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How to Motivate Older Students by Discussing Careers

written by: Deb Killion • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 6/28/2014

Inspiring students to do well in school is not only the job of teachers and school counselors. Parents can help children become motivated by showing them how "boring" schoolwork can help them reach their goals for the future.

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    How to Motivate Older Students by Discussing Careers Sometimes we all need a little motivation. The problem is that motivation is internal and cannot be imparted without the subject’s involvement. A person must want to do something themselves in order to be motivated at all.

    In other words, you cannot motivate students directly. According to psychologists, all we can do is to try to inspire a child in something that he relates to and cares about, so he will discover his own motivation.

    That being said, how do parents inspire interest and cause children to be motivated to do well?

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    How to Inspire Kids

    One way to inspire kids to want to perform at their optimal level is to talk about careers. School counselors have found this very successful when trying to get kids motivated in their schoolwork.

    Why is this? Kids often feel disconnected from schoolwork. They are overwhelmed with so much “busy work" that they feel it is unnecessary, boring or just plain pointless.

    It is up to teachers, counselors and others in a child’s life to help her reconnect. How do we use careers to inspire kids to do their best?

    Teachers should connect the learning to a real world situation whenever possible. This is not something you can control as a parent, although you can ask teachers or administrators to do so. Since they are often not open to such suggestions from parents, it may be up to you to do so if schools fail in this area.

    How do you connect a learning experience with real world situations? Using history as an example, let’s say your child is studying a unit on American presidents, but your child finds it boring or uninteresting. Ask your child to perform an internet search for something several presidents had in common, such as their philosophies, culture or economic status.

    There are also many movies and films depicting many of the historical moments of the country’s history, such as “13 Days," which depicts the chain of events that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Movies sometimes increase interest and motivate students to learn more about a topic due to the heightened interest level when viewed in dramatic film as opposed to reading a history book.

    Another idea is to start a discussion with your child on the importance of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Talking about how close we came to a nuclear war with Russia might inspire kids to look into a career in politics or government, as well as help them understand the importance of people making the right decisions in a crisis.

    The factor that often inspires kids more than any other is tying the subject matter into careers. In the above example, you could remind your child that history is important to know in any work situation, such as the history of the company they might work for, examining the policies of a particular career or other historical applications.

    Knowing what career area your child is most interested in and finding ways to tie that into their schoolwork is essential. If a child expresses an interest in being a veterinarian, for example, remind him of the skills a veterinarian must have, such as a strong background in math and science. This is sometimes enough to motivate students to do better in related subjects.

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    Goal Setting Is the Key

    What this is really about is goal setting. Without a goal, you are like a boat without a sail, drifting in a sea of confusion. Even if they change their mind a hundred times, it is important that kids start to explore career options to develop a sense of where they want to go and how to get there. This is not just the job of school counselors in a child’s last years of school. Parents can instill this value by discussing possible careers with them as they participate in various school units and activities.

    Once kids have a clear idea of what they would like to do with their lives, they will work harder at the everyday tasks because they know that, rather than mundane, meaningless busy work, these activities are just one step in the journey toward their dreams.

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