6 strategies to follow when your child is not interested in studying

How to get my child interested in studies? My child doesn't like to study. My child's grades are poor. My child lacks concentration. Are you worried about your child's lack of interest? Follow these simple strategies to help your child cope with his studies.

'My child is not interested in studying.' That's every parent's worst nightmare. Academics is important and more so in our country, where every parents' dream is to make their child an engineer or a doctor or an IAS officer. While our current education system is badly skewed and completely marks oriented, we cannot dismiss its importance.

Many parents have to deal with their child's lack of interest in academics. The child just doesn't show a keenness towards studying. And this poses a major problem for the parents. Every child's future depends on how well they study, though that is not always true, that's the perception every parent has. And with good reason, I would say.

Our system is such that, without a decent education, success is difficult to achieve. Getting admission to a university is based on the marks secured. Job opportunities are education based rather than skill based. The whole system is such that parents cannot allow their child to neglect their studies. Disinterest in studies would spell doom.

I have been an educationist for a major part of my life, and during the course of my job, dealing with difficult students. Sometimes it was easy to motivate a student, and at others, it was a tad more difficult because the child had either learning disabilities, behavioural problems or psychological problems.

The factors responsible for a child's disinterest in studies need to be established and understood, and only then can a course of action be taken. There is always a reason behind the child not wanting to study –
  • Unable to understand the subject
  • Unable to cope with the pace at which topics are covered in school
  • Wrong signals at home (maybe a doting grandparent interfering with the way the child's being raised)
  • Slow learning tendency
  • Depression and other psychological problems (domestic violence and fights etc.)
  • Peer pressure and bad company
  • Lack of motivation (no praise from parents)
  • Inattentive parents
  • Abuse of some kind (even sexual by someone known to the family)
  • Too much pressure and expectations to perform well

These are just some of the reasons why a child shows no interest in studies. There can be many others. So, how do you as a parent deal with the situation? What strategies should you adopt to help your child?

I have used the word 'help' and that is the role of the parent. The first thing to understand here is that you are an equal partner in your child's development and as an adult, you understand your responsibilities towards your child. The child is still immature and still under your care for all practical purposes. Therefore, it becomes your responsibility to help the child, through proper guidance. Nudge your child, gently but firmly. Be a partner who stands and watches from the sidelines, but is willing to pitch in when required.

Create an environment

Do not make comparisons, your child is not the same as someone else's kid. Their abilities and situations are different and you need to understand that. Do not have expectations of your child, but be there to mould them in ways that they can a carve a niche for themselves. And this can only be done through support and understanding. Nagging and shouting and reprimanding won't work. Don't pressurise your child as that would lead to them loathing school and shunning studies.

Create a healthy environment that is conducive to learning. Remove the distractions and create a daily routine with scheduled time for studies and other activities. You will need to create a balance so the child is not just studying but also has time for recreation and hobbies.

Love unconditionally

Poor academic performance and not showing interest in studies should not impact the bond and relationship that you share with your child. Don't withhold affection as punishment for not studying or poor grades. Withholding affection makes the child feel guilty, unwanted and scared. You are their support system and this behaviour of yours has a negative impact on the child.

Create an environment of love, understanding, encouragement and support. Your child should be aware that you are not giving up on him and that you'll stand by him as a 'friend, philosopher and guide'. A setting that exudes acceptance, warmth and confidence, encourages the child to perform better.

It's human nature to live up to expectations and please others. Appreciation and belief work as an incentive. Remember, kids are no different than adults, they seek recognition, praise and faith. Encourage your child by giving praise when it is deserving. Acknowledge every performance and accomplishment. Praise the progress the child makes. This positive reinforcement works as a catalyst and the child sets bigger goals and aims higher. This approach is more productive than a reprimand. Do not use incentives to induce the child to study. Such tactics work temporarily; for consistent results use every form of encouragement.

Do not compare

Don't draw parallels, making comparisons is the worst thing that a parent can do for their child's self-esteem. You are not fair when you compare your child to another child. The comparison is biased; you have no clue of the background and compare just what you find suitable.

A balanced act is one where you compare at all levels and then draw a conclusion, and it is not possible in this case. Your child is an individual entity with his own set of abilities as well as weaknesses and flaws. Treat him as an individual and work with him on his shortcomings, so he can overcome them.

Your goal must be to motivate your child, to help him find his inner strength, to help him develop zeal and drive. Comparisons only lead to discouragement, anger and a loss of self-worth. Motivation, on the other hand, triggers passion. Instead of preaching and intimidating your child of dire consequences, adopt a 'let's do it together' approach. A little faith in the child, a little 'you can do it', can go a long way in the child believing in himself. At times a pep talk is all that is needed.

Allow freedom and choices

You can set rules for the child, draw up a timetable, with fixed hours for study and play. Many parents do that, and it is a form of control. You are telling the child that you are the boss and that they have to do as you say. You create an imbalance, by being authoritative.

A better way to go about this plan is to include the child in his development. Let the child have a say. Set basic guidelines based on what the child needs to do – homework, self-study/revision/practice and entertainment and development of skills. Work out the time required for each activity and then let your child decide when he wants to do what.

He might want to complete homework, after play and before dinner. He might want to put in an hour of study before heading to school. He might want to practice guitar lessons before going to bed. What you are doing here is letting the child make his choices, but allow this on condition that he follows through the plan.

Also, allow the child to choose where he wants to study, in his room or at the dining table. Allow him to choose the subjects he wants to revise, and for how long. However, advise the child that with freedom comes responsibility. Allowing freedom to choose makes the child responsible. Make sure the child is ready for this responsibility, talk to him and let him know that he has taken on the task to do his work conscientiously and that you trust him.

Meanwhile, keep an eye, on the child. He is still learning how to be responsible. Be prepared to act when you see him losing sight of the goal. This approach instils values in the child, he learns to be responsible.

Lend in support

It is not going to be smooth, there will be many struggles, but be prepared to sail through all the rough times. Aim to create a stress-free environment. Studies and study time should not be something to dread – neither for you nor for your child.

The first step is to provide your child guidance and motivation. The struggles then become easier to cope with. Allowing freedom and choices doesn't lessen your responsibilities. You still need to assess what your child does – homework and revision. You need to be aware of what his struggles are – is it a math formula or history dates, and help him to grasp them. Adopt learning strategies that improve memory skills.

Understand your child's struggles and find a solution to his problems. Does he need special coaching? Will more practice exercises help? Can you or your spouse devote a few hours a week to help the child with his studies? It is teamwork, you just have to figure a way to make it work.

Don't become agitated if the child fails to grasp something. Work with him, break down big chapters into smaller portions. Gently push him towards the goal. Learning difficult spellings is easy if you make it simple and catchy. Thiruvananthapuram is a difficult spelling, right. Make it easy by breaking it up, like such, THIRU-VAN-ANT-HA-PURAM. Learning can be fun when you apply simple strategies that improve memory skills.

Participate from the side-lines

Don't sit with your child with the purpose of making him learn things by hook or by crook. You have to keep the fun element intact. Learning is more productive when it involves discoveries. Trying to shove information into your child's brain often backfires. The better way to do is to let the child discover and learn.

He made a mistake in a sum of addition. Channelize his brain to think, maybe give him a few objects and ask him to calculate how many pieces there are. Don't point out the mistake, but let him discover it on his own. Let the child discover and correct his mistakes, this also helps in brain development.

Don't hold the child's hand. Allow him to learn and grow. Step in only when you notice the child is unable to cope. Begin by explaining the error, and break it down so its easier to remember. Follow it up by giving the child a few more problems to solve. Applaud each successful attempt and show patience when the attempts fail. Go back to the drawing board and start all over again, until your child grasps the concept. The child shouldn't feel burdened and at the same time, he must know that you are there, to assist him.

Parent well

Don't worry, you'll do a good job. Just let encouragement be a key ingredient in your parenting skills. Everything else falls into place. Don't let your child's failures disappoint you. He is still learning, be there to guide him, every step of the way. Show him how things are done, but at the same time allow him to discover things. Go slow, keep pace with your child, an don't expect him to keep pace with you. It pays to be patient.


Guest Author: Tanishka Singani03 May 2020

I am a single mother of my 14 years old son. From the last two years, my son is totally involved in mobile games. I made every single effort of mine to dissuade him as it was ruining his academics. He became weaker in his main subjects and also started skipping his tuitions as well as the school also. After so many consultations with experts and his teachers also he is still not able to keep away from the mobile games. I advised and persuaded him to go with a time table for his studies (though I was already doing this before also) and I even allowed him to play for two hours. But still, I am finding difficulty in keeping pace with the conditions. He has become very stubborn also. I personally don't want to send him to a hostel. Could you please give me some suggestions to help my son come out of the present condition and do well?

Guest Author: Rashmi30 Jul 2020

My 15-year son is telling me that he can't study. He is telling me that he will not go to school. He was very good at studies till 9th standard. Even the school also had a very good opinion about him. He had no problems in school or with his friends. Suddenly he is telling that he can't study. He feels afraid and is tensed while studying. He can't even study a single page also. We consulted many psychiatrists. But the situation has not changed. Please give me some advice.

Author: Saji Ganesh06 Aug 2020 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Rashmi, it is indeed sad that your son is facing this problem but let me tell you that there are many students who have the same issue though the pattern and reasons may be different. This article does cover almost all the points that are connected to the problem and I am sure you will be able to arrive at a probable solution once you read the article properly.
This thread on how to deal with a child who says he can't study and the responses therein may also be of help to you.

Author: Umesh27 Aug 2020 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 12

This is an exhaustive and elaborate article on what to do when one's child is not interested in studies. When a baby is born in this world it is ignorant of the ways of the life that it would have to adopt while growing up and we feel that whatever we tell him or direct him to do something is what he thinks as the final matter. But the human mind is not so simple. The psychology of the child's mind is sometimes much more difficult to decipher than that of an adult and many parents are today at their wits end to understand and find ways to deal with their children in this respect.

Some children are very stubborn and they will refuse to do anything, what to say of studies. Such children are not only a challenge for the parents but for the teachers as well as for the expert psychologists. Our ancient scholars believed that children generally abide by carrot and stick policy and in earlier times, not only in the house but also in the schools, it was followed rigorously. That is now changed phenomenally in modern lives as punishing or beating the child is punishable offence even in the eyes of law. So the only course of action possible is to use other tools like motivation, inspiration, occasional awards to boost the morale and things like that. Every parent is not so judgmental and expert in doing so and many of them seek psychological help or engage external tutors for bringing the student back to studies. There are many tips and guidelines as to how to do it but from child to a child they would differ as each has his own individual characteristics and we cannot measure everyone with the same yardstick.

As a child, I always gave preference to the storybooks and children's classics over the study books and got enough banging from the parents on that. My uncle told my father that if the children are reading good storybooks then do not bang them rather encourage them to do so as they might come back to studies after acquiring that wisdom. Today when I recollect, he was quite right in his approach because the classic storybooks gave so much to us in our understanding about the world around us and we could understand the value of studies quite early in our lives.

So different formulas work in different cases but parents have to tackle it in a patient and cordial way only as the child's mind is very delicate and tender and cannot take any pressure of unkind or cruel nature.

Guest Author: Pawni Anand23 Apr 2021

My son is 4 years old. Earlier he was doing good when he was in LKG. I never had to tell him anything about his homework or practice work. He used to send me out and surprise me with his work. But now he doesn't want to study. The moment I say let's do homework, he starts crying, yelling and throwing up things. He cries so much that his voice gets affected. Also, he gets angry very fast.

In this pandemic, he hasn't been to school last year also. I spend lots of time with him. We dance, we play, we cook together. I have even left my job for him.

I tried to counsel him, praised him for every bit he did and told stories to encourage him, but all in vain. I am reading so many articles on the internet but don't find them working.

Please suggest to me how I can make him do his work with a smile on his face.

Guest Author: Urvashi07 Sep 2021

How do you get your child to spend less time on their mobile phones and more time on their schoolwork and other activities? My child is 13 years old.

Guest Author: S Rao29 Sep 2021

This advice is very easy to give. In reality, it does not work. This is India and not any western country where such remedies are done! Unfortunately, it is our education system that is flawed.

Guest Author: Kirti Grover03 Oct 2021

S Rao, hello I am a counselor and being doing counselling of kids from abroad and India both. The kids outside India are also facing problems. They say the education system is making kids pampered and not making them their actual flaws. So do not blame anyone. A child's personality is affected right from the way he/she is conceived. The surroundings, the environment where the child grows. So analyze the problem and find a solution.

Guest Author: Parishma Tandon16 Jan 2022

My daughter takes too long to complete her work and since I'm working, my time runs out and I have to let her leave the work. Eventually it piled up once and we both (me more than her) had to somehow complete the works. Now, the same way, work is piling and my dread and stress is making us both fight each other and sometimes I loose my cool and end up spanking her too. But no ways are actually solving the actual problem. I've tried timing, no timing, alarms, breaks, non- stop sitting until she completes her lessons etc, but mostly whatever work is done is eventually done with lots of follow up only. The stress is affecting our whole family and going by previous experiences I dare not let her have her way because the portion is sizable. She is taking 4-5hrs daily for 30-40min worth of work. Any suggestions?

Guest Author: Abhi20 Jul 2022

My daughter is 17 years old and is extremely weak in studies. I have never forced her to any discipline but I always tried to support in whatever she does. But she seems to be not interested in anything at all. I made routines for her with her consent, but she hardly follows it. It seems her laziness and lack of self motivation is the real problem. I am helpless. I tried many ways and have tried many counseling sessions too. Nothing seems to work. Do you have any suggestions?

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