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Tips for Keeping Kids Motivated with Schoolwork

Whether your child is going in person, learning virtually or a mixture of both, things might look a little different this school year.

It’s natural for these changes to make your child feel a little anxious and maybe even less motivated to keep up with their schoolwork. But with the right support, there are ways you can help your child stay motivated and manifest a positive mindset — and we’re here to help.

We’ve put together some advice to help your little scholar stay on track with their learning and schoolwork. Take a look!

Motivational Strategies for Kids

Finding ways to keep your child motivated is key to their success. We’ve highlighted some ways you can help your child stay motivated with their schoolwork.

Use positive encouragement

While your child adjusts to being back in school, wherever that may be, be sure to let them know when they’re doing a good job as often as you can. And if they’re struggling, don’t punish or preach. Let them know they are capable of getting their work done and that you and their teacher are there to help. Positive feedback and words of encouragement can go a long way in boosting their self-esteem and making sure your child knows they can succeed!

Teach life balance

Is your kid going the virtual or hybrid route? When they’re at home, it’s easier for your child to do things during the day that they wouldn’t be able to at school in person, like play video games or go outside for long periods of time. This is a good opportunity to reinforce a positive life balance. Show your kids through example that you need to balance schoolwork with play time and other activities. Help your child stay on schedule by asking them what they should be working on, and monitor when and how long they aren’t doing schoolwork. Balancing breaks in the day with schoolwork and studying will give them time to reset and refocus.

You can also use this approach if your child has homework to do in the evenings or over the weekend.

Tip: Have a daily schedule on a whiteboard or poster board that lets them know their plan for the day — including a few breaks or “recess." This will give them something to look forward to as they complete their schoolwork.

Establish a quiet place to study

Not every child has a desk or place where they can sit down and quietly work at home. Without this space, it’s challenging for some kids to stay focused on homework or virtual learning.

To avoid this, designate a quiet space in your house where your child can more easily focus on what they need to get done. If you don’t have a desk they can use, consider the kitchen or dining room table, or even a folding table in a guest room or other quiet area. Or check out these ideas for how to DIY a "cloffice" (a closet office)! To make sure this space is right for your child, try sitting with them while they work. Be respectful if they want to be alone, but be sure to check in once and a while to make sure they aren’t distracted and are getting work done.

Talk to their teacher

Teachers want your child to stay motivated with schoolwork just as much as you do. They can be a great resource when it comes to keeping kids motivated to learn — especially since it’s part of their job. Reach out to your child’s teacher and talk about where your child is succeeding and struggling, and ask if you can together work on a plan to share out positive words of encouragement, both verbal and written, when your child does well. Hearing affirmations from you and from their teacher can be a really effective way to keep your child engaged and motivated to continue doing well.

Use the “when you” or “once you” rule

When you have a job, you get paid to do your job. This is a simple example of the “when you” rule: an easy way to teach your child that doing what they’re supposed to do can lead to rewards. Try to instill this idea by building simple rewards and big rewards they can work towards. “When you’ve finished that assignment you can watch YouTube,” or “once you spend an hour working on that project, you can go outside and play once” are just a couple examples.

Find a study buddy

See if your child can find a friend who is willing to be a study buddy, where they can get together after school to do homework. (Be sure to coordinate with the friend’s parents or guardians on when and where!) This may not work for all ages, but being with other kids and seeing them focused on getting their work done can help give your kiddo the motivation needed to complete their own. The best part? Once they’re done with their schoolwork, they can have fun and play together!

If face-to-face sessions aren’t an option, help your child arrange phone or video calls with buddies. Especially if your kid is big into video games, the promise of a play session with their friends after their homework is done can be a powerful motivator!

Try meditation

Whether they’re stressed about tests, homework or classroom dynamics, encouraging mindfulness can potentially help your child feel less anxious and more relaxed. Try these simple mediation exercises with your child to get started:

Breathe slowly. Concentrate on slowly breathing in and out — placing your hands on your stomach and feeling it rise and fall is a good place to begin.

Be aware of your surroundings. Ask your child to describe the world around them. If outside, make a game out of describing the number and types of animals you see.

Relax before bed. Encourage your child to lie down in bed and concentrate on their breathing as a way of calming down before going to sleep.

How to Build Your Child’s Growth Mindset

A fundamental way of keeping your child motivated with their studies is instilling within them a growth mindset. This is the idea that you can improve your intelligence and abilities through effort. It’s the opposite of a fixed mindset: the belief that you cannot change or improve your intelligence.

A growth mindset can help your child understand that with the right amount of work and effort, they can complete tasks and goals they may not have thought possible. It can also help build their confidence once they see the results of their hard work.

Here are a few ways you can help build a growth mindset for your little learner:

Celebrate effort and hard work

If your child put a lot of time and effort into something, school or otherwise, let them know how proud of them you are! Show them that their studying or hard work is evident by praising their effort, giving them a hug or other positive ways of showing affection.

Failure is ok

It’s easy for kids to feel defeated if they don’t do well on something, like an assignment or learning to play an instrument. Let them know it’s ok to fail sometimes, and that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Accepting failure can also lead to more risk-taking and experimentation, as well as creative solutions to difficult problems. Talk openly about times you’ve had to overcome failure to show your child that they’re not alone — even adults fail sometimes too!

You can’t do it yet

When frustrated with something, your child may shout “I can’t do it!” We all feel this way at times, but a great way to help work through this feeling is using the word “yet.” This can help teach your child that if they keep trying, they can reach their goal — just not yet.

Don’t use labels

Using label phrases like “you’re good at spelling” or “I’m bad at math” is thinking about yourself or others with a fixed mindset. This kind of feedback may not motivate your children at all, and instead discourage them or cause them to put less effort into certain things. Instead, replace labels with words similar to “yet” or "now" that show your child they can and will get better at something if they keep working hard at it. For example, replace “I’m bad at math” with “I’m not yet as good as math as I want to be," or "Right now, I’m struggling with math.”

Set an example

Show your child first-hand that learning never stops. If you’re learning a new skill or hobby, tell your child about it. Let them know about the work you’ve been doing and how it’s been hard, but worth it. Chances are, seeing you accomplish something will help.

With a growth mindset, positive encouragement and help from family, your child can stay motivated with school even if they’re at home. They may not be motivated yet, but their hard work and yours can lead to success.

Looking for more advice on preparing for back to school? Head to our back-to-school hub where we’ve got tons of resources to help prepare your little learners for success this year!

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