As a private tutor, I have encountered numerous strategies that parents have tried to use with their children to encourage them to try harder. As a teacher, I have witnessed a variety of ideas that teachers have attempted to increase motivation in their students. And in all my experience, I have found that the best way to improve your child’s habits is to start small and add responsibility to your children in small amounts to achieve a desired outcome.
Students who lack motivation or struggle in school do so because they have experienced failure multiple times and have given up because they feel that they can not master the material. The best way to improve your child’s habits are to start small and praise them on a job well done.
I was tutoring a student who had developed some very poor study habits. His teachers all assumed that he was lazy and his mother wanted his habits to change immediately, as did I. I worked with the student for long hours trying to improve his habits to a point where he would be succesful in school. The child seemed smart enough and I thought it wouldn’t be a problem getting this student to a point where he would succeed in school. I was wrong.
The student perceived his identity to be one associated with failure. Teachers and peers reaffirmed this identity daily. I tutored him for one semester and due to a lack of contact with his teachers and the child’s resistance to success, he received mostly failing grades. I was shocked, I knew that he had completed every assignment that I had done with him and, for the most part, knew the material. After questioning him, I discovered that he had been deliberately misinforming me about assignments, missed school during important testing days and was even doing work, but refusing to submit it.
His desire to keep his identity, one of lackluster effort and laziness was so strong that he was sabotaging his efforts to succeed. At that point, I knew that his progression would take time. By issuing him small tasks to complete each week that improved upon the habits that he had already developed, we began to see improvement. Every time he accomplished these minor tasks, his mother and I offered him praise for a job well done and when we felt he had control of that particular habit, we moved on to the next habit.
All he needed to succeed was to experience success and the genuine happiness in others that resulted when he did good work. His mom was happy, I was happy and he was happy. By doing small things to improve your students habits, you are allowing them to experience successes again and again. In turn, the become more confident and eager to succeed.