Question from Parent: “I know my child is bright (as evidenced by test scores), but he seems lazy and reluctant when it comes to schoolwork. What can I do to motivate him?”
Answer: When a student’s potential does not align with his school performance, there is cause for concern. The key is to identify the root cause and do something about it. These tips will get you started:
1. Talk to your child. Ask him why he isn’t working to his full potential. If he says, “I dunno,” ask him to name an emotion he feels most often at school, such as boredom, fatigue, anxiety or excitement. These emotions are a clue to your child’s perception of school and can help uncover the root of his behavior.
2. Talk to the teacher. Communicate your concern. Teachers are often with your children for more waking hours than you are. Do they see any issues, such as social problems or inattention?
3. Identify learning issues. A lack of motivation in a bright student could be the warning sign for a perception weakness or other issue that’s getting in the way of the child’s learning. Talk to the teacher and decide if this is a possibility. If so, get your child tested so his needs can be met.
4. Focus on your child’s strengths. Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and renowned researcher, has found that people can be “smart” in many different ways. Gardner has identified at least seven “intelligences,” including linguistic, mathematical, musical and bodily-kinesthetic (movement). Traditional school settings primarily target linguistic and mathematical intelligences, which may not showcase your child’s strengths. Involve your child in extra-curricular activities like sports, music, dance or drama, where he or she can shine. Teamwork, responsibility and a good work ethic can be learned on a field as easily as in a classroom.
5. Make learning fun. Okay, so the causes of the Civil War aren’t icing your child’s cake. Carve out time from your hectic schedule to make school subjects interesting. Plan a trip to a local Civil War battle site or reenact Gettysburg with squirt guns in the backyard. Even high-achievers need a motivation boost from Mom or Dad sometimes. Your involvement sends the message that learning is important….and fun!
6. Be a positive role model. Face it. Sometimes school will be hard or just plain boring. Encourage your child to persevere through the good, the bad, and the ugly. And keep in mind that you are the model for persevering through mundane tasks. Whether preparing a presentation for your own job or helping with your child’s geometry homework, stay positive. Show your child that doing one’s best is a worthy goal, regardless of the task. They may not seem to listen, but they are watching you. You, after all, are your child’s primary educator.
Author: Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.