Maybe he doesn’t seem enthusiastic to learn new things. Maybe he’s not doing his homework. Maybe her grades are dropping. Maybe a fight occurs whenever you try to sit her down to do work.
Whatever the specific problem is, many parents find themselves wondering why a child just doesn’t seem to be trying very hard in school, and how they can help her get motivated.
There are many potential reasons that a child might be turned off by school. Here are some first steps you can take to investigate what might be happening:
Define your concerns clearly. What are the behaviors that make you think he’s not engaged? A close look at what he’s doing—or not doing—will help you identify what may be happening.
If he says he’s bored, what does he mean? Many children use the word “bored” to describe how they feel in class, but their definition of “bored” may not match yours. Sometimes kids who are challenged or frustrated aren’t sure what to call the feeling.
Talk to the teacher. Your child’s teacher is one of the best resources you can use to both help you identify the issues and then find ways to address them. “The teacher can offer six hours of a day worth of information about what the child is doing,” notes Rachel Busman, a psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
Clarify your expectations. Get a reality check from the teacher to make sure your expectations are realistic for your kid’s age and developmental level.
Is it part of the learning process? “There’s a normal amount of trepidation that comes with learning new things,” explains Dr. Busman. “A child who’s learning to read, for instance, may not be ‘motivated’ because it’s new for him and it’s not the easiest thing.” The teacher can let you know if she thinks your child is just going through a rough patch.
Are there changes at school? It’s common for students to stumble during their first couple months of kindergarten or middle school because these transitions require a lot of adjustment. “A lot of preDoes Your Child Lack Motivation?school settings are much more social and emotional and not so academic, so it’s a big change to go from being in preschool to kindergarten,” notes Laura Fuhrman, a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute. Neuropsychologist and former teacher Ken Schuster observes a similar pattern at the beginning of middle school, where kids are expected to be much more independent and organized.
Has your child changed schools? In the same way, changing schools also may involve some struggling academically as your child adjusts to a new environment.
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