Have you ever spent more hours than you should putting off something you hate doing?
We all have!
The truth is, lack of motivation is an issue that affects everyone, but it can be particularly difficult to deal with in kids. The problem is, the absence of motivation in kids gets worse with time and can follow them into adulthood.
It is said that motivation must originate from the heart and that most of the attempts to motivate kids actually demotivate them. While the latter is true, the former has been proven wrong on many occasions. The use of certain words and the adoption of certain practices can help the unmotivated child.
If you are struggling with unmotivated kids, you know by now that telling them that they “need to work harder” does not increase their motivation.
Here are a few useful strategies every parent with an unmotivated kid needs to know:
- Take an interest in your child’s interests
We all like doing things we find interesting, and kids are no different. They will be more motivated when pursuing activities they enjoy. Observe your kids to discover where their interests lie. Show interest in their interests, even if those enthusiasms differ from what you would like them to be interested in.
Find ways to link their interests with the other skills you would like them to develop. For instance, comics can be a great way to practice reading skills and gain new knowledge; or encouraging your kid to practice music lessons with a friend can help motivate an unmotivated child.
- Remember that success is everyone’s innate desire
Unless they are dealing with specific and often undetected disabilities, most people want to succeed in the activities they undertake. Repeated failure can therefore give rise to frustration and discouragement and can lead to behaviour such as tantrums or even constant anger and anxiety.
In other words, kids may lose their motivation because of a lack of confidence in their ability to achieve specific goals. It is this lack of confidence that can drive behaviours such as avoidance, stress, “laziness” and an apathetic attitude.
What you can do differently as a parent is to ensure that your kids have opportunities for success. Help your kids view themselves as successful people by talking about their successes. Set reasonable expectations with challenging but achievable tasks.
- Don’t give them the “motivational talk”
One thing science (and no doubt many parents!) have found over the years is that the “motivational talk” rarely works. Despite your best intentions, talking to your kids about the importance of effort is not likely to make them change their ways.
Instead of focusing on past performance, focus on future performance like what can your kid do differently? Encourage your kids to assess their performance by themselves. Instead of the motivational talk, let your kid know that you know they have what it takes. You could say something like “You just haven’t figured it out yet, but I know you will.”
- Don’t forget that kids will be kids
The reality is that kids do not have the same conception of things as adults. They do not necessarily understand why they have to learn about certain things and telling them those things are important is unlikely to change their perception.
There are so many ways to learn the same thing. There are good movies that teach history; your kids can be taught reading, writing, research, comprehension, math, presentation skills in many creative ways. If your kid has a hard time staying focused or interested in a particular activity, try different ways to tackle the same activity.
Remember that kids will always be more motivated by things they enjoy, and that’s hardly surprising. Cut your kids some slack and let them enjoy the things they like. Remember that expecting certain things from your kids can cause more harm than good.
- Focus on your kid’s strengths
There is evidence that strength-based parenting can help increase your kid’s happiness and satisfaction in ways you never thought possible. Place your kid’s strengths at the center of your parenting approach.
Remember that kids need to encounter success (even in a few fields) rather than to perceive themselves as mediocre in all fields. Even the most destructive kids can undergo a transformation once they find where their strengths lie. Do not forget that recognising your kid’s strengths helps build their self-esteem.
- Be willing to give up the driver’s seat
One of the main reasons we struggle with our kid’s motivation is because we want to “dictate” everything that they should do. We want to dictate when they should do their homework when they can watch TV or play video games, when they can see friends and so on.
But here’s the thing: The more kids feel that they have no say in decisions that concern them directly, the less likely they are to stick to those decisions, and there is evidence to prove that.
Don’t do everything for your kids, you will only teach them to become dependent. Letting your kids participate in the decision-making process will work wonders for their motivation.
Remember that a negotiation is a powerful tool that can help resolve your family’s conflicts and reduce power struggles.
No one said motivating your kid will be easy, especially if you are dealing with a long-existing problem. Do not forget that changing habits takes time. Celebrate your successes and don’t lose heart when progress seems slow.
“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.” – John Wooden