How to get your child motivated at school

child motivated at school. apple on a stack of books. learning blocks.


School can be a tough, repetitive and ongoing process for some kids. It is common for kids to lack motivation at school. Approximately 20% of students are described as ‘disengaged’.

The first step to getting your child motivated at school is to understand why they have lost motivation.

Signs your child is not motivated at school

Many children are open enough to verbally tell parents they are not motivated at school.

Others may make excuses for attending school or spend little time on school related tasks at home.

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness notices a few different signs in her clients.

Most kids will say something… ‘I don’t like school’, or they’ll wake up in the morning and all of the sudden they’ve got a sore stomach. If it’s not just a one-off thing and it happens all the time, you will start to see signs that they’re not that motivated to go to school even if they haven’t expressed it verbally.

In older students signs of lacking motivation include:

  • Skipping classes
  • Exhibiting anti-social behaviour

You could speak to their teacher at school and ask:

  • Whether they are willing to participate in the classroom
  • Whether they look engaged
  • Whether they are arriving online to class
  • Whether they are giving up easily on school tasks

Why isn’t my child motivated at school?

Katerina believes the first step is to gauge what is causing the lack of motivation.

 The key is to really open up discussion and find out what is causing that lack of motivation. There could be a number of reasons, and unless your tackling that core reason you might not get anywhere with it.

One of the most common reasons that children lack motivation is difficulty with academic skills and finding the school’s structure challenging.

Many children may have an underlying learning disorder such as dyslexia, or being on the autism spectrum. Other mental health conditions that may cause a lack of motivation could include:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • OCD

Katerina is a “firm believer” that school may not necessarily cater to all children’s learning styles.

“That’s probably one of the biggest ones; they just find that it’s hard for them to sit there from 9 to 3 and listen to a teacher.”

She believes it’s important for parents to acknowledge the fact that school is not for every child.

She believes it’s important for parents to acknowledge the fact that school is not for every child.

“That doesn’t mean they can’t do something about it. They can have a chat to the teacher and say they’ve got a different learning style. There’s always options, not ignoring it and saying ‘no that’s not good enough… you’ve got to like it’. Just get an understanding of what’s going on and don’t just ignore it.”

She advises parents to understand why their child’s personality is ‘not suited’ to school to help them adapt.

Many older kids tend to lose motivation at school if they are experiencing loneliness, bullying or teasing.

“It could be some elements of not having friends or being a bit bullied or being lonely as well. There tends to be some underlying thing going on…whether they don’t want to be alone at lunch or there’s some type of teasing going on.”

Tip: Use open-ended questions to find out why your child is not motivated at school.

To find out more information about why your child is struggling, try using open-ended questions.

Instead of asking: “Do you like school?”

Try asking: “How did you go on that maths test?”

child motivated at school. parent and student. parent helping student with school work.
Photo by sofatutor on Unsplash

How can I help get my child motivated at school?

Once you have had discussions with your child to identify why they are lacking motivation at school, you can begin to find tools to help them.

Talk to the teacher

A great starting point would be to speak to your child’s teacher.

You can ask them to suggest some strategies that your child could utilise at home and in the classroom to assist with their motivation.

Teachers spend hours with your child and a will often have ways to address issues with learning.

Have your child focus on the positives

Katerina emphasises the importance of ‘honing in’ on things your child loves at school.

“Just have a discussion and say, ‘look you are not going to love everything about school’”.

For younger kids it may be seeing or playing with friends or liking their teacher.

She suggests parents to discuss with the positives with their child and see if they can work on or change the negatives. If there is no way to work on what they don’t like about school, Katerina suggests just trying to focus on positives.

Help your child set goals

You could discuss with them:

  • What they want to achieve at school
  • What they think is going to be challenging and asking whether they want to improve on it

“Setting goals and monitoring them every three months and adapting it if you need to. That just gives them an outline as well… if they are going to school what they are going to focus on, so they’ve made that choice themselves.”

Celebrate their achievements

An important aspect of setting goals is setting up a rewards system.

Whether or not you have set goals, make sure you validate their efforts.

Research shows acknowledging your child’s attempts at a challenging task helps keep up motivation.

Get professional help

Your child may be exhibiting sings of mental health issues that are interfering with their motivation.

It is always important to speak to a professional about your child’s experiences and how to help.

What if my child doesn’t open up to me?

If your child is having difficulty communicating to you, encourage them to see someone external. This may be a therapist, colleague, family friend, family member or someone they can open up to.

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