Go From Having A Burned-Out Child To A Motivated Child In School.
The majority of students suffer at some point in their educational journey from what I call, "The Stuck Syndrome." There can be many reasons why kids become unmotivated and "stuck" in school. This mental state easily happens when they are frustrated, overwhelmed, and/or tired of school. The following strategies will help you to reignite your child. How do I know? They worked for my two children and many other parents who have implemented these techniques.
1. Focus On Strengths
First and foremost, children are born as"pleasers." Negativity from society, school, peers, and other influencers in their lives can take a child into a negative mental space. It is important for children to know their family is on their side. This can be accomplished by being a "cheerleader" in their lives by encouraging, giving pats on the back, and focusing on their strengths in their school work. When parents shift from focusing on a child's weak area (whatever it is) to focusing on his/her strengths, while addressing the weaknesses as needed, a shift occurs. A parent's positive reassurance validates a child's work and feelings, which in turn, helps to build a confident, engaged student.
2. Reward Desired Behaviors
Of course, weaknesses must be addressed but they do not need to be the main focus. The trick to this is to tackle the weaknesses in a calm, loving, encouraging environment for a faster response. I have always been an advocate of reward systems and encouragement for all students. Not only does it help modify the negative behavior quickly, but it also builds confidence, and helps the child get on track quickly. Adults love receiving rewards from work for a job well done, especially in the form of a bonus. Children are no different.
A parent should adjust reward systems depending on the behavior/weakness that is being modified. Below are a couple of systems I have used and recommend.
Changing Behavior/Attitude Reward System
If the weakness/issue hinges around a certain behavior (attitude), such as being disrespectful/sassy or not getting along with people, one of my favorite systems is a bean jar labeled "Caught You Being Good." There are several ways to use a reward jar. Simply stated, each time the child completes the desired task, the child puts a bean in the jar. When the beans reach one of the lines drawn on the jar, a reward is given.
Tip 1: I drew the lines closer to each other when we started out so that the reward was attainable quickly. Fast rewards are the key, especially in the beginning. The lines were more spaced out as we progressed up the jar.
Tip 2 : Labeling the lines with the reward helps the child to stay motivated and see what he/she is working towards as the beans fill up the jar.
Completing Tasks Reward System
Another idea is to create a calendar and have your child place a check mark (or something else) on each day as the desired task is completed. I have seen people use stickers or draw happy faces on their calendars. (There is just something about marking a task complete that makes people feel accomplished!)
As for the rewards, the parent(s) create the reward process. The reward could be given at the end of each day ( a high five), each week (ice cream), or a big reward at the end of the month (sleepover with 5 friends). If daily rewards are given, keep them small. A combination of daily (high fives) and weekly (ice cream) may also be used. Of course, the rewards listed are just suggestions and similar to what I did when we started this system. Finally, the placement of the calendar is important. If the goal is to turn in homework or write down homework, I recommend placing the reward calendar inside a take-home folder for your child to take to school. As soon as the task (homework in this example) is completed, a sticker or checkmark can be placed immediately on the correct date. Ultimately, the goal is to move away from rewards and have the desired task become a daily activity. For now, the behavior is being encouraged and rewarded for doing a good job.
While your child is working hard on the desired behavior, make sure to let him/her know you are noticing. Handwritten notes allow the child to read, reread, and keep them. There is nothing more important to a child than knowing his/her parent(s) see and love him/her! I LOVE leaving love/encouraging notes on sticky notes or notecards. (Yes, I still do this!). I leave them all over: bathroom mirrors, backpacks, inside lunches, cars, equipment bags, and so forth! My child's college dorm was the best! I hid around 40 encouraging notes the day I dropped her off. Her reaction: " MOMMMMMM! I found ANOTHER one! Thank You!" Priceless.
3. Lead By Example
These are thoughts to ponder, and please know my intention is not to sound snarky. Do you remember the saying, "Monkey See, Monkey Do?" What exactly does your child see or not see that is good, bad, and ugly? If yelling is the behavior that needs adjusted, are you modeling how to address hard situations without yelling? If your child needs to read more to improve reading in school, are you reading? If your child is showing up haphazardly to school (no supplies, hair not brushed, tardy), are you mimicking these same standards? Again, just some thoughts to ponder here as we are discussing how to reignite your child in school.
We all have those moments we are not proud of, but, hopefully, they are kept to a minimum. Children watch and learn, and typically mirror what is observed. Therefore, parents need to handle situations in the same manner the children are expected to. Does this mean that if I read my child will 100% read? No. Each person has free will. Parents can do everything perfectly and still have a child that beats to a completely different drum. However, studies have shown if you model the desired behavior, there is a higher probability the child will do the same.
I hope you found something here to help reignite your child in school. I'd love to hear what strategy you are going to try.