The #1 Reason Your Child Doesn't Want to Learn ... And What You Can Do About It

Published: 06th May 2009
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Modern schooling at the average educational institution suffers from one general impediment: the motivation to learn is often not clear to the learner, the child.

Great drama ensues if a child needs to do homework it doesn't understand the reason for. And the reason is rather far-fetched when it comes to a child's horizon: it's got almost nothing to do with the here and now and is almost completely about successes it is to feel in ten to twenty years down the road.

Ever since "modern schooling" has been established children fight against or suffer from chores like homework, assignments they don't want to do or don't understand (which, accidentally, often are two sides of the same coin), permanent bad conscience and lack of self-confidence since there's always someone in class who still seems to get it all right. And instead of building their self-esteem, those children are often openly or covertly criticized for their lack of effort by teachers, even parents and other "stakeholders". At the same time parents often notice their child can concentrate miraculously on things that have nothing to do with school but seem a least as difficult.

How come? Well, it all boils down to exactly one thing and one thing only, motivation! I know, many of you will now sadly shake their heads saying "boy, it's not as if we hadn't tried". So let's be a bit more precise here: what your child lacks is intrinsic motivation, motivation that comes from within! Surely all the other times you have seen your children really concentrate you will find they had a reasons of their own to do so. Until puberty and beyond, a child or youth is best and mainly controlled by primary motivation, i.e. the goal and the motive are one and the same, so to speak. Secondary motivation is for older youths and adults and goes like this: if I want that better paid job I need to invest a certain amount of (unpaid) overtime to make a good impression and show I stand one hundred percent behind my company's targets and goals. Trying to teach children they need to do a certain assignment because 15 years later they will get a better place at college and then, as an even later outgrowth from that, a better job and then maybe a better life, is useless. If your kids' life is already miserable and you give them assignments that make them feel more so it is very hard for them to believe that exactly this behaviour would eventually free them from all the misery life seems to hold for them (as they can see daily in the news?).

Intrinsic motivation, motivation from within, is the clue

Easier said than done. How do you bait rats? You put some poisoned appetizer in their way and hope they'll eat it and die. Indeed they do: one rat tastes it, the others stand by watching and if that pioneer rat dies they won't eat anything of it. Your children will always realize that you try to coax them into learning the very SAME stuff they know belongs to the school curriculum und any pretext. And if you try a carrot-and-stick approach you risk two equally dangerous alternatives: either your child will only work if rewarded or only to avoid punishment. That attitude will carry over into their later life and, mind you, most employers are not looking for people who only start working if rewarded or punished, they want employees who use their own good judgment to the best of their company and work of their own accord. Oh, and getting back to your kids - isn't that what you'd like to see yourself too when it comes to their learning habits? Otherwise you're in for a lifelong Sisyphus chore of intervention and control that undermines the very foundation of all family life: mutual love, appreciation and trust! Maybe it's worthwhile to invest a few minutes now and from then on each day to look into better ways of motivating your children. If so, read on (we can't cover all aspects in the space of an article, but this one won't be the last).

As Peter Kline says in his bestselling book "The Everyday Genius - Restoring Children's Natural Joy of Learning": "Your children have much greater talent than can be developed by our current educational system. You are going to have to help." Well, doesn't that mean your child is rather frustrated by being challenged TOO LITTLE rather than too much by the prevailing school system?

How you can start immediately

As we cannot give a full course in wonders here in this limited space I suggest you begin with two simple, effortless and almost no-cost measures (and then follow our other suggestions which we post over time later):

* Try and formulate everything you say POSITIVELY and try to make it a habit. Examples: instead of saying "Don't forget your homework" (suggesting to the subconscious something like "forget your homework") rather say "when will you do your homework", "Have you done ...". That doesn't mean you can't use negative wording, the catch is: whatever you SUGGEST must be a positive statement: to your child's subconscious a sentence such as "I wouldn't want you to fail" sends a covert message that contains the word "FAIL!" whereas if you say "I never said you shouldn't succeed" you send a covert message to "SUCCEED!". Make a list of all your typical verbal interactions with your child and see how often you use negative vs. positive words or phrases, then try and turn all the openly or covertly negative phrases around. TRAIN YOURSELF, and I know it takes some time, maybe a week, to use the new language, and after another week you should see first results.

* Ever since Émile Coué (1857-1926) gave his patients that one simple sentence to repeat "Every day, in every way, I am feeling better and better" psychology knows about the irresistible power of autosuggestion and belief systems. The single most frequent cause underlying children's learning "disabilities" are belief systems that keep them from trying and that act as self-fulfilling prophecies. Since your subconscious works all the time and takes over esp. during sleep, one of the best times to initiate positive change in belief systems is before you go to sleep. Try the following for a few weeks: over your children's bed put one or two sheets of paper, letter-size (A4) that you print the following statements on (as big as possible). "My memory stores everything I learned during the day when I sleep", "I can read perfectly well while dreaming" (for children with reading difficulties), "When I write while dreaming I get all words correct" (for the orthographically challenged). Do NOT write "... I don't make mistakes" - again that's a suggestion to do just that! I'm sure you can tailor more such sentences to just your child's respective needs when you experiment a little. Again, make a diary of effects and side-effects, you'll see noticeable effects after two weeks at the longest. Then rotate the posters to address other weaknesses and turn them around one by one.

With the growing positive effects your child will inevitably become more confident and happier which again feeds back into their intrinsic motivation to try harder even if they don't always succeed at once.


Franz Rasch is a business and educational consultant specializing in speed learning, memory enhancement and motivation coaching. He develops training materials and methods to increase intelligence and creativity. Get his e-Book "99 Learning Strategies" for free (limited time only) at CaptainMnemo.Net .

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