If there’s one question I’ve been asked a thousand times… it’s “how do I motivate my kids to learn?”
A lot of people suggest things like sticker charts or monetary rewards for good grades.
In my opinion, the most effective form of motivation comes from within.
Because when we rely on external rewards as our sole source of motivation, we devalue the tremendous intrinsic reward of learning.
And, we inadvertently teach our kids that it’s only worthwhile learning something if we get something in return.
So the real question is – how do I get my child to enjoy learning?
Here are my top three tips.
1. Tell a tale
Facts are boring. But stories are fun. And, almost everyone enjoys a good story – not just the kids!
The great thing about stories is that we get immersed in them. It’s the next best thing to experiencing a situation ourselves. With a good story, we can get people feeling scared, excited, or joyful. Storytelling is a highly sensory activity – mentally, that is. It encourages us to visualise, experience emotions, and to “hear” the characters as narrated by the storyteller. And, kids happen to be highly visual and tactile learners (especially young kids).
Not only are stories an excellent way to hold a child’s interest – they’re also easy to learn.
Remembering a story is like pulling a loose thread on a blanket. Once you start, the whole thing unravels. With a story, once you remember one or two plot points, the rest of it tends to follow.
2. Make it practical.
We tend to remember things that affect us personally. For kids, relating information to their day to day life is one of the most helpful ways for them to learn.
Here’s an example. In my practice, I notice that many primary-aged kids are well-versed in the six times tables. Even if their grasp of the other tables is shaky.
Well, in Australia, many primary-aged kids play Aussie Rules Football. Where a goal is six points. For these kids, it’s in their best interest to know their six times tables inside out – so that they can quickly calculate the score when playing or watching football.
The same can be applied to any subject.
Some kids find maths to be boring. But, start baking a cake with them, or segmenting an orange into halves and quarters, etc – and suddenly, maths takes on a whole new life. It becomes interesting, because it’s useful.
3. Let them love it
Every kid has an interest. It might be rabbits, or Arianna Grande, or container gardening.
When we link new information to something that the child is already interested in, it makes learning more enjoyable. And a child who enjoys what he or she learning is far more likely to remember it.
This is where we need to be creative. Rather, this is where we GET to be creative!
I remember working with a young man with autism, who was fascinated with dinosaurs. His teachers and parents were becoming frustrated with his lack of engagement in school, as most topics were not dinosaur related, and he simply refused to participate in class or complete any work.
He was actually a highly intelligent kid, with a fantastic ability to learn and remember information – provided that he was motivated to do so.
With our creative hats on, we devised a way for him to be able to learn almost any topic that he needed, by linking it to dinosaurs or making it relevant to dinosaurs (or anything from that era).
He rapidly acquired basic sight-reading skills, vocabulary, arithmetic, fractions, geometry, and geography.
Sure, it was unconventional. But it worked.
And, it was a great reminder that kids are unique, and they learn things in their own way. Which may be different to the way that’s being presented in the classroom.
As with many things in life, it doesn’t matter how quickly our kids learn a skill, or even HOW they learn it.
What’s important is that we encourage our kids to enjoy learning. So that they’re more willing to continue learning, in the future.