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Child Needs More Motivation

Dear Mr. Sudsberry:  My fifth grade son isn’t doing as well in school as I know he is capable of.  We’ve had evenings of tears and arguing over homework.  We’ve grounded him, taken away everything we can think of but his grades remain poor.  What can we do to make him successful?

Dear fifth-grade parent:  Your question raises many questions for me.  Has this child always had these difficulties?  Have there been any changes in your family or this child’s perception of his life?  Are there learning skills this child has missed that need attending?  Is this child having difficulty with peer relationships or conflicts with his teacher?  Many things need to be understood to know how to specifically address your child’s needs.  Further assessment of your situation and the child’s needs would be necessary to answer questions about his learning.  Learning difficulties often lead to under-motivation.  Children who are under-motivated often require therapy to help them and their family move ahead.  It might be helpful to review several principles related to motivation that could help you assess your child’s situation.

Motivation and the Child.  The natural state of children is to learn and be successful.  If a child is under-motivated he/she may lack confidence in academic skills.  This must be carefully evaluated.  If school skills are adequate, it may increase motivation to help children apply the relevance of what they are learning to real life.  Examples could include learning to read – finding new words to learn on billboards, magazines, or in books.  In social studies – read stories about places discussed in schoolwork, visit places where events happen.  Help your child develop small goals for learning and review goals with them periodically.  Accomplished goals create a sense of child success that can be built-on to create hopefulness.  Hopefulness in children creates their own desire to learn.

Motivation and Parents.  Because the parent is the secure base from which children launch their lives, parents are a powerful influence of motivation.  Key variables for parents to consider include: Parents modeling their enthusiasm for learning.  While as parents we all have certain areas of learning we may be confident or lack confidence. If parents put down learning, their own knowledge, or teachers and school, educational importance will be decreased.  Parents must be enthusiastic about what their child is learning.  The emphasis here: “demonstrated enthusiasm” for the child and how the information applies to our lives.  Celebrate a child’s attempts; celebrate a child’s accomplishments.  Specifically help you child overcome their challenges by discovering their importance to you, your expectation, then learn to delight in their own accomplishments.

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