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SUPPORT

ENCOURAGING AN UNDER-ACHIEVING CHILD

Children who are motivated to approach challenging tasks willingly, begin tasks independently and demonstrate a positive attitude towards learning and schoolwork are far more likely to be successful in both school and life than children who gravitate towards tasks that are inappropriately easy, require a lot of coaxing to begin tasks, put in minimal effort and give up quickly when the going gets tough! If your child falls into the latter category, this can be frustrating and cause for concern.

Rest assured however that your child is not lazy; few children naturally are! There is almost always a good reason for your child’s disinterest and the most likely is because they are not being taught according to their unique learning style. And as a consequence, they simply do not feel motivated enough to learn!

Being aware of your child’s learning style will enable you to communicate more effectively with them, have realistic expectations about their achievements and understand the appropriate strategies to encourage them to give everything their best shot.

Dr. Caron B. Goode, Founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents, has identified four main learning styles. She has categorised them according to their traits and ways to approach each learning style as follows:

Style Characteristics  Approach 
Cognitive  Analytical, orderly, organised, logical persistent, can be stubborn.  Set clear goals and ways in which to achieve them. Set deadlines with a reasonable amount of time to do a good and complete job. 
Behavioural  Independent, competitive, results orientated, problem-solver, can be impatient and want to do things their own way.  Just be clear what is expected and have an agreed timeline. Leave them room to work in their way without too much control.  
Affective  Passionate, creative, sociable, intuitive, can be undisciplined and find time management very hard.  Break large goals down into small achievable goals. Check in regularly to ensure they are able to stay on track. Give lots of breaks and praise. 
Interpersonal  Dependable, calm, cooperative, practical, patient, can be introverted and wants to please you and teachers.  Be very thorough in your explanation of expectations, work closely with them to ensure they understand and agree that they can do it.  

 

Although the traits indicated here are easier to identify in older children, it is still possible to identify them in younger children, especially if one style appears more dominant, as opposed to demonstrating a combination of styles.

Tips for supporting motivated learning:

Parent teacher partnership

Make time to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher. This is so you can keep up to date with what is happening in school. Nowadays with email, this is much easier for both busy teachers and working parents. Share information about your child and what your idea of success is.

Support your child positively at home

Support your child in their assignments and homework. This doesn’t mean doing it for them but do make sure they have a suitable space to work, away from distractions. Limit time spent on electronic devices and watching TV. These are passive activities that do nothing to develop attention spans.

Attend parent chats and events

Make time to go to parent chats and special events at the school. If you can volunteer as a parent helper this can be an enormous motivator for a child.

The positivity of working hard

Always make an effort to notice hard work and praise that effort, not only in your child but also those around them. Talk about the cause and effect of hard work. “Daddy is working hard so we can save up and go on a big holiday.” “Grandma is working hard to make your favourite meal.” But avoid turning ‘hard work’ into a pressure. Instead, communicate how hard work can be enjoyable and not a chore.

Positive role models

Similar to above, you can communicate the positives of hard work and effort by demonstrating enthusiasm yourself for something you achieved through hard work or the success of someone else through their motivated approach. This can be someone in the family or an inspiring well known figure.

Celebrate effort over results

Shy children, or those who are perfectionists, are likely to avoid doing something if they are anxious about the end result, either because it is not what they wanted, or what you wanted. When you celebrate their every effort, you will stimulate their desire to attempt a task and try harder. Putting in our very best effort is what matters the most!

Set realistic goals

Very few children (and adults) feel motivated by overwhelming pressure. If your child feels anxious because you have set unrealistic expectations of them, they will feel demotivated to achieve, especially if they failed to meet your standards in the past. What is important is that your child keeps trying their personal best.

Extend your child’s interests

If you know that your child has a specific area of interest, find ways to expand that outside of the classroom. Museums, theatre and exhibitions for example can all be ways to do this. Remember that schools cater for the masses and are only responsible for stimulating a limited number of interests in your child. But you can expand your child’s interest in and curiosity for learning by offering them a wider range of choices and experiences that are likely to appeal to them.

In conclusion

Children who understand that learning is not restricted to the classroom or to results are more motivated. By understanding your child’s learning style and interests you can help them extend their learning by engaging them in activities they feel enthusiastic about and enjoy.

At Julia Gabriel, we empower students to communicate confidently through EduDrama®, a unique learning philosophy inspired by educators passionate about children, language & the arts. For more information about our programmes, workshops and seminars, contact us here.