If you’ve ever tried to motivate your child to study or do homework, you probably know that it’s much easier to be successful when you get your child’s input and buy-in. Research shows that students who are more engaged in the learning process, after all, are more attentive and focused, and generally more motivated to learn increasingly challenging topics. Although your child’s teacher plays a big role, there are many ways you can encourage your child to become more connected and interested in what he or she learns. Here are several tips on how to do just that:
Frequently start conversations about school topics. You can strengthen your child’s critical thinking, communication, and other related skills by asking thoughtful questions about school, your child’s opinion on an issue, the books your child reads and more. Skip the yes/no questions and instead focus on those that encourage inquisition and thinking from different perspectives. Asking about the “why” and not just the “how” will strengthen your child’s ability to formulate ideas and foster the active learning process. It will also send the message that learning for the sake of learning is worthwhile.
Talk about alternatives. Teachers usually encourage students to learn multiple methods to solving problems or answering questions and give them the freedom to choose the one they understand and like the best. You can reinforce your child’s understanding of a subject by talking through alternate viewpoints or ways of solving a problem. If your child is working on a multiplication problem, for example, ask about other ways to get to the same answer and why your child chose a certain approach. Explaining different strategies to you will strengthen your child’s understanding and build his or her confidence—activities that lead to enhanced engagement.
Take a supporting role. One of the simplest ways to increase your child’s level of engagement is to put him or her in the driver’s seat—always. Set ground rules at home that make it clear that you are available for guidance, not answers, and that school is your child’s job. That means attempting things before asking for help and being resourceful about finding answers to questions. Your child is responsible for school work and all associated duties. Make sure you send that message with your actions as well as your words.
Emphasize learning, not grades. Grades are important, but more important is the effort that your child puts into school. Take note of your child’s persistence and hard work more than achievements such as grades—and remind your child that learning isn’t always easy. Also, instill in your child the belief that the ultimate goal of school and homework is to acquire knowledge.
Children sometimes find school to be difficult, frustrating or even boring, but there are many ways to encourage them to take ownership of school. Embrace these strategies for strengthening your child’s academic engagement, and good things will happen. In the end, you’ll help your child take an active role as a learner—a trait that will serve him or her well in college and long after.