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How do I motivate my kids to WANT to do their best?


CheerioKid
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My kids are the ones who make B's and C's (public school) and are happy about it. They are all quite smart enough to make straight A's. Now that we are HS, I can see just how un-motivated they are, especially my 8th grader. He has said he has "always been able to just do it and get a B or a C....why do I have to do it all right now?" My reply is that I want to make sure he has learned the material...I actually care that he learns something, etc.

 

I know how he feels, I was the same way when I was in school. I was never motivated to make good grades. My parents just weren't creative/didn't care. I don't want to be those parents.

 

How do you motivate your kids to make "good grades" (do their best, want to learn, excel, achieve more, etc)

 

Specifically, we are working on grammar, catching up, using Easy Grammar Plus. My almost-14-year-old is just blah blah going though the pages, complaining that it's all the same, but he is making so many careless mistakes. I say, when you know the stuff and care to pay attention to what you're doing, you won't make those careless mistakes. I have no knowledge base to work with here....zero "motivational" experience.

 

Help!?

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Up the level until it's NOT easy? It took over a year even after being in just PS K, and jumping multiple grades before my DD began to really put in an effort in math-and it wasn't until it was challenging that it became fun. I imagine that the longer a child is able to get by with easy, the harder it is to unlearn that.

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The thing is, he doesn't know how to do this stuff. We started out with R&S English 8, and he didn't know what prepositions, direct objects, contractions, etc. were. He is definitely challenged by science...he can go on all day about it and does well. It's the subjects he doesn't care about that get hairy.

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Specifically, we are working on grammar, catching up, using Easy Grammar Plus. My almost-14-year-old is just blah blah going though the pages, complaining that it's all the same, but he is making so many careless mistakes. I say, when you know the stuff and care to pay attention to what you're doing, you won't make those careless mistakes. I have no knowledge base to work with here....zero "motivational" experience.

 

EG has a lot of repetition. I haven't done that level, but I'm guessing it's the same. What if you gave him half the page (all the odds, for example) and told him that if he got them all correct he didn't have to do the rest. But if he makes careless errors, then he has to correct them PLUS do an extra exercise for each error. That would cut down on busy work and hopefully encourage him to be more careful in his work.

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EG has a lot of repetition. I haven't done that level, but I'm guessing it's the same. What if you gave him half the page (all the odds, for example) and told him that if he got them all correct he didn't have to do the rest. But if he makes careless errors, then he has to correct them PLUS do an extra exercise for each error. That would cut down on busy work and hopefully encourage him to be more careful in his work.

 

:iagree: I've done this with my daughter when she's lapsed into rushing and making careless mistakes in math. It really does help them focus when they don't want to complete the other half.

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Short Version: Looks like he needs to build some "intrinsic motivation" If you google "building intrinsic motivation in students" and a few related terms, there are some really great ideas out there. A few:

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/motivate.htm

http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/motivation.html

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/356.omo/improving_motivation

 

I know that first one has a lot of reading and resources, but it's worth looking at. I'm sure there are a ton of awesome ones I didn't include too, just some ideas to get you started.

 

--------------------

Random thoughts:

 

Love the idea of "get them all right and you can skip problems." This makes performing better LESS work : )

 

I'm brand new here but have been lurking for a while and have had a lot of experience with unmotivated kids. I'd start by making sure this is lack of motivation/ laziness (aka not being willing to put in the work required to achieve at a higher, attainable level) and not another issue.

 

-Is he tired?

-Will achieving high make him stand out in unwanted ways with his peers? (Probably not since he is HS)

-Does he genuinely believe he is capable of doing better?

-Is he protecting his own self esteem on a deeper level by not putting forth full effort, therefore sending himself the message that "I could achieve if I really wanted to. I just don't want to." This prevents the risk of actual failure. This is a common reason students under perform, and is generally found in kids who don't like to throw their self-esteem on the line. Building confidence through incrementally larger effort (risk) and success/recognition can help here.

-Every person has needs that need to be met in order for that person to feel satisfied with life. People with the "Need for Achievement" feel a drive to reach higher and further and push harder. They are looking for feedback and accomplishment. Those with the "Need for Authority" are leaders and want to influence others. Those with the "Need for Affiliation" wish to be well-liked and build and maintain relationships with others. Additionally, almost all people have a drive to be good at something (it just might not be academic). While those with a high need for achievement prominently figure in academic success stories, tailoring the environment to students with other needs can have some good results. A leadership role or teaching role for a kid with the Need for Authority, or group projects/group goals for a kid with the need for affiliation. If a child's needs are being met already in life, it's reasonable that he/she doesn't feel a drive to push harder, so it needs to become more attractive in some way.

 

-Maybe try to help him find something he is really interested in or passionate about and tie other things to that interest. Every kid has some amazing personality traits, interests and talents.

 

-Paint the big picture. Not only does learning help us become interesting, it is really necessary for success later on. Does he want to be "X?" Chart a plan to get there. Does it include a college? Will that college be hard work? Work is a developed talent like exercise. Can anyone expect to sit on the couch every day and wake up and run a marathon? That's what it's like going to college and the 'real world' without having learned how to REALLY work and do your best. Youth is a wonderful, nearly risk-free, supportive time to develop this skill. It hurts a lot more later, if there even is a later. Most kids assume that they will start working harder when it "matters." It matters now. Every habit and repeated action or opinion is etching into their brain over and over and over again at this age. The brain modifies and forms around the things we do. They are programming their own mind for how it will function at maturity. (Interestingly, his lifestyle between the ages of 9-11 will also have an effect on his kids, but that's so off-topic). He already has a personality, but otherwise, what kind of person does he want to be as an adult- because that all starts now.

 

-Any way to make it more fun for him?

 

-Okay, now for a note on reward systems. A reward system CAN be very useful in increasing a certain behavior. Examples: every grade over 90% earns a token of some sort. These tokens can be saved and spent on desirable items or experiences. (More tokens=more desirable). Treats should not be a reward. After a given time, instead of rewarding every time, flip a coin every time he meets the "goal." Only heads earns the token. Continue to back the rewards off until they are gone and the habit is established. Then MAYBE a small outing or something to celebrate good grades at the end of courses. Verbal praise is very valuable.

-The GIGANTIC caveat on reward systems. If a child believes he is doing something ONLY for a reward (being extrinsically motivated), he/she will only reinforce that idea that this is not important to him. The goal is to create intrinsic motivation where a child internalizes the motivation and owns the goals. Mild rewards can help in the beginning to provide some positive experiences, but the child really needs to help set the goals and everything. The program should feel like it's part-goals and part-reward motivating the students.

 

Sorry for any typos and the ultra-long post, and hope any of this helps. Good luck!

Edited by iwantsprinkles
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...How do you motivate your kids to make "good grades" (do their best, want to learn, excel, achieve more, etc)

 

Specifically, we are working on grammar, catching up, using Easy Grammar Plus. My almost-14-year-old is just blah blah going though the pages, complaining that it's all the same, but he is making so many careless mistakes. I say, when you know the stuff and care to pay attention to what you're doing, you won't make those careless mistakes. I have no knowledge base to work with here....zero "motivational" experience.

 

Help!?

Change your goal. You want them to learn and get "good grades". Try a different goal: "learn to work hard."

(Edited to remove the rest of what I wrote earlier--see my next post below)

Edited by merry gardens
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The thing is, he doesn't know how to do this stuff. We started out with R&S English 8, and he didn't know what prepositions, direct objects, contractions, etc. were. He is definitely challenged by science...he can go on all day about it and does well. It's the subjects he doesn't care about that get hairy.

Sorry. I responded to the original post without seeing this part. Are you sure it's just that he doesn't care, ORhas he perhaps learned to disguising more serious difficulties by adopting an "I don't care" attitude?

 

It sounds like he is challenged by grammar. By age 14, contractions shouldn't be a challenge. I'm not familiar with "Easy Grammar Plus" but grammar is not easy for people with dyslexia or other language processing disorders. It may be that the grammar program you selected doesn't match your child's needs. You might be asking him to do things that he cannot yet do.

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Starting R&S at level 8 would be difficult for anyone. I think the current recommendation is to go back to 6 to start with any student. So that should help there.

 

If I had this issue with a dc, I would get rid of the A, B, C, etc. grade scale and institute a "Pass/Fail" system. An A would be passing, and anything else would be re-done/corrected. After they have had to re-do enough papers, they might start to care about getting them right the first time.

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A reward system. We also do economics lessons with dd12 when she is unmotivated. last night we showed her the difference in salary between a college grad and a high school grad. We took a teacher's salary so it wasn't too pie in the sky. We showed her what she what bring home from a minimum wage job and compared it to the take home of a school teacher after subtracting for student loan. It was more than twice as much, nearly 3 times as much not even counting for benefits. That was motivating. And eye opening.

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A reward system. We also do economics lessons with dd12 when she is unmotivated. last night we showed her the difference in salary between a college grad and a high school grad. We took a teacher's salary so it wasn't too pie in the sky. We showed her what she what bring home from a minimum wage job and compared it to the take home of a school teacher after subtracting for student loan. It was more than twice as much, nearly 3 times as much not even counting for benefits. That was motivating. And eye opening.

 

I remember my parents doing the same for me in middle school when I was getting lazy and letting my grades slide. It was a very eye-opening experience to see it all laid out in front of me as a simple numbers comparison. Hugely motivating.

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