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Motivating Your Child to Learn

written by: BStone • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/18/2013

It can be difficult for parents if their child doesn't seem to thrive in school or enjoy learning. However, there are some easy ways to motivate children to do well in school, even if it seems that they do not want to learn.

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    Motivation Is Possible

    Classroom Some kids enjoy going to school, consistently receive high grades and are even self-motivated when it comes to homework and learning beyond what is taught in school. Others may appear disinterested and may seem to lack focus. The majority of students fall somewhere in between. Unless your child is clearly motivated, you may as a parent wonder if there is more that you can do to encourage a desire to learn.

    As a parent, there are countless things that you can do to help your child even if they do not appear to want to learn. Exploring, learning and expanding knowledge are natural parts of the human experience. We do all have our own unique methods of expressing how we learn, we all thrive in different environments, and we all have different needs, but we all can learn. Encouraging your child to be motivated is important for excelling in school and beyond. By taking the time to understand your child's unique methods, strengths and needs, motivation is possible.

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    Stay Involved

    Especially if you feel that you have a lazy child that doesn't want to learn, stay involved with their education. According to research-based findings by the University of Illinois Center for Parent-Child Studies, being involved in a child's academic life is one of the most important steps you can take.

    Ask Questions

    How to do this? Ask your child what she is learning. Make it a goal for yourself as the parent to always be aware of what lessons your child is presently learning in school by talking about them. This is also a great way for you to come up with ways to make things more interesting and dynamic. For example, if your child is studying the life cycle of trees, go for a nature hike and try to identify different species based on trunk and leaf characteristics. If they are learning about history, try to find a history-related movie they can watch.

    Talk About the Learning Experience

    It is not only important to be interested in test papers and semester grades, but to also talk to your child about their learning experience as well. What do they enjoy? Did anything spark their interest? Is there any area where they could use your help? Also, it does help to keep an open dialogue about experiences (positive or negative) with other students and teachers. The more you talk with your child, the more you will be able to understand what school is actually like for them.

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    Positive Guidance

    Make learning and school a positive experience. This means sharing positive experiences that you may have had as a child as well as focusing on having a positive attitude when helping them with homework. Emphasize strengths and give praise when it is due. This will help your child feel comfortable coming to you for help with homework and problems they may be having in school.

    At the same time, one hundred percent praise isn't productive; always be honest and point out mistakes so children have the opportunity to correct them and improve. Always keep your approach positive rather than negative or overly critical. Teach your child that it is all right to make a mistake but figuring out how to correct the mistake or solve the problem is important. This can help to turn frustration into focus.

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    Provide Structure

    Help your child develop good homework habits and studying expectations. Designate an area of the house for them, such as a desk in their room or Young Girl Studying a space at the kitchen table, where they can do their homework. Set a time each day for school work and studying to be done, such as right after school. Make it a comfortable experience by keeping the noise and distractions to a minimum, helping them get started, or providing a healthy snack.

    It is also important to help your child develop expectations. What grades do they expect? Help them always focus on improving. If their last math test was mediocre, help them practice so they can confidently get a better score on the next one. Set goals with your child for the day, week, month and year.

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    Motivation 101

    Aside from staying involved, guiding with a positive attitude and helping to develop a routine and expectations, you can also take extra steps to spark your child's interest.

    • Visit local museums
    • Go on nature walks, exploring a different topic each time
    • Make a weekly trip to the library and help them find books on subjects that interest them
    • Encourage creativity by setting aside a time each week for painting, drawing, making stories or doing crafts
    • Consider music or dance lessons
    • Encourage physical activity. Exercise improves brain function and may help get rid of some of that extra energy kids have that can make sitting down to homework difficult

    Avoid behaviors that will put a negative or stressful connotation on school and learning, such as bribing, threatening, focusing on grades instead of what is being learned and being too critical.

    It will not happen overnight, but with patience and effort, you can encourage a child to want to learn even if they may appear lazy or disinterested. If you are having trouble, talk to your child's teacher about ideas and ways to encourage motivation.


  • Photo by Randen Pederson/flickr
  • Learning to Give, at
  • Photo by Liz/flickr
  • Pomerantz, Eva. Motivating Children to Do Well in School. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative at