“Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.”
Every parent worries if they’re doing enough for their kid or not, and whether their kid is doing enough for themselves or not. We as parents are obsessed if our kids learn to crawl when they’re supposed to, talk when they’re supposed to, walk when they’re supposed to – in fact, it won’t make sense to anybody else why you’re bragging about your child babbling two months earlier than the other babies.
But as kids grow older, their rate of development changes – remember, progress is not always linear. Different kids have different passions and interests, some prefer to play the piano instead of reading, some prefer to read instead of playing cricket.
But every parent wants their child to be an all-rounder, someone who as an aptitude and passion for multiple things. And there’ll always be things that your kid doesn’t want to do, but has to anyway.
How to motivate your kid better and smarter?
Math homework, for example. So here are some quick tips and tricks you can use to motivate them, to challenge them into doing things and doing things well, even if they don’t want to:
Give them more autonomy:
As a parent, it is only natural that you want to show them how to do everything, and guide them so they don’t commit mistakes that you can see they’re heading towards. While this may seem like the obvious thing to do, sometimes a parent needs to hold back. In a research study conducted by Coleman and McNeese in 2009, they studied the effects of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation.
The positive reinforcement rewarded to the children came in the form of being greeted by their teachers every day and receiving more attention from their teachers. But what they discovered contradicted their hypothesis: children that received more attention seemed to do worse, not better.
They concluded that children entering puberty did better with more autonomy. Even if they do make mistakes, they learn about the consequences and get better and avoid making the same mistakes again through experiential learning. So even if it goes against your parental instincts, sometimes you have to let your children make mistakes for them to learn.
Set an example:
Children, especially younger children, will not fully grasp the complexities of adulthood and why adults sometimes do things they don’t want to. So, to simplify the complexities, they don’t understand, their brains rationalize most straightforwardly: they simply assume that it’s because adults do these things that they want to.
So, it is sometimes up to the parents to sit their children down and teach them, that even though you don’t want to sit down and fill all that paperwork, you have to, or you won’t be able to apply for a new passport.
Or you have to show them how not fulfilling their obligations or responsibilities will have consequences that will affect only you. Show them the tiny little errands that you do every that you don’t want to but have to anyway, and explain to them what happens if you don’t do them. But be careful not to be condescending. Be gentle and explanatory, as you would to a colleague or a friend.
Identify what you can use as incentives or rewards:
Psychologists such as Pavlov will tell you that there are three types of incentives: rewards (when you reward desirable behavior with gifts), positive reinforcement (where desirable behavior is encouraged by providing more conditions to repeat the behavior), and negative reinforcement (where desirable behavior is rewarded by removing negative effects the subject may experience).
So, it is important to realize what type of reinforcement works best for your child – and it is okay to use the method of elimination to figure it out. For example, if your child finishes their homework for the day on time and diligently, reward them with extra ice cream at dinner. If your child scores well on their previous test, give them the perfect condition to study and score well in their next test: whether it’s letting them study outdoors or in their room.
Or if they finally do all the chores you’ve been nagging them to do, maybe stop the nagging and scolding – and they’ll see that that’s all they had to do to get you off their back.
Ask them to set their own goals:
Sometimes, the best approach is the simplest one. Sit your child down and simply explain to them what it is you require them to do, but leave the rest up to them. Let them decide when they want to do it, how they want to do it – if they chose to break the task into smaller meaningful goals or tackle it as a whole.
By letting them make the choices of how to complete the task you will be empowering them by providing them with autonomy.
By doing so, you will be decentralizing the authority, and your child will feel more involved in choosing their challenges – which will only inculcate further intrinsic motivation in them.
Show them how to set deadlines and structure:
In the same vein as the tip above, you have to show your child how to break their work up into smaller tasks and goals that they can work on daily by helping them set deadlines and rewarding them when they meet those deadlines. For example,
“If you finish your chores at 4 o’clock, I’ll let you go outside and play with your friends until dinner.”
“If you accomplish X by the deadline that you set for yourself, we can go to the Zoo as you’ve always wanted to this weekend.”
Ask them why they’re unable to perform:
As a society, we’re quick to assume that the fault lies within the individual, but that is not always the case. Sometimes they may be external factors that may be affecting your child’s ability to work – and sometimes, the night does not even know it.
There might be a multitude of reasons. For example, maybe your child hasn’t been able to study because the fan in their room makes too much noise when it’s turned on or maybe because they haven’t been able to adapt to how their new teacher teaches, or maybe they’ve been referring to the wrong study guide.
Sit down with them and help them figure it out. If it’s something they know, help them remove the obstacle. And if it’s something that they don’t – help them figure it out.