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Schoolwork Continues: How to Motivate Your Kids

How to motivate your kids
Theresa Pickett and one of her daughters

It’s nearly mid-June and the sun is calling, but many kids are still in school. Others face summer sessions because of the pandemic. Who wants to do fractions or write book reports in this weather? Fear not, parents. Theresa Pickett, a wife, teacher and mother of two children, has three conflict-ways to motivate kids to get their work done. Here’s what she says:

Motivating children to do their online schoolwork can be difficult. Before COVID-19, some children were already unmotivated by the classes they were taking. Now others find themselves struggling to keep up with multiple online tasks and video calls. However, it is more important than ever to empower our children as self-motivated learners who understand the value of learning and yearn for more knowledge. I’m going to share a few ways to get there with your children.


Educating Our Own Children Is Different For Teachers, Too

Like many other parents, I am currently homeschooling my children. As a certified teacher, I was excited to teach my own children in the month after the stay-at-home orders and before distance learning began. Then their daily lessons were posted. I realized that trying to teach them complex mid-year material that I’m not familiar with is completely different from being in a classroom that already had rules and procedures set in place.

“You’re so nice to your students,” my daughter says as she looks over my shoulder during a meeting with my second grade students. She watched me sing with them, play games with them and celebrate their writing.

Working on a scavenger hunt that teaches math

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She has spent the day bouncing from one spot to the next, having a blast with me cooking, dressing up and preferring to listen to me read a book about World War II aloud to her just so she can snuggle. She has played outside, completed fascinating science experiments and never wanted to look at a computer screen unless it was to play fun games. There’s no fooling her that the math website is a game either; she makes sure to log the bare minimum minutes, and sometimes she thinks she completed it, but she did less. She loves math. But the world is an incredible place to explore, and it’s all around her. Yet when she video calls her teacher, the kindest voice comes out, and I can hear the smile from the other room.

“You’re so kind to your teacher,” I think in my head, contemplating the difference in the relationship between parents with their own children and teachers with their students.

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Imparting an education on our own children is one of the most important things parents can do. But for some families, no amount of effort seems to motivate their children to learn. What can parents do to foster this new understanding that learning must happen each and every day in the home?

Listen to them

Building relationships is the key to a well-managed classroom and the same goes at home, too. If you find yourself nagging frequently and the nagging is not effective, stop the reminders. Talking isn’t helping the situation. Instead, make yourself available. Give support by letting them know that you do care that the work is completed. Then listen. You might need to step away from the school work to help your child become less frustrated. Go for a walk, just the two of you, and ask them about a hobby they enjoy. Eventually let them steer you towards a discussion about how they are feeling about online school. If they can identify the emotions they are having, that can help them manage those overwhelming feelings that burden them as they try to work through their assignments.

Get involved with the lesson planning

Just because a few videos and written instructions are posted online does not mean your child comprehends what to do next. In my own classroom, I read the instructions aloud, answer questions and model an example of how to start the assignment. Your child might not know how to get started, and that can be frustrating.

When you look at their daily lesson, think if there is another way you might approach it to get your child into the lesson. Can you make a fun song and dance together? Maybe recommend an interesting website for an older child? You might not be a certified teacher, but you are an expert on your own child. You know their interests and personality more than other people do. Use what you know to help hook them into the assignment, and from there, they can become more independent with that day’s material.

Help them decide the rewards

how to motivate your kids
One reward? Movie night!

Rewards can have a lot of influence over children’s behavior and motivation to complete tasks. Try setting up a reward to work towards if all the assignments are completed that week. Allow your child to decide on their reward each week. A small spending allowance online, a family movie rental, an activity alone with one parent, a later bedtime, choosing dinner, or going hiking are all ideas that could appeal to your child.

However remember the ultimate goal is intrinsic motivation and for children to pursue learning with a spirit of fervor. With explicit lessons in character building ideas—such as empathy, perseverance, courage, responsibility, respect, and kindness—children can reason why learning matters and become inspired to be lifelong learners.

Theresa Pickett blogs at Theresa’s Reviews, where she shares parenting and education tips. 

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