I was visiting my Alma mater the other day and sweet memories flowed back. I recalled how I enjoyed being in the student council and my mum would get angry as I was spending too much time on extra-curricular activities. There was the good old study room where I would hang out with my best friends and *sometimes* study. I remember how I preferred revising my work in school because my mum would nag at me incessantly at home.
That was two decades ago.
And it dawned upon me things haven’t really changed.
Parents are still worried about their kids and children are mostly still unmotivated. (judging from the discussion on our Facebook page.)
What has changed is we have grown up. And guess what, we know how it’s like to dread the school work, hate the nagging from parents and we should use this to our benefit.
The best way to motivate our children is to be in their shoes and use the benefit of the hindsight that we have. Here are five steps to do that.
1. No Nagging
Did your mother’s nagging ever worked? Half the time, it just drove you to do the direct opposite of what she wanted you to do, right? Especially if your child is a teenager, the desire to spite you could be pretty huge. Don’t take it personally, it’s the hormones.
I know I know. I can’t help nagging sometimes too. Try to use more positive methods to encourage/motivate your child.
2. Let them fail
You can dispense advice to them. If they don’t listen to you, let them be. Sometimes, children need to be hit hard before reality sinks in and they learn their lesson.
I remember how I did last minute revision for my ‘A’ levels and it was the most horrid experience I ever had. I continued having nightmares about taking the ‘A’ Levels in the next few years.
I did learn my lesson. When I was in university, I was the most hardworking student, often finishing my revision five weeks before the exams.
3. Let them have fun
There’s a reason why we fill my classes with games to camouflage the fact that we are really doing exercises. You can do that at home with your kid too.
For English, make him the “teacher” and mark his younger sibling’s composition. This helps him to spot mistakes and improve his grammar. Instead of writing a composition, embark him on a project to write his own book or write about fantasy/science fiction- something he’s really keen on.
For Science, do simple experiments with him. Seeing is believing- he will get intrigued, fall in love with the subject and most importantly, understand the concept. For Maths, instead of doing boring exercises, use real-life examples. For instance, use beans to illustrate the concepts of multiplication or fractions.
4. Encourage and praise
Don’t scold a kid when he fails his exam. Don’t show your panic when he is last in class. I am sure he feels awful already.
Do you know how frightened he is when he failed his exams? He’s probably even more worried about breaking the news to you. We want our children to be able to tell us everything/anything in the world. So scaring him is not the best option.
Instead, work together to improve his grades. If he fails for the second time and there’s a significant improvement in his marks, give commendation.
Don’t be stingy with praises.
It’s a vicious cycle sometimes- a kid doesn’t do well, gets punished, has a low self-esteem, believes he isn’t capable of doing well and it continues.
Break the sequence by letting him know he’s better than he thinks he is.
Last but not least, show them lots of love. Regardless whether you are a teacher or a parent, this is the most important ingredient to motivating a child.
A child may not have the life experience that you have to understand why he needs to be educated and learn, but he definitely can feel your love and concern for him.
No matter how ill-disciplined the child is, if he sees your unwavering concern for him, he will eventually be touched and work hard. I am lucky enough to meet enough caring mentors to know that this is the most effective method.
It may take time, but the rewards are hefty.
Each kid is unique, the methods above may not work for everyone, but it can serve as a guide.
Most importantly, enjoy the time you spend with your child when you are motivating him. These are memories you will remember fondly forever.