Motivating A Demotivated Child

Many children go through periods of demotivation. Maybe they have been getting poor grades at school. Perhaps they are naturally not as focused on outcomes and performance as you might wish them to be. Getting them to do homework, and do it well, can become a constant battle. How can you turn this behaviour around?

  • The most important thing to remember is that change rarely happens overnight, so to tackle this situation, you will need patience and sticking power. The next most important reminder is that their refusal to co-operate with you is a sign that they do have motivation – but at the moment, it is translating into resistance – against you or another situation in which they do not feel they have control. The trick is not to let this descend into a power struggle: that way, neither side wins.
  • To address the problem, do not get mad and shout. Instead, try active listening. If the issue is failure to complete homework on time, engage with your child to discover why. Are they struggling with the subject or do they just find it boring? Either way, talking it through opens up more positive lines of communication. Your child will feel like their opinion and feelings matter. And once you have been able to identify the issue, you’re far better placed to address it!
  • Whatever the problem is, discuss ways of tackling it and take on board your child’s suggestions. Failure to do homework is often a sign that your child is struggling to understand a particular subject or topic. Perhaps they are finding it hard to get to grips with essay technique or a maths concept. Seek new ways of learning – the internet is a great resource here. If the subject matter is considered boring, look for local resources that may help enliven it – a trip to the museum to look at relevant displays for history topics, for example. A spell of tutoring outside of the school environment may even be productive in helping them catch up with their peers.
  • Acknowledge and praise every success, no matter how small. Whether that’s a good mark on a particular piece of work or getting ready in time for school without being nagged, telling them you appreciate the effort they have made and that you are proud of them can help reinforce good behaviours.
  • Make sure they have all the resources they need at home to complete assignments. Does your child have a quiet place to study? Can they suggest changes that will improve it, such as decorating it with posters, investing in new coloured pens and folders or even finding a more comfortable chair?

Small changes such as these really can make a big difference. But if you can keep your cool and listen to your child, you’re well on the way to empowering them to make the changes needed to create success.

 

Getting To Grips With Time Management For Children

When you’re helping a stressed-out child complete a homework assignment in a rush the night before the deadline, you may wish you’d thought about teaching them time management before! However, it’s never too early or too late to begin. These handy tips will help you get started.

Use A Planner – Or Several!

Some schools issue diaries for recording your child’s homework; others rely on them to keep their own records. Whichever method your school uses, though, you can be sure they don’t take account of family life! Try introducing both a monthly and a weekly calendar at home. Record all appointments on the monthly planner – from ad hoc ones such as dentist appointments and relatives’ birthday parties to ongoing commitments like out-of-school sports activities and tutoring sessions. You and your child then have an overview of the month to hand. Each week, copy that week’s events onto a seven-day planner so you can both see at a glance what’s coming up. Check allocated homework with your child nightly, breaking it down into chunks and planning in study sessions leading up to the submission deadline. This helps ensure everything isn’t left until the last minute, when your child may already have an activity or other homework planned.

Avoid Overscheduling

Discourage your child from over-committing to activities. Recreation and sports outside school are huge positives, both in terms of socialisation and relaxation. However, it’s best to avoid a situation where activities are planned for every night of the week and weekends are full too. Time to chill and wind down is important too.

Clear A Space

Make sure your child has a dedicated space to work, one that will encourage productivity. Some can work with music in the background, others will work better in silence. But environments like the family’s kitchen/diner where there may be constant hustle, bustle and interruptions to their focus are unlikely to enhance effective study. Is there space for a desk in their room or another quiet area in the home where they can do their homework?

Set Out The Boundaries

Most teachers agree one of the most critical factors for success for students is initiating a healthy homework routine. Your school will advise on the amount of homework each year group should expect to have each evening. Discuss with your child when that time is best set aside: as soon as they return from school or after dinner? Plan in 15 minute breaks every hour. Aim to stick to the schedule. If homework frequently overruns its allocated slot, it’s time to re-evaluate: what distractions are there? Does your child require additional support in a subject area?

Map Out Your Mornings

One of the most frustrating times for parents is school mornings, when everything seems to go missing and no-one is in a particularly co-operative mood! Make a checklist of what needs to be done and set aside time the night before with your child to lay out school clothes, pack their school bag for the following day and plan their lunches. You can even mark PE days on your weekly planner to ensure that gets sent in on the right day too!

If you feel your child needs help with study skills and managing time when carrying out allotted tasks, why not consider tutoring? It could be the boost to their time management skills that they need.

Choosing GCSE Topics

First and foremost, we all want our children to be happy, now and longer term. Part of a parents’ role is ensuring children have the right opportunities and options further down the line for them to achieve their potential and find a job they love, not just tolerate. One of the more important decisions they will make in an academic sense is which GCSE options to pursue. This milestone typically comes during Year 9, when they are around 13 to 14 years old. Seems scary to be thinking about what they’ll be when they grow up already? Maybe, but it’s worth putting time and effort into guiding your child at this time.

What GCSEs they study, and what grades they achieve, will affect their choice of sixth form college and what A Levels they are able to study for. They may affect eligibility for a university course; and even the universities to which they can apply. They may even impact on longer term career choices. So what do you, as a parent, need to know?

Firstly, there is a core of subjects that all pupils must study. These are largely non-negotiable:

  • Maths
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Sciences

‘Sciences’ covers physics, chemistry and biology, which can account for either three separate GCSEs or the Double Award, which equates to two GCSEs. The latter still covers the three sciences, albeit in a different way, and will not disqualify your child from studying physics, chemistry or biology to A Level, provided an appropriate level of achievement is attained.

So that fills five or six of the options. Most children will study for between eight and ten GCSEs, and the remaining slots can be filled as you and they decide. However, they must be offered at least one option in each of four so-called ‘entitlement areas’. These include the arts, design & technology, humanities, and modern foreign languages; although they aren’t obliged to select one from each of these categories. How to narrow it down? Try the following:

  • If your child has a specific university course in mind, look at university requirements and on online forums for advice on which additional subjects to take. Many universities like to see well-rounded students, so for some, a mixture of languages, an arts subject and their preferred humanities subject, either history or geography, will work well.
  • If they do not know what they want to study further at A Level or equivalent, opting for a broad range will also keep their options open. The GCSE courses will help them learn more about preferences in learning styles and strengths – for instance, design & technology subjects can be more practical; history or geography more theoretical and essay-based.
  • Does your child have a passion for particular subjects? They have to study and achieve in these subjects for two years. It will be demotivating studying for a subject they actively dislike.

What should you advise them against? Essentially, discourage decisions based on personalities such as a like or dislike of a particular teacher; or on what subjects friends are choosing. Two years is a long time in anyone’s life and situations change. Better to make a list of pros and cons, and make the decision objectively!

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