Motivating Children Effectively

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! With a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you can be successful and happy.”

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.”

“Motivate yourself. Or feel helpless. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

The notion of giving motivation to the students has become widespread, especially for those preparing for competitive exams. We enter any institution, and we notice such motivational quotes creatively sprawled across the walls of corridors, classrooms, dining areas, and dormitories. They are colorful, inspirational and a treat to the eye. There are motivational speakers who address large audience of students, instilling positivity through stories and discussions. There are numerous inspirational videos and seminars online for students to access. While interacting with students from different coaching institutes regrading motivational speeches and the quotes around them, most mentioned that these seem like more like a formality, and that it perhaps merely solves the purpose of creating an image to the society. The effect it has on students is temporary, was what some of them reported. They felt like it was helpful but only for a short period of time and requested for such talks at least twice a week. Some referred to it as an overdose of motivation.

Parents, on the other hand, feel stumped when it comes to motivating their children. They provide the best of resources for their child and that they are constantly encouraging them to perform the best they can and yet they feel like their child isn’t motivated enough. Some parents have shared feeling fearful of getting upset with their son/daughter for less marks as it may demotivate their child in the process. In such a scenario, how could they motivate their child successfully, was the million-dollar question raised by all parents and staff.

When interacting with students about what motivates them, they too were unclear. Most shared that they face trouble initiating a task and expressed that they aren’t motivated enough to start on an assignment or a subject. The common reasons stated were lack of interest or that don’t see the purpose to the assignment itself. It is here that parents feel stuck as they then begin to wonder how they could build interest or offer purpose to, for instance, learning derivates or trigonometry.

To motivate anyone for anything stems from a need. To illustrate this in an example: when we feel thirsty in the middle of the night, we need to quench our thirst with water. This need will motivate us to get out of bed, walk till the kitchen and pour ourselves a glass of water. We can also choose to remain thirsty, but that could disturb our sleep. Hence, it is a choice that we make for ourselves. The difficulty we face in getting up from bed in the middle of the night and walking across to the kitchen for water is bearable compared to the difficulty we face trying to sleep with a dry mouth. The same can be applied to studying. The challenge we face while we study is that we may not understand few concepts, and we may fly past some chapters, but at the end, we have managed to complete studying a whole subject. What if we choose not to start studying at all? What could be the consequences of both choices, is what students should be helped to understand. This will assist in giving them a purpose to what they are doing.

Another reason for a student to feel demotivated could be fear of failure. Some students fear that when they start studying, they will realize at what level they are at, which can be extremely scary for them. This also comes in due to the pressure they place on themselves to perform better. Few students feel guilty about having their parents spend on their education and tend to have unrealistic expectations from themselves. When they see that they can’t match these expectations, they develop a fear towards exams. If you see your child exhibiting this fear, help him/her understand that as a parent you end goal for them is to be happy. Such students need to be constantly reminded of their strengths, so that it builds their confidence.

There are students who may be experiencing some social-emotional concerns, stemming from home, friends or their self, which causes them to lose their focus and the will to study. Once the issue has surfaced, they can be helped to come out of those concerns and re-focus on their academics. The key is to talk to your child often and understand from him/her their concerns with an open mind.

Motivation is more than quotes, inspirational stories and anecdotes. We can successfully motivate students by understanding the reason behind them being demotivated. For institutions, with the volume of students they work with, the motivation that they can provide is generic and applies to all. However, as parents, you understand your child better than anyone, use this knowledge in motivating your child to perform to the best of their ability.

Drishti Goenka

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