Learning can be fun and exciting, especially when it is well matched to your child’s interests and abilities. However, you may be finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the dynamic allure that television, video games, and social media have on your child. The truth is, kids are receiving information from many sources, at an extremely fast pace, and as a result, traditional learning might seem slow, boring, and in some instances, very frustrating. So what can you do to persuade your child to learn when they’d rather be playing the WII, surfing the net, or watching cartoons? How can you help them see that learning can be fun and exciting, but most importantly, help them view learning as a priority? According to Jere Brophy, University Distinguished Professor of Education and Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Michigan State University, the answer lies in motivation. Based upon his advice, you can take several steps to ensure that your child is properly motivated for success, both in and out of the classroom.
Step 1: Make sure your child is in the appropriate mind and bodily state for learning
High levels of arousal aid in tasks that call for great physical effort, while lower levels of arousal aid in tasks that call for more focus (such as learning activities). So, it may be helpful for your child to be “psyched up” if their task is to win a race or compete in a competition, but counterproductive if they need to sit and complete a homework assignment. In other words, if your child’s level of arousal does not match the task at hand, it will be hard for them to be productive.
Step 2: Create a space solely for your child to complete learning tasks
Most human behavior occurs due to habit. We do things because we are taught to, it is socially accepted, and made to seem normal. If a space is designed for people to carry our particular activities or behaviors, they normally act according to what is allowed in that space. Therefore, it is important that a specific area of the home be set aside solely for your child to complete learning tasks; not play, not flip, not throw things…only to learn. Sometimes a small amount of structure can make a very big difference.
Step 3: Find out what your child likes and try to incorporate them into educational opportunities
Learning can definitely be fun, but with common core state standards, and the pressure of school requirements, often times, when children get home they just want to plop in front of the television or play. You can make fun enjoyable by incorporating technology, arts and crafts, and creative games. Incorporate television programs that focus on learning. In some instances your child may not even realize that they are learning! One of the keys to keeping your child motivated and engaged is to make learning fun.
Step 4: Be a Model of curiosity and engage them
Because children naturally look to adults, particularly their parents, as a compass for their behavior, you have to demonstrate that learning is important. You should seek answers in books. Pull out that dictionary when you need to know the spelling of a word and show them curiosity about different subjects. Ask them questions; share your interests with them. By leading by example, you may find that your child may want to adopt similar attitudes.
Step 5: Consider their strengths and embrace their imperfections
Mastery is an important aspect of motivation. Most children refuse to do things that they find too difficult or do not know how to master. So it is integral to find out what barriers your child has and provide them with coping strategies and shortcuts for difficult tasks. Most importantly parents, it is okay for your child to find difficulty in a task! Your child’s imperfections are apart of what make them unique.
Step 6: Reward and praise their learning efforts
Lastly, when your child achieves, rewarding their efforts are extremely significant. Children respond well to rewards and seek out opportunities to continue to improve upon their achievement if their actions are reinforced with positive reactions. Rewarding your child can be as simple as providing them with affection after an achievement or as complicated as setting up a token economy. What is important, is knowing your child, understanding their needs, and incorporating these things into realistic and consistent rewards.
Brophy, J. E. (2013). Motivating students to learn. Routledge.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, E. I., & Family Learning Association, B. I. (2001). Motivating Your Child To Learn. Parents and Children Together Series.