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Helping Your Child Feel Motivated to Learn

by Janet Peterson

Parents in today’s society are faced with ever-increasing challenges when it comes to their children wanting to study and learn. Because of the myriad numbers of outside distractions available to children, parents often complain that their children simply aren’t motivated to learn—they want to spend their time indulging in entertainment and enjoyable pursuits rather than learning. But parents who care about motivating their children to want to learn are able to show their children that learning in itself can be an enjoyable pursuit. Every child is inherently motivated to learn. It’s part of our biological makeup to learn, like all animals on Earth, because we must learn to survive and thrive. We just have to find the key to that motivation and keep it alive.

One of the best ways to unearth your child’s motivation to learn is to watch when she is playing with friends or having fun on her own. What kinds of things does she like to do? What things interest her or make her pay attention? Those are the things that you can use to motivate her to want to learn more. The key lies in taking the excitement and wonder she exhibits when he’s having a good time, and then insert that excitement into academic learning. It may sound difficult, but it’s not.

For example, let’s say your son loves climbing trees. You can either sit around and watch him climb trees, or you can take that excitement and turn it into a desire for learning by showing him a book about treehouses, and then helping him build one. You can take him to the hardware store to buy the parts, therefore helping him to learn about tools, nails, hardware, and everything else it takes to build a treehouse.

Building the treehouse together can help your son learn numerous things—how to plan ahead, how to locate items in a hardware store, how to decide the best place to put the treehouse, how to design and build it, how to make it safe and sturdy, and best of all, you get to help him enjoy the learning. You can take virtually any activity your child loves to do and turn it into an opportunity for academic learning, and make him want to learn even more.

Encouraging and motivating your child to learn must be handled with care, though, or you risk going overboard. For example, if your child comes home from the park one day excited about seeing a nest with baby robins in it, don’t react to her excitement by going out the next day and buying her a lot of books about bird watching and making her sit down to read them. This type of overkill can actually keep a child from sharing enthusiasm about anything, and impact her motivation to seek out new things to learn about. Instead, say that you want to go with her to see the baby birds the next day. When you go see them, talk about them and tell her you can take her to the library to look for a book that might give her more information about baby birds and how mama birds raise them. Proceed with care, one step at a time, and let your child be the one to cue you when she’s reached her learning threshold for the time being.

Be sure not to try to impose your own ideas and interests on your child, or you may encounter resistance, which will only serve to stifle your child’s motivation to learn. Children are very sensitive to parents telling them that something will be good for them, or that they "need to learn about" one thing or another. Go slow when trying to interest your child in something new, and be sure it is the child’s idea to do the learning. If you’re patient, and you pay attention to your child’s interests and encourage them, then you’ll see that in no time your child’s motivation to learn will go through the roof. Keep encouraging that motivation, and you may some day be the parent of a genius!

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