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Tips for Keeping Kids Motivated with Schoolwork

If your child is schooling from home and taking online classes, they may be facing new challenges they haven’t experienced before. Between virtual learning and not being able to see friends or classmates as often, these new challenges may make your child feel more anxious and less motivated to keep up with their schoolwork.

While this new normal might be difficult to wrangle with, 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 when learning remotely and during challenging situations.

Use positive encouragement

Doing schoolwork at home during the day may be a very new — and likely difficult — experience for your child. Be understanding of this and empathize with them. As often as you can, let them know when they’re doing a good job, 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

At home, it’s easier for your child to do things during the day that they wouldn’t be able to at school, 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.

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

When schooling from home, not every child has a desk or place where they can sit down and quietly work. Without this space, it’s challenging for some kids to stay focused on schoolwork, especially if they’re used to doing something else where they’re currently studying — like watching tv on the couch.

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. 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. Arrange a phone or video call where the teacher shares positive words of encouragement. Hearing affirmations from their teacher can be a really effective way to keep your child engaged and motivated to continue doing well.

Use the “when 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 “you can go outside and play once you spend an hour working on that project” are just a couple examples.

Help your child communicate with friends

Even if your child has a cell phone, it still can be difficult to have the same kinds of social interactions at home instead of at school. To help your child not feel lonely or more like when they went to school, help them arrange phone or video calls with buddies. This could be after they finish their schoolwork, or during lunch time so it feels more like recess. Besides just talking, encourage the kids to do activities like art projects or themed costumed events. Seeing a familiar face can really boost your child’s spirit and remind them that their friends are also schooling from home or in a similar situation.

Try meditation

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.

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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