What motivates your child

How do I motivate my child for school? - Seven tips for parents

A study conducted by the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich in 2012 with more than 3,500 students shows how important it is for success in school. Scientists led by the psychologist Kou Murayama assessed motivation and learning strategies as well as the understanding of math problems and the IQ of children over six years, from fifth to tenth grade. The result: students who were motivated and really wanted to understand what they had learned got better and better at math over time, regardless of their intelligence.

Parents should therefore help their child with one thing above all: to stay motivated! But how?

1. Are you more interested in learning content than in grades!

A child should enjoy learning and be happy about their new knowledge. Then a drive of its own arises, the psychologist “Intrinsic motivation”Call. In contrast, “extrinsically motivated” children learn only to get good grades or to please the teacher. In 2014, the Portuguese researchers Marina Lemos and Lurdes Veríssimo found in a study with 200 primary school students that both forms of motivation can work at the same time. The decisive factor is their relationship: If intrinsic motivation predominates, i.e. the drive from fun and thirst for knowledge, the performance of the students in the subjects Portuguese and mathematics improved steadily from first to fourth grade in the study. The extrinsic motivation According to the researchers, it only played a role from the third grade onwards: if it got out of hand, the children's school performance deteriorated again. To encourage intrinsic motivation, parents should emphasize learning content more than grades. For example, find out what a class test was about first instead of asking what the result was.

Well done! How to properly praise children

2. Support the little ones' curiosity!

Children who can live out their crazy ideas - such as keeping an earthworm as a pet or squeezing green juice out of weeds - are naturally inquisitive and eager to learn. Because they realize how exciting it can be to discover and try out new things. No matter how unusual a child's ideas are or are guaranteed to lead to chaos, support them! Praise creative ideas, even if they don't seem meaningful and important right away. In this way, parents also help their child to get to know their own interests and limits.

3. Promote hobbies!

School is often more important to parents than soccer and co. But only through long-lasting activities do children realize that it is Endurance and stamina needs to achieve small and large successes. Whether at the piano, PC or in hockey: You can only become little professionals with sufficient training. In doing so, dry spells also have to be overcome. Those who understand this can better survive dull learning phases.

4. Explain what you are learning for.

Often it is not clear to children why the knowledge from school should be useful to them in life. Help them on their jumps, because motivation needs goals: if you learn to write, you can, for example, send your grandma a birthday card. A good command of English enables one to converse with computer gamers all over the world over the Internet. And a better math grade may pave the way for your dream course. Who one goal in mind will also want to deal with more difficult learning content.

5. Be motivated yourself!

In 2011 a team led by Idit Katz from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel showed how important the basic attitude of the parents is for the motivation of the child. The researchers questioned 135 schoolchildren and their mothers or fathers and found that parents who helped with homework out of fun and of their own accord gave their child an answer more positive feeling when learning and behaved more empathetically than those who supported their offspring out of a sense of duty. Their empathetic behavior in turn promoted the intrinsic motivation of the children.

6. Don't offer your help too quickly!

Even if the parents' motivation is important for children: Don't overdo it with the help! This was shown by a study by a team led by Alois Niggli from the Friborg University of Education in Switzerland. The researchers surveyed over 1,400 eighth grade students about their parents' commitment to homework and tested their French language skills at the beginning and end of the school year. It was found that poorer school performance resulted in more parental interference. However, as adults became more involved, the performance of their children deteriorated even further.

Parents should therefore have a child let yourself try each task firstbefore offering your support, and always stressing the steps the child has taken himself or herself afterwards. Only in this way can it learn: Every effort leads to a success that I can be proud of. Those who intervene too strongly in the learning process run the risk of children becoming dependent and less convinced of their own abilities.

7. Exercise patience!

Even the most motivated child can have a bad day. It is important to signal: Errors and regression are allowed. Learning is sometimes faster, sometimes slower. And you can also reach your destination in a roundabout way. Parents should be patient. Excessive pressure to perform is the greatest enemy of motivation, leads to excessive demands and makes you passive. Instead, emphasize what the child has already accomplished. When the goal gets closer, offer a reward, such as a trip together. Then the last stage is done in no time.


Nele Langosch is a qualified psychologist and works as a freelance journalist in Hamburg and Berlin.


This article is taken with the kind permission of Spektrum der Wissenschaft Verlagsgesellschaft mbH.

Created and last modified on September 19, 2014