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Let's Talk... Rebooting Student Motivation

17 November 2020

As the novelty of a new school year wears off, motivation levels may dip for some students. This could happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from increased academic demands or simply missing friends. This understandably causes concern for parents and teachers. While it’s normal for energy levels to rise and fall throughout the year, we want students to be happy and keen to learn before their lack of motivation is reflected in their grades and overall wellbeing. 

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If you notice your child is delaying or avoiding learning, has a harder time completing tasks at home and/or school, often complains about being bored or requires more reminders to get things done, you might find the following strategies to be helpful:

  1. Have a questioning attitude: Human behaviour is all about patterns. Do you notice recurring factors that affect your child’s motivation? Are they managing their school work? Are they feeling isolated? Are they getting enough sleep? Adopting a detective mindset is much more effective in finding a solution than shifting blame or criticism. 
  2. Provide support: Often students do not reach out for help because they are afraid of disappointing us or being blamed for not doing enough. They may feel embarrassed to admit things are not going so well and will hesitate to express that. Let them know what kind of support is available to them both at school and outside of school. 
  3. Change things up: While having a routine is crucial in giving children of all ages a sense of security and stability, changing things up from time to time and doing something spontaneous can break long stretches of repetitive days and weeks. 
  4. Set clear and achievable targets: Setting goals may be common knowledge, but it is not the most difficult part of setting your child up for success. The most challenging part is being consistent with efforts towards those goals and always referring back to them when our children get off track. We need to help children get into the habit of reviewing goals on a daily and weekly basis as a reminder of why they need to work hard and stay focused. The more targets are co-constructed, meaningful and attainable, the more motivated your child will be to achieve them.
  5. Reward effort: More important than achieving goals is how to achieve them. We want to cultivate the right work ethic and habits in order to get them to where they want to be. An example of that would be studying for the exam. Do we want to reward our children for acing an exam they crammed for the night before or do we want to recognise the effort they put all week to get a decent grade? The message we want to send them is that effort often outweighs results and that procrastinating can cause extreme and unnecessary stress. 
  6. Have something to look forward to: A difficult task can be more bearable when there is something exciting to look forward to. Reminders of upcoming events and holidays can help them plough through difficult periods. If you do not have something planned, ask your child what they would like to do and come to a decision together on something he or she can look forward to in the near future. 
  7. Involve others: The more people rooting for your child, the better. There is a lot of truth behind the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Reach out to student support services at school such as the inclusion team and counsellors or head of year. Involve your family, neighbours and community as much as you can to help you help your child. 
  8. Find inspiration: Tell them or show them a story about someone who defeated all odds and succeeded because of their attitude and ambition. People are greatly influenced by others, especially by people who have succeeded in spite of extreme disadvantages. 
  9. Regular check-ins: Don’t wait until you notice major shifts in behaviour to start addressing issues. Meaningful discussions that happen on a regular basis and keeping in touch with your child’s teachers gives you and your child the time to figure out a plan before things escalate. 
  10. Reminders of strength: Remind your child of all the times they persevered through challenges, regardless of how old they were when they demonstrated that. It helps children believe that they have what it takes to persevere and overcome obstacles. 
  11. Get social: Being social has a proven impact on motivation levels, especially in children. Socialising with people we care about can give us a sense of purpose, hope for the future and a healthier outlook on life. It has become more apparent than ever that positive and frequent peer interactions can play a major role in children’s level of engagement at school. Encourage your child to have regular play dates/meet ups to get them feeling good about themselves. 

It is perfectly normal for kids to lose momentum sometimes. But we can help them get back on track and want to succeed by making minor adjustments that make a big difference. Discussing available support systems at school and outside of school, and following up consistently with goals and expectations can make all the difference. 

Be sure to join us for our Wellness Webinar on Sunday, 29th November: Your Words Matter: Connecting with your Child and Supporting your Child’s Education.  

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BIS Dhabi School Counsellors