5 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Raise a Motivated Learner

A young girl looking at an exhibit in a glass display case in a museum

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

One of the biggest frustrations parents often face is getting their kids motivated to learn. Whether it’s mastering multiplication, learning a new language, or sticking with the soccer team despite riding the bench most of the season, it can be difficult to get our kids to be enthusiastic about learning new skills. Especially when the going gets tough.

Our children’s reluctance to venture into unfamiliar territory is understandable. Learning new skills can be frustrating, and failure can be discouraging or, worse, embarrassing. Research has shown, however, that parents can help their children more readily embrace challenges and understand the value of persistence without relying on excessive external rewards.

Here are five strategies you can start using today to help your child become a motivated learner:

1 | Learning as an opportunity

Over three decades of research has shown that there is a direct correlation between what a child thinks of her abilities and that child’s willingness to face challenges, according to Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and a pioneer in the study of motivation in relation to achievement.

As Dweck’s extensive research with children has found, when children see their abilities as fixed and not subject to improvement, they worry that their intelligence will be questioned whenever they fail or exert too much effort to learn a skill. As a result of this “fixed mindset,” these children view challenges and mistakes as potential sources of “looking dumb,” and lose confidence and motivation when the work stops being easy.

However, children who believe that the harder they work at something, the better they’ll get at it see obstacles as opportunities to add to their skillset, not as potential blows to their self-confidence. Dweck refers to this mindset as the “growth mindset.”

Children with a growth mindset understand that effort is necessary to succeed. They display an increased motivation to persist in the face of a disappointing grade or a difficult task. As Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania concurs, this kind of stick-to-itiveness spurs children to achieve success, in and out of school.

So how can we teach our kids to have a growth mindset? Research shows that children at any level can be taught to adopt a growth mindset. Specifically, parents should emphasize the effort and strategies their child uses to achieve a desired outcome rather than focus on the child’s intelligence or talent.

This emphasis on process gives the child a sense of control, in that she sees that good results often come from increased effort and not necessarily innate ability. This sense of control boosts the child’s confidence to keep working at a problem with the understanding that, if one way of solving the problem didn’t work, then tackling the problem in a different way…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *