep for permanent learning. Before knowledge is consolidated, the repetition in the memory must be constant. You can’t space repeat if you are reading only to pass an exam. For a 13-week school term, for example, a child who studies from week 1 would achieve more learning than one who just began to read when it was exam time.

How to help achieve this is to set a study time table, a schedule that incorporates a regular review season which will enforce learning and enhance long term retention.

Utilise a multisensory approach. We already know that we have different learning styles, learning strengths and  we have different intelligences according to the theory of multiple intelligence so learning is not a one size fits all approach. That’s why one of the greatest philosophers said that if you judge a fish by its ability to fly, it would spend its whole life thinking it was an idiot. Multisensory approaches must be tampered according to their learning styles. 

Another study skill is practice retrieval. This involves actively retrieving information from your memory through testing and self quizzes. This is the concept that mock exams emphasise on. What this does is that it helps strengthen the memory retrieval and doing this enhances long term memory. Whatever concept your child studies, get them to practise questions on their own. You may also get them to assume the role of a teacher whereby they come back to teach you the concept they just learnt. This is where peer mentorship and collaborative learning come in handy because the child takes the role of the teacher and as they try to teach each other they try to remember, demystify it and break it down in such a way that would enable them to teach another person. After that session, learning has happened. 

3. Create a supportive learning environment. Your child is not motivated to learn because they lack a supportive learning environment both in school and at home.

4. Intentionally foster a growth mindset. One of the ways to achieve this would be by emphasising on efforts rather than grades. To motivate your child you need to shift your reinforcement from focusing on their grades to their effort. Because a child could put in 100 percent effort and come out with a 60 per cent result, and the reverse is also true. So indeed, exams are not a true test of knowledge. Because you criticise a child’s grade, and not effort, the child gets demotivated and decides not to make any more effort in the future since his last effort was neither noticed nor praised. By praising efforts, you inculcate a growth mindset into them which motivates learning.

Have you seen our facilitator list for the upcoming course on “Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style”? With a team comprising a parent coach, clinician/autism professional, and a learning coach, this course is going to equip you with the necessary knowledge to understand and support your child’s learning journey.

Only 4 days left until the start of the 2024 Cohort of the “Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style Course”! Don’t miss out!

Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style Course 2024 offers a completely revamped curriculum and experience. We started running the “Understanding Your child’s learning style” course in 2018 and over the years, we have trained over 10,000 parents to understand how their children learn.

I remember at the very first batch a particular parent said to me “Coach Wendy I wish I attended this course some 20 years ago, some of the challenges I had with my son won’t have had it.”

To join the learning style course starting in 6 days time, pay N15,500 to 0509494057 (GTB) The Intentional Parent Academy. Send proof to 09036633600. 

Register Online Here

Do you know the amazing thing? You get a 25% discount if you pay before the 24th of March. So instead of paying N20,500, you get to pay only N15,500.

Offer valid till March 24th, 2024.

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