How to Motivate Your Child​

I often get questions about how best to motivate students. Maybe you have a child who always procrastinates writing essays. Or perhaps your child doesn't always turn in homework assignments. Whatever it looks like on the outside, a student who appears to lack motivation can create frustration for a parent.


Here's what I recommend if you have a child who seems unmotivated about school.


1. Keep your relationship positive and respectful:

it may be challenging to watch your teen procrastinate or see your nine-year-old choose screens over books. Practice patience and openness — as parent coach Debbie Pincus recommends, be on your kid’s team. “This will allow you to be most influential with them, which is your most important parenting tool. Punishing, preaching, threatening, and manipulating will get you nowhere,” she says.


2. Let them be where they are and don't fight reality.

It's okay to have goals for your child, but keep things realistic and also be open to where they are now. Stay encouraging and help them when you can. "When you feel yourself getting worked up, try saying to yourself, ‘My child is just not there yet,’” Pincus recommends.


3. Focus on support and encouragement.

Worrying and nagging don't help. Do your best offer a kind ear and listen with an open mind and heart. Be firm, but do not fall into the trap of trying to control your child.


4. Recognize that your child’s behavior is often the result of inward feelings.

What looks like a lack of motivation or laziness on the outside could be shame, anxiety, or embarrassment on the inside. See if you can get to what is happening underneath. Be calm, and don't take your child’s actions as a reflection of your success as a parent. Try to have a conversation about what's happening in which you actively listen and then create solutions together. If this feels challenging, bring in a neutral third party. This could be a counselor, therapist, or tutor.


5. Don't fantasize about a negative future.

Instead of creating stories about how your child’s current lack of motivation will lead them to not graduate high school, go to college, or get a good job, instead focus on what is happening right now. What support, encouragement, or help could you offer to your child in this moment? Focus on your child’s positive traits as well and help develop his or her social, emotional, and creative aspects: is your child empathetic, does he or she like to help people or paint or enjoy nature? Nurture those qualities and do not just focus on grades and academic performance.


We can work together…you do not have to do this alone.


I am happy to team up with you to help your child work through their struggles with school, however they manifest.​