Dealing with unmotivated teens and tweens is a challenge, especially when you don’t know how to motivate them to enjoy school or get their homework done. If you’re finding yourself locked in a power struggle and wondering how to motivate your tween, try these 9 tips to inspire and encourage your daughter to enjoy school again.
Truly Listen to their Concerns
There’s a reason why this tip is first! There are a multitude of reasons why your child might feel unmotivated about school or school work. Perhaps she is having friend troubles, problems with her teacher, or anxiety over how she’s doing in school. These are just three of many issues that can come up and make your daughter dread the school day.
Start by getting her to open up and talk about what she doesn’t like about school. Listen without judgement using active listening skills and reflect back to her what you are hearing. Ask questions and go deep — sometimes when she thinks the problem is that the school work is too hard, the problem might actually be that she is overwhelmed or doesn’t know how to ask for help.
Helping find solutions that work for your daughter starts with first truly listening to her concerns and identifying the root issue. Once you know what is going on in her heart and she feels heard and understood then you can start the process of working together to find a solution to motivating your tween.
Praise What’s Working
When your daughter is unmotivated about school it tends to reflect in the quality of her schoolwork and her grades. When this happens, try to refrain from constantly pointing it out and talking about what is wrong. If you are aware of her poor grades, then she is also aware of it, so nagging and lecturing isn’t going to help.
Make it a point each day to find something that IS working with her relationship with school or schoolwork and find a way to praise that. If you find yourself going into lecture mode, remind yourself: When was the last time you felt motivated by getting lectured?
When your daughter feels supported and knows that you see the good in her — even if the only good you could find that day was that she made it to the bus on time — she will be more likely to open up to you about her struggles. When she fears a lecture, and knows negativity will be the likely response she’s not going to seek out your advice, so make sure to see the good and point it out each day.
Focus on Progress over Failure
If your child is barely getting by with failing grades then a raise to a D or a C is a huge success! Don’t discount progress just because it’s slow or not yet where you want it to be. Make sure that your child feels supported each step of the way; celebrating even the baby steps can help increase motivation. Make sure to allow time to recognize the milestone or the improvement before you start talking about the next step or the next level of improvement to reach.
It can be very un-motivating to finally reach a school milestone and to get a pat on the back followed immediately by a challenge to do even better.
Celebrate progress and allow the achievement of each baby step of improvement to last for a while before you lay on new challenges, and your daughters confidence will grow along with her motivation.
Set Standards and Routines for Success
Having established routines in your family eliminates many conflicts. If you have a set routine for getting homework done, say in the 2 hours before bedtime, then there won’t be extra drama about homework. Having a place where she can work and get support when needed, with all the supplies on hand and easy to find, will help her be more successful.
Set your routine to match hers — perhaps her homework hour is your working hour too. Work together at the table so you are available if something comes up that she needs help with.
If you expect homework to be done before watching TV, then make sure that standard is clear and you hold her accountable. If getting poor grades means less privileges, then set that clear standard and stick to it. When your daughter knows that there is a family standard and she has agreed to it, then you can avoid a lot of power struggles. Power struggles take a lot of energy that could be better spent on something constructive.
How motivated would you be to do your homework if you there was no set or required time for getting it done? If you had to search the whole house to find the colored pencils and other supplies? Establish routines and set standards in place that help set the stage for success and do away with many of the barriers that lead to a lack of motivation to get started.
Battle Overwhelm Together
If the heart of her struggle is feeling overwhelmed by all she has to do for school, this can lead to burnout, anxiety, and a lack of motivation to do her school work. When you are in this situation the best solution is to tackle the problem together. Help her learn skills for time management so she sees how she has enough time in the day to get everything done. Teach her how to break down a big task into smaller, more manageable tasks so the upcoming test or project doesn’t overwhelm her.
As an adult these are skills that we’ve developed over our lifetime so it’s easy to take it for granted that our child might not yet know how to chunk up a task or make a calendar.
Help your daughter make a plan and help her see how she can accomplish all that she needs to each day and she will soon see that she is capable of all that her schoolwork requires.
Model a Love of Learning
If you want your daughter to feel motivated to learn and love it then you need to model what that looks like. Share interesting things you read or learned at the dinner table. Show her a YouTube video that you thought was fascinating and show her what a love of learning is. To a tween, school can look like an endless list of to-dos and homework assignments and she can lose sight of the fact that learning something new is fun!
If you want your daughter to be motivated in school, then get excited about what she’s learning, ask questions, read up on it in your own time, and model a love of learning for her to aspire to.
Save Your Relationship — Find a Tutor
When it all comes down to it nothing is more important than your relationship with your daughter. If you’ve tried listening, praising, and setting standards and she is still struggling, then it’s time to get outside help. Whether you hire a formal tutor to help her through her homework or you get your spouse or grandparents involved, sometimes the key is just to let her work it out with someone new.
While she is learning skills and talking things through with her new helper you can focus instead on strengthening your relationship with her. Making time to plan fun times together and simply being removed from the daily battle of homework can do amazing things for fortifying your relationship.