Best tips to motivate your child to do better in school

How to make my child study? My child's grades are very poor? How do I get my child to learn/study? The questions raised here are some parents biggest dilemma. Practice simple tricks to make your study and watch his grades improve.

I was a teacher for a big part of my life. Working and being around children taught me a lot about their psyche. In my journey as a teacher, I also got a chance to be part of various workshops conducted by educationist and child psychologists, who delivered fresh perspectives to teaching and to the teacher-student and child-parent equation.

In this article, I am going to cover one phase of childhood problems and effective ways to deal with it. Parents can use this as a guide to motivate their child into doing better in school.

Parents worry about their child's grades/marks, and why not, they signal how well their child is faring in class. Parents usually get all worked up when the grades/marks are below the normal expectation, but most of the time their worries are unfounded. But, it's time to really sit up when the grades begin to plunge. You know something is amiss and you need to step in, to set things right.

However, know that shouting and nagging is not going to get you results. The child is not going to get motivated or come out of his laziness. You need a tactical plan that works. Understand that your child needs to recognise the importance of doing well – only when he learns its value will he work towards achieving success.

The three factors that are the key to success are –

  • Motivation
  • Attitude
  • Skill

Very few children have these three factors working in tandem. Most struggle with one or the other or all the aspects. Children who are able to sync all three are termed as having excellent 'executive functioning'. This is a technical term that indicates that the frontal lobe of their brain is better developed. Children with excellent executive functioning are in better control of their emotions. They exhibit better attention span and are more determined and adaptable.

Some children achieve this phase faster than others – but parents of those lagging should not fret over it too much. After all, it is all part of their child's mental development – it happens in stages, their children's brains are still growing. They can help their child through physical stimuli and coach them into becoming achievers. Don't let frustration take over; it will only make you lose your cool, and this will lead to more problems such as rebellious behaviour and power struggle. Instead, use these 10 steps to motivate your child into doing better.

Maintain a healthy relationship with your child

Parents must know that they and their child are on the same team. In their capacity as a mature adult, it is for them to forge a positive and respectful, yet open bond with their child. Stand on the lines and support them. They look up to adults for inspiration and guidance and acceptance. Accept even the flaws, not just the laudable. When you do this you become more influential in your dealings.

Reprimanding, terrorising, sermonising and manipulating will get zilch results. Learn to control your emotions because your child is not acting up. His poor performance is because his frontal lobe is still not up and functioning to its capacity. As a parent, you can not make that happen through shouts and rants. Instead, work with your child – slowly, until he grasps things. One step at a time - teach him so he teaches himself commitment and perseverance and motivation. Push, gently, and see your child bloom.

Integrate the 'when you' rule

The first step in creating self-discipline in your child is by rewarding after they complete a task. So, when you practice the 'when you' principle you begin seeing positive results.

What is the 'when you' principle? It is nothing but a signal to the child that he can do what he wants after he finishes his work. For instance, practice saying – "When you finish your homework you can watch your favourite cartoon" or "When you finish learning the poem, you can go out and play". Notice, how a reward is attached to the task – this becomes the motivator. Stick by this rule – and in doing so you help your child build organisational skills, something his brain has not learned to do as yet.

Push your way in – be part of his life

What if, despite all efforts, your child is getting nowhere? His grades continue to remain dismal and he refuses to study and just lazes around – what do you do then? In such a situation you push your way into his life and help him organise himself.

This entails strict rules – maintain a study timetable, and follow it. There should be no distractions during this period. This is an extension to the 'when you' rule, but it doesn't end with the small demands. This means finishing homework is not the only thing your child needs to do here. Break study time into doable sections – complete homework, go through it for errors, revise lessons and keep abreast with the syllabus.

This is not a punishment verdict and you shouldn't make it sound like one. Use encouraging phrases like, "let me see you finish this quickly" or "finish your homework and revise your lessons so you can do whatever you like". Remove things that might distract your child, from his room or else let him sit at the dining table and study. Create a pleasant environment for him, through your words and actions and through surroundings.

Get the teachers involved

Maintaining a healthy relationship with the child's teacher helps. Meet her (don't get on her nerves though) and ask for help. She could perhaps provide tips on what he needs to concentrate most. Ask her to involve him in class activities, and promise your full support. Getting the teacher involved is providing your child double the resources.

Do not be insulted if the teacher complains about your child. Take it as a cue and ask her to get involved, while assuring her that you will provide full support on the home front.

Bite sized portions

It is always easy to understand and assimilate nuggets of information. Learning or reading an entire chapter can be nerve-racking for a child. Devise a method where you break down the tasks into small doable bits, so your child gets to learn just short segments from big lessons.

The advantage here is that the child will be able to understand the lesson better. The disadvantage is that it can take forever to make a child finish one lesson. The best way to work around this is to keep at it, without a break. Maintain a calendar to fit in all subjects, in bite size pieces.

Support and encourage

This formula cannot be a success if you give up or begin fretting over the pace of your child's progress. Your job is to provide support and encouragement. There will be times when you'll want to tear your hair, in such times take a deep breath and remember you and your child are a team. And he is the weaker one in that team. It is your job to lift his spirits and improve his performance.

Stay positive, even when there seems to be little progress. Focus on encouraging and supporting instead of losing your patience and letting it show on your child. You've got to push your child gently but firmly. Don't expect results that surpass your child's abilities.

Get involved

Go through your child's textbooks, read up on the lessons and incorporate what you've read into everyday conversation. This helps because you make lessons interesting.

An easy tip to remember history dates is to teach it through the rhythm method where you tap the table or something synchronising it with what you are saying. For example - Tada/ Tada/ Tada = Second/ Battle/ of Panipat = Tada/ Tada/ Tada = fifteen/ fifty/ six. It is said in a rhythm and hence easily remembered, just the way we remember nursery rhymes, even after all these years.

Here is another example -

One two two one, Changez Khan come = 1221 Changez Khan (came to) invaded India. Follow the same rhythm pattern = Tada/ Tada/ Tada = one/ two two/ one, Tada/ Tada/ Tada = Changez/ Khan/ come. See how easy it becomes to teach and remember.

Make your own little tricks to make learning easy.

Asking questions can get you responses. After you're done with the learning make paper chits with questions on what was learned. Make a game of it - let the child pick one paper chit and answer the question. You pick up the next and give a wrong answer, and see if your child corrects you.

Parenting is challenging, but it can also be fun. If you have any questions or need some help, drop a line in the comments section, and I'll try and give you a solution.

Here are a couple of more articles on other challenges parents face -

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: K Mohan25 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

The tips mentioned by the author are really helpful for the parents to give confidence to the child on how to behave in the school. Surely after living in a pampering world of both mother and father, a child may not get the required attention and love which was expected and thus it is the mother who should inculcate habit to the child not to expect more from the teacher for love and affection. Moreover moral values like respecting the elders, treating the fellow classmate with dignity and not having tiff with the bench mate on silly matters are the other big things which must be taught to the school going children. Normally each child wants to excel over and above other child and in that process they may also indulge in physical attack to prove their muscle power. So teachers should also keep the quarreling away from each other and create conducive atmosphere to live in harmony and prosper.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao25 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

Very useful article Ms.Juana. I want to ask one point for your opinion. Does friends have anything to do with studies of a student? I feel boys will have lot of liking for their friends. They have more trust on them and they may have competition with their friends. Can a parent see that his boy will have friendship with the boys of similar caliber.

I have seen a group of 4 boys always very good in their studies. But one boy is always getting the higher marks. So I spent some time with that group. What I observed is the boy getting higher marks is grasping the subject faster than others. He is explaining the point to others and going to the next chapter. In this process I felt the other three are getting lost. Am I correct? I want your opinion.

Author: K Mohan25 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 1

Good question posed by Dr Rao. What I feel that if a student is with the peer group, surely the benefits of that group shall transfer to every one. Normally the peer group is advance in studies and they would be chalking out various ways and means to on how best to crack the answers. So grasping, keeping memory of what has been taught and comparing them with the present context are some of the qualities a performer has therefore even in a group one student would be excelling better than others and in fact he would become their leader to teach and get them all doubts cleared.

Author: Juana25 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 6

Dr Rao,

Irrespective of whether a child is a son or daughter, parents must take a keen interest in their children’s friends. I always maintained a close friendship with parents of my daughter’s friends. It was a little difficult when we lived in the civil area, but I always knew the parents of children my daughter was friends with. This helps, because as a parent I knew the kind of family/background the other children were from, and I don’t mean economic background. It was nice to know whether the other parents shared the same concerns as me.

Coming to the boys you describe. You haven’t mentioned their ages. Marks are subjective – maybe the other boys are not as good at expressing themselves in the exams as the topper. Language and presentation also matter; knowledge alone is not enough. It is also important to be able to put into words what you know.

The boys might not have good analytical skills. They might not be able to apply their knowledge – it is one thing to know the formulas, but another to know to use them correctly. They might lack retention power. The boy who is tutoring them must be doing so based on his capacity. Maybe these boys need a skilled teacher, who will begin from the basics, ensure that the boys get the fundamentals right, before proceeding further. There is a need for a good foundation especially in mathematics and the sciences – without which students always struggle.

Hope this helps.

Author: Juana29 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4


My article focuses only on academics and methods to improve skills in children that can enhance learning. The problems that you have mentioned in your initial post have nothing (absolutely nothing) to do with my article. Have you read the article? Please refrain from posting comments that have no connection with the message that is conveyed through the resource. It appears to be such a farce, especially when you begin your comments with praise of how ‘helpful’ the article is.

You have raised a completely different issue in your comment. I had resisted posting a response thinking that your post would be deleted, but since it still exists I am forced to comment on it, to let you know that your post is perhaps against the posting guidelines.

Please refer to the posting guidelines on how to submit a good response to an article.

Author: Gaurav Singh20 Aug 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

To get a child interested in studies and to encourage him to do better in exams and get better marks, offering rewards can also be of great help. The child should be provided some award like chocolate, cake or anything that interest him for completing a particular task then the child will try to complete his task quickly. This will help in developing a good reading habit over time.
I have felt this method working very well in case of students up to 8th standard. This is one of the best method to encourage children for studying and getting better grades and marks.

Author: Juana20 Aug 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 10

Gaurav, the idea is to get children motivated, and not just get them to finish particular tasks. Your idea might work, but it would not be motivation as such because the chocolate or cake would be the main goal.

To get children interested the focus has to be the task at hand. The children must be motivated to perform well academically, without bribes. The strategy must be to make ‘learning’ and ‘performance’ habits, and not something that has to be just done, through force and enticement.

I have explained the ‘when you’ rule, in which the child is allowed to do what he wants when he does his studies. It is a reward, yes, but it is not an inducement. The rule teaches children responsibility; they learn that education comes first.

Whereas giving them chocolates and whatever else they like is telling them that they need to be rewarded because they completed something they dislike, or something difficult. The child will not learn to like studying; he will always look at it as something dreadful, because of the rewards he gets. Also, such children always look for rewards in things they are supposed to do. They do not develop a sense of responsibility or the real importance of education.

As someone who has had a long association with students, I do not think of this as a brilliant idea.

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