Watching your child give a half-hearted effort is frustrating. Whether it’s in school, sports, or chores, parents are always looking or answers on how to help their kids “try harder.”
There is no magic pill for motivation, but there are some key components to boosting your child’s effort.
The first step is to recognize that a lack of motivation is directly related to your child being discouraged. For whatever reason, he is not feeling satisfaction or enjoyment and therefore does not want to keep trying.
Once you recognize that lack of trying is always related to something deeper, you can begin to get to the root of the problem. Keep these thoughts in mind as you strive to help your child overcome his lack of motivation:
Interest drives motivation
If your child is interested, she will be motivated to do her best. Where there is interest, there is a desire to improve and know more. So the first step is to support your child’s interests instead of pushing your own on her.
Rewards aren’t the answer
While it’s true that rewards and punishment can have results, they are usually short-term. Rewards do not create interests or help with long-term goals. Rewards don’t give your child a true sense of purpose or help him discover meaning in the work.
Rewards have their place and can be used sparingly, but they should not be the sole answer for nurturing your child’s motivation.
Let consequences happen
On the other hand, consequences—whether good or bad—can play a big part in motivating your child to do better.
If he doesn’t study for the test, he may get a poor grade. That should motivate him to try harder next time he has a test.
If she doesn’t practice her hitting, she may not make the softball team. That should motivate her to work harder next time tryouts come around.
If he doesn’t do his chores in time and with precision, he will not be allowed to hang out with his friends. That should motivate him to get the job done right next time.
Natural consequences are powerful teachers and motivators.
Kids are not normally lazy. They are only lazy about things they don’t care about. But when it’s something they do care about, they are very motivated!
Don’t just label your child as lazy and use that as a standard for punishment. Take some time to dig a little deeper and find the source of his frustration and discouragement. When a child is discouraged, he may say he hates soccer practice or school, or that he thinks it’s a waste of time. Although you cannot talk him out of that, you can listen and ask questions to understand why he’s feeling this way.
This type of parenting takes time and patience, but will be much more effective than just talking to your kids about the importance of effort. Kids hear those lectures all the time.
Focus on their strengths
This strategy goes hand-in-hand with allowing your child to follow her interests. Once she find something she enjoys, look for her victories and small improvements, and affirm her strengths. Praise her efforts, rather than just her successes.
Motivation is not something that can be taught; but it can be nurtured. It takes some very intentional parenting, but knowing that the results of that are long-lasting should motivate you, parents, to try harder!
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new booklet 11 Habits for Healthy and Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.