Posted by: Sara Carbone on: January 23, 2012
SC: How can parents help unmotivated kids?
SS: I’m someone whose motivation can come in fits and starts. It has to do with if I’m feeling bored in class because there is no challenge I have to rise to. For example, if the class is an easy A, I’ll get a lower grade cause I don’t feel the point of it or the gratification of doing well.
I do better if I have some kind of goal. Kids feel motivated when they have a goal that is meaningful to them, concrete ideas of what it is. Parents can help a kid put things into words that make sense to them. For example, for me science and math were just words on a page. They became important and meaningful when the helped me reframe the material in terms that made it relevant to me. They would also use things like visuals – my dad once explained cell division using hair ties!
Also, kids work less in subjects they struggle in. They go to a hopeless place. They say, “I hate this, I’m not good at it, why struggle with this?” I’ve gotten very bogged down with the idea that I couldn’t do it – a lot of kids feel this way. When your kid gets to that place, sometimes she needs a perspective outside from her parents, to reframe it for her. For example, sit down with her and help her identify what she is doing wrong. Then help her strategize new goals that will hopefully be more successful. I always found that after talking with my parents like that I went from feeling “stuck” to getting this surge of energy and this feeling of possibility as opposed to giving up because I just cant seem to get it right.
One thing I’ve done is to make a list of 25 reasons why a certain goal is important to me and 25 reasons why I’m capable of doing it. If I’m demoralized as I go, I can have that list to look at as a reminder.