Let me start by explaining our situation. My oldest is very good at math; she also has a tendency to be lazy towards school. My middle child struggles ferociously with math; she also has a tendency to cry and shut down. My third is great at math; he tends to not care at all about school and I often find him having turned his crayons into tiny toys and making them talk. Granted, he's 5. But still.
When one of my children was struggling with a particular math skill, we taught it, reviewed it, practiced it, drilled it. We made flash cards, we practiced in the car. Yet, she still had difficulty. Finally the tears (and this is my non-crier).
So I started thinking about what motivates her and her siblings. It's different for each one of them. When I have an activity I need to complete, motivation makes all the difference. Sometimes we need an external motivator, especially when our internal motivation in nowhere to be found (folding laundry, anyone?)
When your child is working and you run into difficulty that is not attitude related, stop and think about what motivates them. (Although I will say, attitude can turn up because of frustration and discouragement. But I'm talking about difficulty that is not simply attitude related).
For my oldest, competition is the key. She doesn't even have to be competing with anyone other than herself. So, we made learning the skill a timed competition with herself. She's trying to get her best score. That was the game-changer. For another child, she is food motivated. I could put a timer on, have her complete a page of math (or whatever she's working on) and for each correct answer, she gets 1 chocolate chip. Now she's motivated to get as many right in a short amount of time as possible. My youngest is motivated by play.
So, here's a list of ideas to help motivate your children when it's getting tough. In our house, having a good attitude is a given. There's no 'prize' for a bad attitude, so this is unlike bribery. This is taking a challenging skill (learning XYZ) and motivating them to work towards it.
- Food (ex: one chocolate chip, marshmallow, grape, raisin, for each item completed in a certain time frame)
- Food (I will set the timer for X amount of time. After you've ______ diligently for X minutes, we can have a snack).
- Time together (When you are finished with X, we can play a board game, read a book, etc).
- Competition (Compete against a sibling, you, or even themselves)
- Make the learning fun (Teach a skill and then have them teach their dolls. Make a racetrack and let them drive cars on it, making a sound they are learning at each stop. Sing a song.)
- Use toys as props.
- Have them teach YOU!
There are so many things you can do to help your children love to learn. When one child was not quite understanding measurements using fractions, we made cookies. And I let her make them wrong on purpose. (FYI, 2 1/4 cups is NOT the same as 1/4 cup 2 times). But guess who is now making cookies independently (among other recipes)? My 7 year old. But the idea of being allowed to make cookies by herself, from scratch, was a huge motivator for her to correctly learn fractions.
So, when you hit a wall, start thinking about motivation. What motivates your child? Let us know! We'd love your feedback.
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