6 ways to build motivation to do your schoolwork now that you’re forced to learn online at home

how to have motivation to do school work

Assistant Professor of University Studies, Middle Tennessee State University

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Ryan Korstange does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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how to have motivation to do school work

Even in normal circumstances, it can be hard to get motivated to do your schoolwork . But these are not normal circumstances.

The switch to remote instruction caused by COVID-19 has been unsettling. Patterns have changed. Habits have been disrupted . Remote classes are simply different from classes that involve face-to-face instruction.

As a researcher who looks at what it takes to get through college , I have a few tips that could maximize your motivation and productivity when you’re at home going to school online.

1. Guard your time

You do not need large amounts of time to be productive. Instead, be intentional and focused in short blocks where you can work without interruption. Protect these open times by setting up your workspace to minimize distraction – including silencing notifications on your cellphone or laptop. Communicate your boundaries to friends and family and make sure to identify times when work and socialization can happen.

2. Determine how much work is needed

Write down the work you need to accomplish, because there is a limit to how much information you can recall and process at one time. Examine the remaining projects, including research and written assignments, and estimate the amount and type of effort that each requires. Identify any tests and quizzes that are scheduled and determine what preparation is necessary.

3. Break large projects into smaller ones

Breaking big projects into smaller and more manageable tasks allows you to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness .

Your assigned tasks should follow a logical sequence. Some tasks are basic, like locating articles in the online library for a research paper. Others, like proofreading, are best left to do later in the process. Work steadily, and record your progress as you do, because you get more done when you can actually see the progress you’re making.

4. Set goals

When you set specific and difficult goals for your work and make them public in some way , it can boost your performance and enhance your motivation .

how to have motivation to do school work

Setting generic, vague or easy goals is less helpful. Set goals related to effort. For example, plan to spend three hours one day studying for a certain class. Also, set goals related to the completion of specific tasks or products. For instance, give yourself a deadline to read and take notes on a specific article for a certain paper you must write.

Further, make time in your plan to deal with any interruptions and challenges that may occur. For example, when my 7-year-old gets bored or needs some attention and interrupts me in my work, I plan to spend 20-30 minutes doing something with her. We take a walk or a bike ride, or create some art. Then I can return to work. I even set a timer to keep myself honest.

5. Identify the rewards

It pays to clarify the rewards at stake this semester – whether those rewards are internal, such as the feeling of accomplishment that comes from understanding a difficult concept well, or external, such as getting a good grade.

Many universities are adopting pass/fail grading systems in the short term, so the external reward course grades provide will likely be different. Learning is what matters now. Focus on the course learning outcomes and make sure that you’re meeting them, because these skills will be the ones required of you as you progress toward your degree.

6. Be flexible and go easy on yourself

This is an unprecedented crisis, and we are all scrambling to make it work. You didn’t expect to spend these months at home, learning online. Some days won’t go as planed - and that’s alright. Forgive yourself when you don’t do your best, then move forward and overcome the setbacks .

When the pandemic passes

Eventually, this pandemic will be over. Face-to-face classes will start again, and this semester will be but a memory. The good habits you build and the strategies follow now to manage to learn and work independently will bear dividends in the future.

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How to Do School When Motivation Has Gone Missing

Here’s what teenagers can do to equip themselves to move forward during this difficult and frustrating time.

how to have motivation to do school work

By Lisa Damour

The school year is still young, yet parents and students alike may have noticed that academic motivation is already low. No surprise there. Whether school is remote, in-person or hybrid, many students have come to feel that, if this year were a meal, it would be all vegetables and no dessert . Gone, or hamstrung by screens, masks and plexiglass, are the encouraging company of classmates and teachers, the camaraderie of tackling tedious work alongside friends and the school day boost of exchanging a few words with one’s crush. Still here is the steady stream of assignments, assessments and lectures.

With the bulk of the academic year yet to come, here’s what teenagers can do to equip themselves to continue to move forward during this difficult and frustrating time.

Understand the Two Basic Types of Motivation

Educational psychologists recognize two main kinds of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic . Intrinsic motivation takes over when we have a deep and genuine interest in a task or topic and derive satisfaction from the work or learning itself. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, gets us to work by putting the outcome — like a paycheck or a good grade — in mind. When what we’re doing feels fascinating, such as reading a book we can’t put down, we’re propelled by intrinsic motivation; when we pay attention in a class or meeting by promising ourselves 10 minutes of online shopping for seeing it through, we’re summoning extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the one that tends to be prized in educational circles, and with good reason. It is linked to higher levels of academic achievement and greater psychological well-being . That said, intrinsic motivation can’t always be summoned or sustained. Young people may find themselves intrinsically motivated on Mondays, but not Fridays, or at the start of an evening study session but not as the night wears on.

It’s also true that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation aren’t mutually exclusive. It happens all the time that students both take an inherent interest in their academic work and care about their grades.

Rather than privileging one form of motivation above the other, it’s better to treat them as different gears, each of which helps young people down the academic road. In my experience, the students who are most adept at tackling their schoolwork know how to work both gears, shifting back and forth between them as needed.

Stack the Deck for Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is extremely useful, giving even serious work a sense of effortlessness . But it’s not a piece of cake to conjure up, and conditions matter. It is most likely to flourish in situations where students feel autonomous, supported and competent, but often fails to take hold when they feel controlled, pressured or unsure.

In practice, this means that young people should be given as much say over their learning as possible, such as giving them options for how to solve problems, approach unfamiliar topics or practice new skills. This can also involve, whenever possible, letting tweens and teenagers decide the order in which they tackle their assignments, how they want to prepare for tests or where they feel they study most effectively, even if that means that their papers carpet their bedroom floors.

Should adults be cheerleaders for our teenagers? Opinion is split. Some researchers contend that praise helps to cultivate intrinsic motivation , while others say that it undermines it by introducing an extrinsic reward. There is, however, an area of consensus: the utility of praise depends on how it’s done. Specifically, praise fosters intrinsic motivation when it’s sincere, celebrates effort rather than talent (“you worked really hard,” vs. “you’re so smart”) and communicates encouragement, not pressure (“you’re doing really well,” vs. “you’re doing really well, as I hoped you would”).

This is such a hard year. So long as we do it right, there’s no reason for adults to be stingy with praise.

Finally, intrinsic motivation is all but impossible to muster for material that feels out of reach. Teachers and parents should keep a close eye for students who are checking out because they feel lost and work to recalibrate the material or the expectations.

Know When to Use Extrinsic Motivation

Let’s be honest: Hard-working, conscientious adults often rely on extrinsic motivators — even when they love their work. Engaging work might be its own reward much of the time, but sometimes we keep our noses to the grindstone only by holding out the incentive of a cup of coffee, some chocolate, a vanquished to-do list, or all of the above. Adults often have refined strategies for getting through our work and, as a first step, we should talk openly with teenagers about the tactics we employ when intrinsic motivation isn’t happening.

Also, teens and parents can think together about strategies to help face down a long list of assignments. Would it help to have a parent work quietly nearby in silent solidarity? Would the teenager like to study in 25-minute intervals followed by five-minute breaks to stretch, snack or check social media? Might the promise of getting to pick the weekend family movie make that last bit of work more bearable?

Adults should be ready to stand back and admire the fantastic solutions that young people land upon themselves. Some adolescents buckle down with the help of a YouTube study buddy , others hold out the carrot of a video game or run once the work is done.

I recently learned of a 10th-grader who makes time-lapse videos of herself while she does her homework. Knowing that she’s on camera keeps her focused, and having a record of her efforts (and the amusing faces she makes while concentrating) turns out to be a powerful reward. While intrinsic motivation has its upsides, there should be no shame in the external motivation game. It’s about getting the work done.

This year, even more than usual, adults are asking so much of adolescents. One way to help is by talking openly about strategies that help muster motivation. These conversations will help teenagers now, and also long after the virus is gone.

Lisa Damour is a psychologist and the author of the New York Times best sellers “Untangled” and “Under Pressure.” Dr. Damour also co-hosts the podcast “Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting.” More about Lisa Damour

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How to Get Motivated to Study

Last Updated: January 4, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jai Flicker . Jai Flicker is an Academic Tutor and the CEO and Founder of Lifeworks Learning Center, a San Francisco Bay Area-based business focused on providing tutoring, parental support, test preparation, college essay writing help, and psychoeducational evaluations to help students transform their attitude toward learning. Jai has over 20 years of experience in the education management industry. He holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. There are 25 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,593,765 times.

When you have mountains of homework and studying ahead, getting started can seem like an impossible task. We’ll teach you how to get into the right frame of mind before you start studying and shake yourself out of a motivation slump. Read on to learn how to stop procrastinating on studying, focus even when you're tired, and get motivated to do your schoolwork!

Start with your easiest task to get the ball rolling.

Make things less stressful by starting with just a small task.

  • If you write a quick list of your tasks, it’ll lower the effort of making decisions, and you’ll find it easier to shift from one task to the next.

Try the Pomodoro Technique.

Beat procrastination with this tried-and-true timer technique.

  • With the Pomodoro Technique, each 25-minute block is called a Pomodoro, and you can set another 5-minute timer for a quick break in between Pomodoros.
  • If 25 minutes seems too short, feel free to keep working past the timer; the point is to get you started.

Break down your work into smaller pieces.

Pick a few tasks you can accomplish in just one sitting.

  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a huge amount of homework and seemingly endless assignments. But rather than worrying, “How will I ever finish this assignment?” ask yourself, “How much of this assignment can I accomplish in 2 hours?”
  • Instead of trying to read a whole book, set a goal you can accomplish in one sitting. For instance, read 1 chapter or 50 pages at a time. [6] X Trustworthy Source Harvard Business Review Online and print journal covering topics related to business management practices Go to source
  • When prepping for a test, review your lecture notes from just the first week of the semester today, then focus your notes from the second week tomorrow.

Tidy up your workspace.

Set yourself up for success by laying out your study materials.

  • Consider making your study space warm and inviting so you look forward to spending time there. Decorate the walls with photos of you and your friends, place a cheerful house plant on your desk, and choose a comfy chair to sit in.

Reward yourself when you complete a task.

Treat yourself to help you stay motivated and make studying fun.

  • Have a snack, but shy away from snacking on too many sugary treats early on. Nobody likes a sugar crash! Save sweet treats until the last leg of your study marathon to give you a boost.
  • If you decide to reward yourself with a quick break from studying, remember that you will eventually have to get back to work. Set a time limit for your break and don't listen to the voice in your head pleading for "just a few more minutes."

Take a break to move around.

Go for a walk or stretch to boost your brainpower and energy levels.

  • These activities will give you a burst of energy and will improve your mood. Plus they’ll help get your brain into a receptive state, which will make your studying more effective. [11] X Research source
  • A little movement can help you build momentum that’ll lead you into a productive study session.

Look up podcasts or videos to shake up your studying.

Try a fresh approach to your studies if you’re sick of reading and writing.

  • Set time limits to help yourself stay on track, and reward yourself by exploring interesting tangents after you’ve met your study goals.

Crank up your favorite study tunes.

Listen to a playlist to make studying more enjoyable.

  • The right music will help relax your mind and sharpen your focus. [13] X Research source
  • Try modern takes on classical piano or solo guitar or tune into your favorite movie soundtrack.
  • Speed things up with an electro-swing playlist or chill out with a mix of lo-fi beats.
  • Search your favorite music app for playlists designed to help you focus on your work, like “Songs for Studying” or “Study Beats.” You can also try "body-doubling" (working alongside someone else who is also working & letting their presence calm you) with the Lo-Fi Girl YouTube stream.

Freshen up and put on some comfortable clothing.

Changing your clothes can help you feel less groggy.

  • Make sure your study outfits don’t feel too much like your sleepwear or you might start to doze off.

Work with your friends or a tutor.

Positive peer pressure can be a great motivator!

  • Look for a tutor at your school or consult a private tutoring agency.
  • In a study group, each person could volunteer to tackle a different sub-topic, then you could all share your study materials with each other. [15] X Research source
  • Reserve a study room, bring snacks, or gamify your studying to make the work more enjoyable.
  • Start working well ahead of time in case your peers fail to meet the group goals and to make sure you have time to brush up on certain subjects independently.

Create visual aids for a fun, efficient study tool.

Make diagrams and pictures to help you connect and remember ideas.

  • Rather than skimming vocab words from a PDF or textbook, rewriting the words and definitions in your own handwriting with a fun-colored pen might help you retain the information better.

Use classic study tricks to memorize facts.

Try making up...

Focus on your long-term goals.

Motivate yourself by making a personal connection to your work.

  • If you’re hoping to attend college or earn a scholarship, think about how each small study session will get you 1 step closer to your dreams.
  • Use your long-term goals as motivation to keep pushing yourself.

Set up your computer.

Plug in your computer and close all unnecessary tabs before you get started.

  • If you’re easily distracted but need to use a computer as a reading or research tool, consider printing out the material to help you stay on task. [21] X Research source
  • If you need to use the computer solely as a word processor or PDF viewer, disconnect it from Wi-Fi or station yourself in a no-Wi-Fi zone so you’re not tempted to go online.
  • When computer use isn’t necessary for your studies, turn yours off and stow it away.

Silence or shut off your cell phone.

Take away the distraction of social media and texts from friends.

  • Keep your phone out of sight so you won't be tempted to keep taking a sneak peek.

Stay hydrated and keep a snack on hand.

The right fuel helps your brain function properly.

  • Avoid studying right after a big meal; you’ll just feel drowsy and will want to relax.
  • Don’t put off a meal as a reward, as your aching stomach will be distracting. Make sure you have a snack on hand to fend off your hunger.
  • Avoid sugary vending machine snacks, fast food, and pastries; these foods will give you a short energy rush that quickly turns into sleepiness.

Figure out your ideal study environment and methods.

Ask yourself which study habits help you learn and do well.

  • Think back to past study sessions that went especially well, and others that didn’t go well at all, to assess which factors help and hinder your progress.
  • If you’re able to develop a personalized study system, studying will be a lot less stressful for you.

Design a study guide that works for you.

Develop a personalized...

  • If the textbook’s section heading reads, “Anthropomorphic Themes in Fairy Tales,” your study question could be, “Can I describe the use of anthropomorphic themes in fairy tales?”
  • Look online for study guide templates and examples as a starting point.

Try freewriting or journaling to identify why you procrastinate.

Ask yourself, “What’s stopping me from getting started?”

  • If it helps to vent to a friend, just make sure they’re willing to listen and you’re not going to distract them from their own studies.

Be kind to yourself about your procrastination habits.

Beating yourself up won’t help you get started!

  • Avoid comparing yourself to other classmates who seem to be doing well. Everyone learns and works differently, so focus on your own needs and capabilities!
  • Using positive self-talk helps create a growth mindset that can help you overcome difficulties.

Give yourself time limits.

Put each to-do item its own slot in your schedule so you stay on track.

  • Telling yourself, "I'll have to study sometime this week" will encourage procrastination, but “I’m going to study from 6 PM to 9 PM on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday” will help you stick to your plan. [33] X Research source
  • Try sticking to a regular schedule, but feel free to break your usual routine if you need to shake things up. For instance, get a good night’s sleep and set your alarm for 7:00 AM to study on Sunday morning. It might be easier to get up and get started right away since you’ve planned it in advance.
  • The more specific and intentional you can be about scheduling out your study tasks, the more success you’ll have with your studies and time management .

Study Schedule Template

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  • If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or professor. Visit during their office hours or ask if you can set up a time to speak with them about the subject. Make sure you ask questions in-class, too. If you ask questions, it will show that you’re motivated and want to do well in their class. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1
  • Be sure to get a good night's sleep to help you retain the information you’ve studied. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1
  • Make an effort to take good notes during class and keep them in an organized notebook or binder. Use these to help you with homework, projects, and upcoming exams. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

how to have motivation to do school work

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  • ↑ https://graduate.rice.edu/news/six-strategies-staying-motivated-during-covid-19-pandemic
  • ↑ Jai Flicker. Academic Tutor. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901
  • ↑ https://www.educationcorner.com/habits-of-successful-students.html
  • ↑ https://help.open.ac.uk/study-goals
  • ↑ ​​ https://hbr.org/2020/08/your-to-do-list-is-in-fact-too-long
  • ↑ https://www.edology.com/blog/study-and-careers-advice/effective-study-space/
  • ↑ https://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/news-and-events/news/why-it-s-important-to-reward-yourself/
  • ↑ https://health.cornell.edu/about/news/study-breaks-stress-busters
  • ↑ https://healthybrains.org/pillar-physical/
  • ↑ https://www.oxford-royale.com/articles/tips-studying-motivation.html
  • ↑ https://www.vaughn.edu/blog/best-study-music-and-benefits/
  • ↑ https://www.imc.edu.au/news-archive/8-benefits-of-studying-with-friends
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5256450/
  • ↑ https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02522/full
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/studentsuccess/chapter/memory-techniques/
  • ↑ https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rewired-the-psychology-technology/201204/attention-alert-study-distraction-reveals-some
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648953/
  • ↑ https://share.upmc.com/2019/08/healthy-snacks-to-power-studying/
  • ↑ https://www.educationcorner.com/study-location.html
  • ↑ https://www.herzing.edu/blog/how-create-successful-study-guide
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/procrastination/
  • ↑ https://www.stetson.edu/administration/academic-success/media/STUDY%20SCHEDULE.pdf
  • ↑ http://faculty.bucks.edu/specpop/time-manage.htm

About This Article

Jai Flicker

If you’re having trouble getting motivated to study, find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, and turn your phone on silent or place it out of sight so you won’t be tempted to look at it. Set concrete goals for each study session, like learning how to solve a specific math problem or reading and comprehending a complete chapter in your textbook. Reward yourself with a snack or a break when you meet your goal. For tips on making a study schedule, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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11 Tips to Stay Motivated with Schoolwork

Posted July 25th, 2018 By Kris Powers

Exhausted student at laptop

We all experience moments of feeling utterly unmotivated. For students, especially those juggling family, work and school obligations, staying motivated to complete schoolwork can be one of the toughest challenges when faced with so many demands for your attention. But don’t get discouraged! Here are a few simple ways to keep motivated, even on your toughest days.

Pick your most productive time

According to  New Republic , studies have found that the two hours right after you wake up are the most productive. If possible, set aside this morning time to tackle your schoolwork. If you are more of a night owl; plan on completing an hour or so of work every night; either right when you get home or when the kids go to bed.

Set up each study session for success

When you start your study time, don’t log into email or social media sites. If you are serious about your studying, then be serious about the time that you are dedicating to it. Create blocks of time where you turn everything off. This includes shutting down your smartphone, Internet, and anything else that can interrupt you. Closely guard this time to completing school work and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done! For me, the temptation to check email and Facebook is too great for me to resist. Better to just keep them turned off/logged out of until my work is done.

Take small bites out of your workload 

On days when motivation is lagging; set a small goal for yourself to study for 15 minutes. Complete one assignment. Take a practice test. We recently wrote about the Pomodoro Technique . Give it a try - we can all do anything for 15-minutes! Every small goal you successfully complete will keep you motivated to do more and more.

Set goals with milestones

When you sit down to draw up your weekly to-do list, be sure to ask yourself: "What one task should I complete to make me feel like this week was a success?" These milestones act as important markers on our way to reaching our goals. If your goal is to write a term paper by such-and-such a date; set the milestones for outline, first draft and so on along the way. You will feel a sense of accomplishment upon completing each milestone, and motivated to reach the next milestone on your plan to reaching that goal!

Don’t allow negative self-talk

When things get tough, it’s easy to say, “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this”. This inner voice can seriously get in the way of our motivation . Taking breaks, practicing meditation, and getting fresh air can help to quiet that inner voice. 

Change your location

Sometimes a change in location is just what we need to stay motivated! Pick up your materials and go elsewhere. A local coffee shop, library or the park can all be great places to reignite our enthusiasm for studying.

Practice gratitude

We’ve written before about the benefits of living a more grateful life . What are you grateful for? Making a list of things you are grateful for can have an amazing effect on your state-of-mind and your motivation to succeed.

Find your inspiration

Pictures, poems, quotes – these can all provide a much needed pick-me-up when our motivation is lagging. What inspires you? Perhaps it’s a card from a friend congratulating you on taking this step, or a drawing from your child. Inspiration can be found in many things. Find what works for you and keep it close by!

Create a vision board

Creating a vision board is a great way to keep motivated. What are your goals and your dreams? Use the inspiration pieces from the step above and find more to represent your hopes for the future. This focal point can serve as a source of inspiration every day!

Celebrate your accomplishments

Take a moment at the end of every week and look at all that you’ve completed. Even if there are more things left to do (and there usually will be), take this time to acknowledge and celebrate what has been done. The sense of accomplishment and pride that you feel can help you stay motivated for the weeks to come.

Practice self-care

Eat right, get enough sleep, do some form of physical activity every day. Taking care of your body and spirit will make you feel more energized to face your day!

Being a student is hard at any age. There will be days when you feel that this is impossible, and you aren’t sure that you can keep plugging along. Before you give up, think about the consequences. How would quitting make you feel? How would it affect your dreams for the future? Conversely, what will life be like when you achieve your goals? How will furthering your education benefit your future and your family?

Once you start to think about the effects, we hope you’ll remember why you started this process and envision the pride that you’ll feel once you reach your goal. Igniting the passion behind the process will motivate you to get back to work!

Ed4Career  makes it easy to pursue your personal learning and career training goals. We have valuable resources built into our programs and curriculum to help ensure student success. We also have skilled Educational Consultants on staff, and we offer an Online Student Center as well as Career Coaching. Visit us today to learn more about the  Ed4Career  difference!

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How to Motivate Students: 12 Classroom Tips & Examples

How to motivate students

Inspire. Instill drive. Incite excitement. Stimulate curiosity.

These are all common goals for many educators. However, what can you do if your students lack motivation? How do you light that fire and keep it from burning out?

This article will explain and provide examples of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in the classroom. Further, we will provide actionable methods to use right now in your classroom to motivate the difficult to motivate. Let’s get started!

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your students create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

This Article Contains:

The science of motivation explained, how to motivate students in the classroom, 9 ways teachers can motivate students, encouraging students to ask questions: 3 tips, motivating students in online classes, helpful resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message.

Goal-directed activities are started and sustained by motivation. “Motivational processes are personal/internal influences that lead to outcomes such as choice, effort, persistence, achievement, and environmental regulation” (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is internal to a person.

For example, you may be motivated to achieve satisfactory grades in a foreign language course because you genuinely want to become fluent in the language. Students like this are motivated by their interest, enjoyment, or satisfaction from learning the material.

Not surprisingly, intrinsic motivation is congruous with higher performance and predicts student performance and higher achievement (Ryan & Deci, 2020).

Extrinsic motivation is derived from a more external source and involves a contingent reward (Benabou & Tirole, 2003).

For example, a student may be motivated to achieve satisfactory grades in a foreign language course because they receive a tangible reward or compliments for good grades. Their motivation is fueled by earning external rewards or avoiding punishments. Rewards may even include approval from others, such as parents or teachers.

Self-determination theory addresses the why of behavior and asserts that there are various motivation types that lie on a continuum, including external motivation, internal motivation, and amotivation (Sheehan et al., 2018).

Motivating students

  • Relatedness

Student autonomy is the ownership they take of their learning or initiative.

Generate students’ autonomy by involving them in decision-making. Try blended learning, which combines whole class lessons with independent learning. Teach accountability by holding students accountable and modeling and thinking aloud your own accountability.

In addressing competence, students must feel that they can succeed and grow. Assisting students in developing their self-esteem is critical. Help students see their strengths and refer to their strengths often. Promote a kid’s growth mindset .

Relatedness refers to the students’ sense of belonging and connection. Build this by establishing relationships. Facilitate peer connections by using team-building exercises and encouraging collaborative learning. Develop your own relationship with each student. Explore student interests to develop common ground.

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Motivating students while teaching a subject and providing classroom management is definitely a juggling act. Try introducing a few of the suggestions below and see what happens.


First and foremost, it is critical to develop relationships with your students. When students begin formal schooling, they need to develop quality relationships, as interpersonal relationships in the school setting influence children’s development and positively impact student outcomes, which includes their motivation to learn, behavior, and cognitive skills (McFarland et al., 2016).

Try administering interest inventories at the beginning of the school year. Make a point to get to know each student and demonstrate your interest by asking them about their weekend, sports game, or other activities they may participate in.

Physical learning environment

Modify the physical learning environment. Who says students need to sit in single-file rows all facing the front of the room or even as desks for that matter?

Flexible seating is something you may want to try. Students who are comfortable in a learning space are better engaged, which leads to more meaningful, impactful learning experiences (Cole et al., 2021). You may try to implement pillows, couches, stools, rocking chairs, rolling chairs, bouncing chairs, or even no chairs at all.

Include parents

Involve parents and solicit their aid to help encourage students. Parents are a key factor in students’ motivation (Tóth-Király et al., 2022).

It is important to develop your relationship with these crucial allies. Try making positive phone calls home prior to the negative phone calls to help build an effective relationship. Involve parents by sending home a weekly newsletter or by inviting them into your classroom for special events. Inform them that you are a team and have the same goals for their child.

The relevance of the material is critical for instilling motivation. Demonstrating why the material is useful or tying the material directly to students’ lives is necessary for obtaining student interest.

It would come as no surprise that if a foreign language learner is not using relevant material, it will take longer for that student to acquire the language and achieve their goals (Shatz, 2014). If students do not understand the importance or real-world application for what they are learning, they may not be motivated to learn.

Student-centered learning

Student-centered learning approaches have been proven to be more effective than teacher-centered teaching approaches (Peled et al., 2022).

A student-centered approach engages students in the learning process, whereas a teacher-centered approach involves the teacher delivering the majority of the information. This type of teaching requires students to construct meaning from new information and prior experience.

Give students autonomy and ownership of what they learn. Try enlisting students as the directors of their own learning and assign project-based learning activities.

Find additional ways to integrate technology. Talk less and encourage the students to talk more. Involving students in decision-making and providing them opportunities to lead are conducive to a student-centered learning environment.

Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is definitely a strategy to implement in the classroom. There are both cognitive and motivational benefits to collaborative learning (Järvelä et al., 2010), and social learning theory is a critical lens with which to examine motivation in the classroom.

You may try assigning group or partner work where students work together on a common task. This is also known as cooperative learning. You may want to offer opportunities for both partner and small group work. Allowing students to choose their partners or groups and assigning partners or groups should also be considered.

Alternative answering

Have you ever had a difficult time getting students to answer your questions? Who says students need to answer verbally? Try using alternative answering methods, such as individual whiteboards, personal response systems such as “clickers,” or student response games such as Kahoot!

Quizlet is also an effective method for obtaining students’ answers (Setiawan & Wiedarti, 2020). Using these tools allows every student to participate, even the timid students, and allows the teacher to perform a class-wide formative assessment on all students.

New teaching methods

Vary your teaching methods. If you have become bored with the lessons you are delivering, it’s likely that students have also become bored.

Try new teaching activities, such as inviting a guest speaker to your classroom or by implementing debates and role-play into your lessons. Teacher and student enjoyment in the classroom are positively linked, and teachers’ displayed enthusiasm affects teacher and student enjoyment (Frenzel et al., 2009).

Perhaps check out our article on teacher burnout to reignite your spark in the classroom. If you are not enjoying yourself, your students aren’t likely to either.

Asking questions

Aside from encouraging students to answer teacher questions, prompting students to ask their own questions can also be a challenge.

When students ask questions, they demonstrate they are thinking about their learning and are engaged. Further, they are actively filling the gaps in their knowledge. Doğan and Yücel-Toy (2020, p. 2237) posit:

“The process of asking questions helps students understand the new topic, realize others’ ideas, evaluate their own progress, monitor learning processes, and increase their motivation and interest on the topic by arousing curiosity.”

Student-created questions are critical to an effective learning environment. Below are a few tips to help motivate students to ask questions.

Instill confidence and a safe environment

Students need to feel safe in their classrooms. A teacher can foster this environment by setting clear expectations of respect between students. Involve students in creating a classroom contract or norms.

Refer to your classroom’s posted contract or norms periodically to review student expectations. Address any deviation from these agreements and praise students often. Acknowledge all students’ responses, no matter how wild or off-topic they may be.

Graphic organizers

Provide students with graphic organizers such as a KWL chart. The KWL chart helps students organize what they already Know , what they Want to learn, and what they Learned .

Tools such as these will allow students to process their thinking and grant them time to generate constructive questions. Referring to this chart will allow more timid students to share their questions.

Although intrinsic motivation is preferred (Ryan & Deci, 2020), incentives should also be used when appropriate. Token systems, where students can exchange points for items, are an effective method for improving learning and positively affecting student behavior (Homer et al., 2018).

Tangible and intangible incentives may be used to motivate students if they have not developed intrinsic motivation. Intangible items may include lunch with the teacher, a coupon to only complete half of an assignment, or a show-and-tell session. Of course, a good old-fashioned treasure box may help as well.

If students are unwilling to ask questions in front of the class, try implementing a large poster paper where students are encouraged to use sticky notes to write down their questions. Teachers may refer to the questions and answer them at a separate time. This practice is called a “parking lot.” Also, consider allowing students to share questions in small groups or with partners.

Student motivation: how to motivate students to learn

Just as in the face-to-face setting, relationships are crucial for online student motivation as well. Build relationships by getting to know your students’ interests. Determining student interests will also be key in the virtual environment.

Try incorporating a show-and-tell opportunity where students can display and talk about objects from around their home that are important to them. Peer-to-peer relationships should also be encouraged, and accomplishing this feat in an online class can be difficult. Here is a resource you can use to help plan team-building activities to bring your students together.

Game-based response systems such as Kahoot! may increase motivation. These tools use gamification to encourage motivation and engagement.

Incentives may also be used in the computer-based setting. Many schools have opted to use Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Rewards . This curriculum nurtures a positive school culture and aims to improve student behavior. Points are earned by students meeting expectations and can be exchanged for items in an online store.

To further develop strong relationships with students and parents, remark on the relevancy of the materials and instill a student-centered learning approach that addresses autonomy. You may also wish to include alternative means of answering questions, vary your teaching methods, and implement collaborative learning.

We have many useful articles and worksheets you can use with your students. To get an excellent start on the foundations of motivation, we recommend our article What Is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains .

If you’re curious about intrinsic motivation, you may be interested in What Is Intrinsic Motivation? 10 Examples and Factors Explained . And if you wish to learn more about extrinsic motivation, What Is Extrinsic Motivation? 9 Everyday Examples and Activities may be of interest to you.

Perhaps using kids’ reward coupons such as these may help increase motivation. Teachers could modify the coupons to fit their classroom or share these exact coupons with parents at parent–teacher conferences to reinforce children’s efforts at school .

For some students, coloring is an enjoyable and creative outlet. Try using a coloring sheet such as this Decorating Cookies worksheet for when students complete their work or as a reward for good behavior.

These 17 Motivation and Goal Achievement Exercises were designed for professionals to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques. You can consider these exercises to better understand your own motivation or tweak some activities for younger learners.

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

C. S. Lewis

While we know how challenging it is to motivate students while teaching our specific subjects and attending to classroom management, we also understand the importance of motivation.

You will have some students enter your classroom with unequivocally developed intrinsic motivation, and you will have students enter your classroom with absolutely no motivation.

Teachers have to be able to teach everyone who walks into their classroom and incite motivation in those who have no motivation at all. Motivating the difficult to motivate is challenging; however, it can be done.

As Plutarch asserted, it is better to think of education as “a fire to be kindled” as opposed to “a vessel to be filled.” In addressing the needs of students with little to no motivation, it will take more time, patience, and understanding; however, implementing a few of these strategies will put you on the fast track to lighting that fire.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free .

  • Benabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2003). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Review of Economic Studies , 70 (3), 489–495
  • Cole, K., Schroeder, K., Bataineh, M., & Al-Bataineh, A. (2021). Flexible seating impact on classroom environment. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology-TOJET , 20 (2), 62–74.
  • Doğan, F., & Yücel-Toy, B. (2020). Development of an attitude scale towards asking questions for elementary education students. Ilkogretim Online, 19 (4), 2237–2248.
  • Frenzel, A. C., Goetz, T., Lüdtke, O., Pekrun, R., & Sutton, R. E. (2009). Emotional transmission in the classroom: Exploring the relationship between teacher and student enjoyment. Journal of Educational Psychology , 101 (3), 705–716.
  • Homer, R., Hew, K. F., & Tan, C. Y. (2018). Comparing digital badges-and-points with classroom token systems: Effects on elementary school ESL students’ classroom behavior and English learning. Journal of Educational Technology & Society , 21 (1), 137–151.
  • Järvelä, S., Volet, S., & Järvenoja, H. (2010). Research on motivation in collaborative learning: Moving beyond the cognitive–situative divide and combining individual and social processes. Educational Psychologist , 45 (1), 15–27.
  • Kippers, W. B., Wolterinck, C. H., Schildkamp, K., Poortman, C. L., & Visscher, A. J. (2018). Teachers’ views on the use of assessment for learning and data-based decision making in classroom practice. Teaching and Teacher Education , 75 , 199–213.
  • McFarland, L., Murray, E., & Phillipson, S. (2016). Student–teacher relationships and student self-concept: Relations with teacher and student gender. Australian Journal of Education , 60 (1), 5–25.
  • Peled, Y., Blau, I., & Grinberg, R. (2022). Crosschecking teachers’ perspectives on learning in a one-to-one environment with their actual classroom behavior: A longitudinal study. Education and Information Technologies , 1–24.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology , 61 , 101860.
  • Schunk, D. H., & DiBenedetto, M. K. (2020). Motivation and social cognitive theory. Contemporary Educational Psychology , 60 , 101832.
  • Setiawan, M. R., & Wiedarti, P. (2020). The effectiveness of Quizlet application towards students’ motivation in learning vocabulary. Studies in English Language and Education , 7 (1), 83–95.
  • Shatz, I. (2014). Parameters for assessing the effectiveness of language learning strategies. Journal of Language and Cultural Education , 2 (3), 96–103.
  • Sheehan, R. B., Herring, M. P., & Campbell, M. J. (2018). Associations between motivation and mental health in sport: A test of the hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Frontiers in Psychology , 9 , 707.
  • Tóth-Király, I., Morin, A. J., Litalien, D., Valuch, M., Bőthe, B., Orosz, G., & Rigó, A. (2022). Self-determined profiles of academic motivation. Motivation and Emotion , 1–19.

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Motivating Teens to Do School Work

Motivation is busted by disinterest, boredom, and expectation of failure..

Posted September 21, 2022 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

  • What Is Motivation?
  • Find counselling near me
  • Teenagers often struggle with motivation when trying to achieve their goals.
  • Parents can help their teens sustain effort by making learning personally relevant, meaningful, and enjoyable.
  • When teens can recognize they're making progress and connect effort with success, they are more likely to persevere.

 Photo courtesy of Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed.

“What can I do to get my teenagers to put in the effort needed for success in school?

How can teens build their skills, persevere through setbacks, become independent learners, and learn from mistakes? These are the most frequent questions posed to me by parents when I present at conferences or schools.

Build your teen’s sustained motivation.

Sustaining your teen’s motivation , effort, and perseverance through setbacks is especially challenging during the teen years. Motivation can be busted by disinterest, boredom , an expectation of failure, or suffering frequent setbacks.

Teen brains are actively building the neural networks ( executive functions ) needed to sustain effort. During their high school years, you can influence these developing brain networks to expand their self-motivating capabilities.

From neuroscience research, we’ve learned that the brain expends greater effort when anticipating positive learning experiences or potential success. Strategies for these include helping teenagers recognize how subject topics are personally relevant and guiding them to appreciate the progress they make while working towards their goals. When teens are connected through personal relevance, recognizing their strengths, and seeing evidence of their ongoing progress, their ability to sustain motivation and work for success expands.

Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Why should they care?

Sustained effort can build when your teens find the learning personally relevant and interest-related, know they will do something interesting with that learning, and believe that their effort can result in success.

Relevance is a powerful tool to ignite and sustain both engagement and effort. If your teens know from the start that part of their learning of a topic will include doing something (in class or with you/friends) that interests them, relevance and motivation increase. As a unit progresses, sustain teens’ motivation by having them write about the usefulness of the material to their lives, future careers, or the careers of professionals they admire. Notably, increased understanding and long-term memory retention of the information arise as a side benefit of their applying learning to interests.

  • Math: studying conversions between the metric and standard measurements system. A relevant opportunity occurs by inviting them to select a recipe from a cookbook from England using metric measurements. Have them choose a desirable one they can make at home. To follow the recipe, they will want to know how to make the “translations” between metric to imperial to use your standard kitchen measurement devices.
  • History: Promote description or discussion of how the school topic relates to their interests, family life, community, or current events.
  • Reading/literature: Invite your teens to select goals for the unit or assignment that they consider possible and valuable. These will be used as they keep progress records that show them they are achieving challenges. Examples of goals to note and record: number of pages read a week, progression to the next level of the multiplication tables, fewer spelling or grammar errors on essays.

They need to know they are making progress.

When learners recognize they are progressing toward a goal, a pleasurable achievement response is experienced. This positive experience activates the brain’s desire to acquire further skills to evoke that positive pleasure response. Awareness of making progress is a powerful cue that activates the brain’s perseverance even after setbacks, failures, and extraordinary challenges.

russellhemmings used with permission

Frequent recognition of their progress en route to their goals will help them sustain their effort. This progress awareness builds their abilities to recognize that their effort is correlated to their progress—their perseverance and motivated effort are boosted.

Employ systems for helping teens recognize positive goal progress.

Remind them of their previous goal progress—such as learning to ride a bike, use the keyboard, play an instrument, or build skills in a sport. Have them recall that even before they reached their goal, they were aware they were making progress and that sustained their effort despite setbacks or mistakes. Invite (and explain) how they could use those successes to boost motivation and positive expectations for new challenges as they achieve their goals.

Ask your teens how they will recognize progress on the personal goals they defined for the unit or assignment. Guide them to evaluate if their goals are reasonable and manageable and how they will assess their progress.

For example:

  • If the goal is to read a 200-page book in a month, they can write down, on a calendar or chart, which ten pages they will read on each of 20 days during the month. They will recognize progress by marking off each segment of reading as they complete it.
  • If the goal is memorizing 30 geometry theorems (or names of rivers, mountain ranges, causes of war, or formulas for math or physics), they can create a bar graph, like a thermometer. In this visual model, they then break down the task into segments. In the example of 30 items to memorize, they can have segments of five. They fill in sections of the bar every time they add five successful memorizations on the way to 30. As they reach each progressive mark (and color in the achieved segments), they give their brains the positive pleasure reward response to their evidence of progress.
  • Encourage them to write sub-goals they will need to achieve on the way and to periodically assess and modify their plans or actions accordingly.
  • Converse with them about how they can obtain help when blocked: e.g., using resources like classmates, a teacher, or a librarian.
  • Self-corrected practice tests are opportunities for teens to judge their level of understanding and revise or reinforce their knowledge as needed.
  • Effort-to-progress graphs: A variety of effort-to-progress graphs can be downloaded from the Internet. When these are filled in by your teens, and they record evidence of their incremental goal progress, they see the impact of their effort on their progress.

how to have motivation to do school work

The opportunities you provide to guide teens to build their motivation, effort, and perseverance can help build their capacity as independent learners. Enhancing their interest, curiosity, positive expectations, and awareness of goal-achieving progress will help sustain their motivated effort during the school years and future ongoing opportunities awaiting them.

Unlock Teen Brainpower : 20 Keys to Boosting Attention, Memory, and Efficiency. Judy Willis, M.D. November 2019. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing: Lanham, MD. 2019

Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed.

Judy Willis , M.D., is a board-certified neurologist and middle school teacher, specializing in classroom strategies derived from brain research.

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How to help your child get motivated in school.

Strategies you can use to help kids work up to their potential

Writer: Danielle Cohen

Clinical Experts: Laura Phillips, PsyD, ABPdN , Ken Schuster, PsyD , Kristin Carothers, PhD

What You'll Learn

  • Why do some kids have trouble getting motivated in school?
  • How can parents help their children try harder in school?

It’s common for kids to lack motivation in school. Sometimes, this happens because the child has ADHD, anxiety, social challenges, or a learning disability. But other times, kids without a diagnosable problem still have trouble living up to their potential in school. Here are a few ways that parents can encourage kids to put in more effort at school.

Start by showing kids that you care about their schoolwork. Check in with them about how classes are going. Let them know that you’re there if they need homework help. Ask what they’re learning and what they like (and don’t like) about the assignments. With older kids, be sure to give them space, too. If they sense that you’re pressuring them, they might end up feeling resentful and less motivated.

Using positive reinforcement helps. You don’t need to give kids big rewards, but even small ones like a high five or a few extra minutes of screen time can make a difference. It’s also important to praise effort, not results. For example, praise your child for finishing a tough assignment or taking a class that might be hard. Nobody gets top grades all the time, so make sure your child knows you don’t expect perfection.

You can also bring in reinforcements if schoolwork is becoming a source of conflict for you and your child. You could hire an older student at your child’s school or a nearby college to help monitor homework and ease stress on the family. Talking to your child’s teacher can also give you insight into their behavior and help you work as a team to encourage them.

Finally, be sure to keep tabs on your own feelings. If you’re getting very frustrated or angry about your child’s school performance, a therapist or support group can help.

If you have a child who is struggling in school and doesn’t seem to be motivated to make an effort, the first thing you want to do is explore whether there is some obstacle getting in his way. Learning issues , social challenges, attention or emotional problems can all cause kids to disengage academically.

But not all kids who are underperforming in school—clearly not living up to their potential—have a diagnosable problem . And there are a number of things parents can do to help motivate kids to try harder.

Get involved

As a parent, your presence in the academic life of your child is crucial to their commitment to work. Do homework with them, and let them know that you’re available to answer questions. Get in the habit of asking them about what they learned in school, and generally engage them academically. By demonstrating your interest in your child’s school life, you’re showing them school can be exciting and interesting. This is especially effective with young kids who tend to be excited about whatever you’re excited about. Teenagers can bristle if they feel you are asking too many questions, so make sure you are sharing the details of your day, too. A conversation is always better than an interrogation.

Likewise, it’s important to stay involved but give older kids a little more space. If you’re on top of your kid all the time about homework, they may develop resistance and be less motivated to work—not to mention the strain it will put on your relationship.

Use reinforcement

Many parents are nervous about rewarding kids for good work , and it’s true that tangible rewards can turn into a slippery slope. But there are ways to use extrinsic motivation that will eventually be internalized by your kid. “Kids respond really well to social reinforcers like praises, hugs, high fives, and those kinds of things,” says Laura Phillips , PsyD, a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “Then they start to achieve because it feels good for them.”

Ken Schuster , PsyD, a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, encourages parents to use rewarding activities that would have probably occurred either way but placing them after a set amount of time doing homework. He suggests treats that are easy to provide but that your child will enjoy, such as going for ice cream or sharing a candy bar. He also recommends breaking work up into chunks and using small breaks as rewards for getting through each chunk.

Reward effort rather than outcome

The message you want to send is that your respect hard work. Praising kids for following through when things get difficult, for making a sustained effort, and for trying things they’re not sure they can do successfully can all help teach them the pleasure of pushing themselves. Praise for good grades that come easily can make kids feel they shouldn’t have to exert themselves.

Help them see the big picture

For older kids who have developed an understanding of delayed gratification, sometimes simple reminders of their long-term goals can help push them. It can help many high school seniors who slack off after getting into college to remind them that they could lose their acceptance if their grades drop too much, or they might not be prepared for college courses. “Linking school up with their long-term goals can make the work feel more personally fulfilling,” explains Dr. Phillips.

Let them make mistakes

No one can get A’s on every test or perfect score on every assignment. While kids need encouragement, and it’s healthy to push them to try their best, know that setbacks are natural . Sometimes the only way kids learn how to properly prepare for school is by finding out what happens when they’re unprepared.

Get outside help

One way to take a little tension away from your relationship with your child is to find an older student (either at their school or a nearby college) to help them out with work. Most will charge pretty low rates, and the fact that they’re closer to your kid’s age may make it more likely they’ll listen to what they say.

“Homework was a source of conflict for us,” says Elizabeth, whose son Alex has ADHD . Elizabeth hired a few Barnard students to help Alex do his homework on certain nights, she recalls. “He behaved a lot better with them, and it was money well spent for me because I wasn’t fighting, and I wasn’t stressed out.”

Make the teacher your ally

Another one of the most important things you can do for your child is to work with their teacher. The teacher might have additional insight about how to motivate your child or what they might be struggling with. Likewise, you can share any strategies or information that you have.

When her son was in lower school and only had one teacher, Elizabeth would call his teacher before the first day, introducing herself and alerting the teacher that her son had ADHD and that he found it hard to focus. She would give the teacher little tips that she had found were useful with Alex: Writing multi-step directions on the board, tapping him on the shoulder while walking past to make sure he was paying attention and other small tweaks that would be useful to any young child but are especially essential to one with ADHD.

“Make sure that both school and home are of one accord,” stresses Kristin Carothers, PhD, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Carothers often sets up a system she calls the daily report card. With this system, the child gets points from their teacher for things like completing work and following directions the first time they get them. Then they bring those points home, where their parents give them small rewards, such as extra time on the iPad or playing a game together.

Get support for yourself

It can be just as frustrating to watch your child withdraw from school as it can be difficult for the kid themself to focus. Elizabeth says that she often feels judged as a parent for having a son who struggles so much in school.

Some schools have support groups for parents of kids who are less motivated, and if your child’s school doesn’t, Elizabeth encourages setting one up. “It’s very comforting to hear that you’re not alone,” she says. “It’s also helpful to hear people who have gone ahead of you talk about how to navigate the school’s system, find a therapist, and talk to teachers.”

“If you’re feeling yourself getting really angry or frustrated with your kids, take a step back,” Dr. Carothers recommends. “Put things into context.”

It’s also important to keep your goals in perspective: Your child may not become a star student. Make sure to focus on the effort they put in and the commitment they show instead of the outcome. If you expect perfect achievement from a child who struggles in school, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

“I’m not trying to get my child to be someone he’s not,” Elizabeth says about her efforts to help her son. “I just want him to reach his potential.”

Frequently Asked Questions

You can motivate your child to do homework by letting them know you’re available to answer any questions they might have and that you see how hard they’re working. You can also reward them with small treats, like going out for ice cream, after they finish a certain amount of homework.

To motivate a child to do well in school, use positive reinforcement such as hugs and high fives, reward their effort rather than specific outcomes, and help them make the connection between current effort and achieving long-term goals such as getting into college.

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How to Keep Working When You’re Just Not Feeling It

  • Ayelet Fishbach

how to have motivation to do school work

Motivating yourself is one of the main things that sets high achievers apart, and it’s hard. How do you keep pushing onward when your heart isn’t in it? In her research, Fishbach has identified some simple tactics: Set goals that are intrinsically rewarding, and make them very specific. If a task isn’t satisfying, focus on aspects of it that are or combine it with pleasant activities. Reward yourself in the right way for getting things done. To avoid slumps, break objectives into subgoals; look at how much you’ve accomplished until you’re halfway there; and then count down what you have left to do. And use social influence: Let high performers inspire you, boost your get-up-and-go by giving advice, and keep the people you want to succeed for front of mind.

Four strategies for motivating yourself.

Motivating yourself is hard. In fact, I often compare it to one of the exploits of the fictional German hero Baron Munchausen: Trying to sustain your drive through a task, a project, or even a career can sometimes feel like pulling yourself out of a swamp by your own hair. We seem to have a natural aversion to persistent effort that no amount of caffeine or inspirational posters can fix.

  • AF Ayelet Fishbach is the Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

how to have motivation to do school work

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What Motivates You to Teach—and Inspires You When You Need a Boost

Explore more.

  • Managing Yourself
  • Perspectives

E ducators have spent the last two years trudging through the muck and overcoming the various challenges thrown their way. Now many are soon to take a well-deserved break—which will end much too quickly, as they always do. So let’s relish this moment and reflect: What keeps you in this job, anyway?

To start that conversation, we recently asked you to share what motivates you to come back to the classroom each term—no matter the challenges—and what strategies you use to give yourself a burst of inspiration when needed. Here’s what you had to say.

Q. What motivates and inspires you to keep teaching, no matter the challenges?

Exequiel (Zeke) Hernandez

Exequiel Hernandez, Max and Bernice Garchik Family Presidential Associate Professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania: More than anything else, it’s the students. I think of the love and responsibility I have toward them. They’re putting an enormous amount of trust in me, hoping that they’ll learn something useful for their professional and personal development. They’re also paying a lot of money for each minute of class. If I can make it about them and not me, it’s really motivating.

 Lilian Ajayi-Ore

Lilian Ajayi-Ore, adjunct professor, New York University School of Professional Studies: I am inspired by my passion for teaching and my intrinsic commitment to supporting students in the classroom and in navigating their careers post-program.

“More than anything else, it’s the students.” Exequiel Hernandez

how to have motivation to do school work

Pedro Monagas Asensio, STEM education professor and research professor, Polytechnic University of Catalonia: Being a reference and a guide to my students—while avoiding being a theoretician without practical resources—is what motivates me. I always try to ensure my syllabus has content and practical meaning to stimulate my students. I also try to set an example for my students, both as a person and as a professional, and connect with them as much as possible. After graduation, many of my students working in the industry consult me and inform me of their professional advances.

I am also motivated by having the ability to make educational visits to industrial companies and to invite professionals to my classroom to give my students a master class.

Susan Lee

Susan Lee, lecturer at the Centre for English Language Communication, National University of Singapore: Meeting new students, testing iterations of teaching approaches, and refreshing and customizing content that reflects dynamic changes in reality are all immensely rewarding experiences of teaching term after term. It always excites me to motivate students to learn and apply skills in their world immediately.

It’s a priority for me that students recognize the relevance and usefulness of classroom learning in authentic settings. This includes integrating examples that are current and of interest to my students. Often, these are drawn from research and reflections of related trends and news. Last year, as the demand for office space fell during the pandemic, I created a proposal-writing task that required real estate students to suggest ways to re-configure office spaces for lease. Discussing real-world challenges and relevance motivates students to communicate their ideas more persuasively.

Nellie El Enany

Nellie El Enany, assistant professor, School of Business, The American University in Cairo: I get excited about learning new things—whether it be through podcasts, documentaries, or the news—and always want to share what I learn with my students. I want to not only teach my students and pass on invaluable information, but also inspire them, particularly when it relates to how they can be activists—social or corporate—and changemakers in society.

Before the start of term, I always think about classes that were fantastic. I wonder if they will be the same and hope that they will be even better, and perhaps that desire to make each term more exciting and innovative than previous ones is what drives me to start all over again with a new dose of passion.

Q. What strategies do you use to give yourself an extra boost of inspiration when you need it?

Hernandez: I find a quiet place a few minutes before class where I can ponder and pray to focus my thoughts and emotions. I express gratitude for the opportunity to be with my students for a few minutes that day. I visualize the students, imagine what they might need, and anticipate what the most positive interaction with them might look like.

I also plan exactly what will happen during the first moment of that day’s class—if I can get that right, the rest flows more easily. If it’s a particularly hard day to get motivated, I remember past successes: students from prior semesters who expressed gratitude, conversations in which we learned deeply from one another, and stuff like that. It’s all about getting into a student-focused mindset instead of a professor-focused mindset.

“I became more active in participating in academic events and programming—working with my departments on critical initiatives and offering myself as a resource.” Lilian Ajayi-Ore

Ajayi-Ore: Teaching through the pandemic wasn’t easy emotionally for me, and I know it was the same for my fellow educators. For an extra boost of inspiration, I became more active in participating in academic events and programming—working with my departments on critical initiatives and offering myself as a resource.

The other thing I did was increase my coping mechanism knowledge by being proactive in reading interviews and articles about how other faculty cope with various academic situations.

Asensio: Some of the projects my students work on in class become real products for the market. The satisfaction of knowing that my students go out to the labor market giving work and not asking for it, and that they leave my teachings generating and licensing industrial properties such as patents and trademarks, makes me proud.

Lee: I take breaks and get inspired by trekking (long hikes), reading resources on professional sharing platforms like The Marginalian , news sources, and thoughtful sharing from individuals like Susan Cain , Simon Sinek , and Adam Grant .

I am often refreshed and recharged with a mini routine change or engagement in novel challenges. Learning something new is my energy booster. A quick way to do this is to try a new recipe or navigate a different hike. During vacation, I do workshops like pottery. These activities give me the headspace to distance myself from the day-to-day thinking patterns, which are geared toward completing work-related tasks. My own struggle to learn also develops empathy for challenged learners.

“I am often refreshed and recharged with a mini routine change or engagement in novel challenges. Learning something new is my energy booster.” Susan Lee

Enany: I’ve been lucky at my university to be able to teach so many different courses and integrate new and up-to-date research and topics into existing ones. Many of my students, past and present, know that I am passionate about community work with stray dogs in Cairo, the natural environment, teaching children in my community, and visiting orphanages. This always keeps me energetic and humble, and I love getting my students involved in any community work I do.

I am really proud of so many of my students for being social activists and coming along to events and activities around a whole range of community initiatives. Seeing them do this always keeps me inspired.

Staying grateful and happy, as cliche as it sounds, is something I always try to focus on. I’m grateful for being able to be back physically in the classroom post–COVID-19, for being able to learn from my students, and for being connected to so many fantastic educators around the world.

You’re Not in This Alone

Although we weren’t surprised to hear that your passion for ideas and your deep respect for your students are the main reasons many of you stay motivated to teach each term, we were touched by the depth of your responses. If anything, they remind us that we are all in this together, even if we have different ways of managing stress and rejuvenating our energy.

For those of you striving to reignite that spark, try reaching out to colleagues or friends who can share their own stories and motivation tactics. You may just find another tool to help keep you going.

Join the conversation by letting us know how you stay motivated to teach.

Exequiel (Zeke) Hernandez is the Max and Bernice Garchik Family Presidential Associate Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He studies how global networks created by human migration and corporate partnerships affect the innovation, internationalization, and performance of organizations. He has won three Emerging Scholar awards and was selected by Poets & Quants as one of the Best 40 Under 40 business professors in the world. He also provides training to executives from leading companies globally.

Lilian Ajayi-Ore is a faculty member at Columbia University and New York University School of Professional Studies. She teaches digital marketing, interactive marketing, and data analytics. She is also a digital marketing strategist and big data analytics executive with over 16 years of industry expertise helping brands and organizations identify key market trends and implement marketing strategies.

how to have motivation to do school work

Pedro Monagas Asensio is a STEM education professor and research professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Spain, CRESCA Food Safety and Control Research Center.

Susan Lee is a lecturer at the Centre for English Language Communication, National University of Singapore. She designs and facilitates workshops on English as a medium of instruction, professional communication, job interviews, networking, and internship preparation. Besides communication-related subjects, Lee is currently teaching a Critique and Expression module she developed on film adaptation.

Nellie El Enany   is an assistant professor in the School of Business at The American University in Cairo. El Enany teaches human resource management, entrepreneurship and innovation, international business, and entrepreneurial leadership for solving critical global issues. El Enany’s research interests center on issues of identity, including identity construction, stigma, legitimacy, and identity work.

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how to have motivation to do school work

Daniel Wong

How to Motivate Your Teenager to Do Better in School: 10 Tips Guaranteed to Work

Updated on March 2, 2023 By Daniel Wong 31 Comments

Motivate your children to do well in school

Do you have trouble motivating your children to study?

It’s a common problem that I see in my coaching work with pre-teens and teens .

I notice that many parents approach this problem in the wrong way.

In this article, I’m going to explain 10 principles for motivating children to do well in school.


16 Keys to Motivating Your Teenager

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How NOT to motivate your teenager to do better in school

The first five items on the list below might be things you’ve done in the past, but there’s no reason to get down on yourself about them.

They’re simply common parenting habits that are born from good intentions, but ultimately are not effective motivational tools.

You can start today to become a better listener, less controlling, and more accepting. Let’s take a look at what to avoid going forward.

1. Don’t annoy your children

One of the keys to motivating your children to work hard is not to annoy them.

This may seem odd at first, as we’re used to parents getting annoyed with children, not vice versa.

Mother and son

If your children are continually upset with you over things you say or do, they will find it hard to listen to you.

You may have some great wisdom to offer them, but your children won’t be receptive to your advice.

Parents often engage in power struggles with their children. For some of us, these are habits we learned from our own childhoods.

But power struggles with your children consume a lot of energy. And that’s energy that could be spent on something more constructive.

Another habit to avoid is making comments that suggest your child isn’t good enough.

This may be something you’re not aware that you do.

It may be very subtle. For example, take the statement: “You’re improving, but I know you can do better.”

On the surface, it sounds like encouragement. But you’re actually telling your child that he or she isn’t good enough.

Or take a statement that begins: “When I was your age…” These kinds of statements usually involve a comparison that leaves your children feeling bad. So avoid making these types of comments.

Another trap that parents fall into is comparing their children with someone else’s. Parents often hope that these comparisons will inspire their children to do better.

Unfortunately, these comments have the opposite effect.

“I hear that John got A’s in all his subjects the last term” may seem like an innocent remark. But it’s a comparison that leaves your child feeling worse about himself or herself.

This is not the way to motivate your children.

Sometimes, parents try to motivate their children by giving them lectures. But lectures tend to make children feel powerless and resentful.

Instead of lecturing your children, discuss the issue with them and ask them what they think. This is much more effective than lecturing them.

Because it gets them involved, and makes them part of the solution.

2. Don’t use rewards, punishments, or threats

win prizes sign

Research has shown this approach doesn’t work in the long term.

There are three reasons in particular that rewards and punishments are to be avoided.

Firstly, rewards and punishments are bad for your relationship with your children.

They teach your children that they’re loved for what they do and not for who they are. Children who grow up unsure that they’re loved for who they are tend to make poor life choices later on.

Secondly, rewards and punishments may get short-term results, but they ignore the underlying issue: Why is your child not motivated?

It’s much better to address the root cause than to use a band-aid approach of rewards and punishments.

Thirdly, rewards and punishments put your children’s focus entirely on outcomes. Your children’s level of motivation is based on the promise of the reward or the threat of the punishment.

Rewards, punishments and threats don’t teach your children how to develop intrinsic motivation. They don’t cultivate in your children a love of learning.

As mentioned earlier in this article, it’s better to focus on the process and not the outcome. This way, your children will develop self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.

So what should you do instead of using rewards and punishments?

Discuss with your children the joy (and benefits) of learning and studying.

Explain to them that most rewarding careers require an investment of time and effort.

But it’s also important to explain to your children that the process itself is rewarding, even though it will involve sacrifices.

Discuss with your children what their hopes and aspirations are.

Help them to dream big and dare to fail – and model for them how you’re doing the same in your own life.

This approach produces the kind of intrinsic motivation and self-discipline that will last a lifetime.

3. Don’t try to control all of their actions

mother and puppet toy

Being motivated comes from knowing that you can shape your future through the actions you take today.

But if children feel as if their parents are in complete (or almost complete) control, they will have little motivation.

Some parents hover over their children. They micromanage every last detail of their children’s lives.

The result is that the children never develop a sense that they’re responsible for their education and their lives.

By empowering your children, they’ll develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility.

Talk to your children regularly about expectations and consequences.

As a parent, I’m sure you have expectations of your children. For example, you may expect them to keep their room tidy – and there may be consequences for not doing that.

Learning to be responsible in one area (keeping their room tidy) encourages them to be responsible in other areas of life, such as studying.

With this approach, you still need to be involved in your children’s lives. The difference is that instead of hovering and micromanaging, you create boundaries around your involvement.

For example, you can make it clear to your children that you’re available to answer homework-related questions every weeknight between 8 pm and 9 pm.

This way, your children will develop the ability to motivate themselves. They’ll know that they alone are responsible for making sure their homework gets done.

In contrast, consider children whose parents nag them every day to do their homework. Those children won’t develop the ability to motivate themselves.

4. Don’t obsess over the results; emphasise the process instead

The writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

This principle applies to study skills and tips as much as it does to life in general.

When motivating your children to do well in school, focus on the process and not the results.

If your children are too focused on results, there’s a danger that when they don’t achieve the results they want, they’ll give up.

What’s more, when we focus only on results, the process becomes a “necessary evil”.

The process becomes something we go through grudgingly because we want a certain result.

But this approach doesn’t encourage a love of learning.

teenage guitarist

And that’s why it’s important to focus on the process, not the results.

Cultivate in your children a love of learning for its own sake, not just as a means to achieve a goal. At the end of the day, achieving goals is a by-product of the systems and processes that we follow.

For example, as a concert pianist, you may have a goal to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major without making a single mistake.

The system or process that makes it possible to reach that goal is how often you practise, how you break down and learn difficult cadenzas, and how you incorporate feedback from your music teacher.

When teaching children how to study and how to motivate themselves, it’s vital that you focus on the process and not the outcome.

5. Don’t reduce your child to a problem that needs to be solved

Pre-teens and teens are going through a lot of changes , both physically and mentally.

It’s also a time when they may start displaying problematic behaviours, such as aggression, mood swings, being argumentative , and defying established rules.

As a parent, it’s natural for these kinds of behaviours to become the centre of your attention – they’re problems that you want to solve.

But it’s actually better not to focus on these behaviours.

Instead, try to understand your children’s perspective:

  • How do they feel about the situation?
  • What opinions do they have?

To understand your children better, you’ll need to practise active listening.

Active listening occurs when we give our full attention to what someone is saying.

This means that you aren’t multitasking while your children are talking to you. It means that you aren’t checking your phone or writing a list of things to do.

getting scolded by parents

You can show your children that you’re giving them your full attention by saying things like “go on” and “tell me more”.

Now and again, summarise your understanding of what your children have been saying.

For example, you could say: “It sounds as if there’s a ‘cool’ group of kids in your class, and that you’re feeling excluded by them.”

This indicates to your child that you’re actively listening. It’s also a way of checking that you understand what he or she is saying.

Some parents think that if only they could make their children understand some fundamental principle, the whole problem would disappear.

But often what pre-teens and teens need most is not to understand ; they need to feel understood .

When they don’t feel understood, they become defiant .

On the other hand, when they feel understood, it creates a space where they feel safe. And that, in turn, creates an environment where they’re open to looking at the problem in a new light.

How to motivate your teenager to do better in school

Now it’s time to focus on positive behaviour that helps your child feel understood, supported, and encouraged.

Use these strategies to strengthen your connection with your child and teach him or her crucial organisational and planning skills. These healthy habits will help your child in school and beyond.

6. Develop routines and structure


Having established routines in family life eliminates a majority of conflicts.

Take homework, for example.

Let’s say you have an established routine that your children do their homework every weeknight between 7 pm and 9 pm.

There won’t be conflicts related to homework, because it’s simply “the way we do things in this family”.

But in a family without routines, ensuring that your children do their homework becomes a daily battle.

Of course, even established routines sometimes need to be reinforced or modified.

For example, now and again you may need to say something like: “When you’ve completed your homework, you can go to Melissa’s house.”

To create a homework routine, it’s a good idea to set up a small part of the house as a study area.

Having a study area that’s free of distractions will help your children develop a homework routine.

It may also help your children if you also devote that period of time to doing your own “homework”. This could be paying bills online, taking an online course, or reading a book to learn about a new topic.

7. Equip your children with planning and organisational skills

As parents, we (hopefully) have planning and organisational skills that we’ve developed over the years.

But we often take these skills for granted, and forget that our children don’t yet have those skills.

Pre-teens and teens can feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed because of the demands they face at school. In response, many of them give up and turn to videos and games as a form of escape.

Some pre-teens and teens might even say they hate school .

But if they have planning and organisational skills, their attitude toward school and academics will be different.

One organisational skill you can teach your children is to break down big tasks into smaller tasks.

Some people call this “chunking down”. This technique makes any task more manageable and doable.

Another skill you can teach your children is list-making. Lists are at the heart of all organisational skills, so this is a great place to start.

You could teach your children how to use a list to pack their bag for a school camp or a school outing.

Planning is another organisational skill that will reduce your children’s stress related to school and exams .

Planning involves placing lists of tasks to be completed within a certain timeframe. This way, your children will learn to complete tasks one by one instead of leaving them until it’s so late that they feel overwhelmed.

For example, if your children have exams coming up, you could teach them how to:

  • Break down their revision material into a series of tasks
  • Use a calendar to plan how they’re going to complete those tasks within a set timeframe

8. Create a family culture where it’s OK to make mistakes

Mistakes are OK

Thomas Edison made an extraordinary number of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the electric light bulb.

When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison replied: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Unfortunately, we live in an age that places enormous emphasis on instant success.

Failure isn’t tolerated. Parents correct their children’s homework to improve their grades . They argue with teachers who try to point out areas where their children need to improve.

Yet making mistakes is an essential part of learning.

We must learn from our mistakes and correct them, much like a ship that frequently adjusts its course to stay on the correct bearing.

If you want to motivate your children to study hard and do well in school, one of the best things you can do is create a family culture where it’s OK to make mistakes.

One way to do this is to share with your children your own mistakes and what you learned from them.

For example, maybe you went to university to study one field and ended up switching to a different field when you started work. By sharing that experience with your children, you’re showing them that they don’t have to get it “right” the first time.

If you want to teach your children to love learning, one thing you should avoid at all costs is focusing too much on their failures.

Instead of criticising them for their failures, help them to identify what they’ve learned from their mistakes.

A study by Stanford University has shown that children who are praised for their effort work harder and give up less easily.

On the other hand, children who are afraid of failure are more likely to become discouraged when they make mistakes. Instead of learning from their mistakes and moving on, they’re likely to give up altogether.

9. Show an interest in all aspects of your children’s lives

Parent and teen

If your only concern is how your children are doing in school, they may begin to feel as if they’re being treated as a project instead of as a person.

This can lead to them feeling resentful. And resentment will result in resistance to anything related to studying.

Treat your child as a whole person, not as a project or problem.

Listen to your children when they talk about their interests. Encourage them to get involved in non-school activities, like dance or drama or athletics.

How pre-teens and teens spend their time is crucial to their overall development.

An approach that focuses entirely on studying won’t help your children to develop in a balanced way.

Learning a musical instrument, playing a team sport, and taking an online course on entrepreneurship are all activities that will help your children to develop holistically.

These non-academic activities will give your children a much-needed break from their studies, and will help them to do better as they pursue their long-term academic goals .

10. Help your children to find a mentor

According to research by North Carolina State University , children who have mentors are more likely to become successful.

A mentor is an adult who acts as a role model for your children.

One of the benefits of your children having a mentor is that they will understand a perspective on life from someone who isn’t their parent.

The mentor’s values and attitudes may be similar to yours. It’s much easier to teach values to your children when they’re also modelled by someone outside the family.

One reason for this is that children inevitably become accustomed to their parents’ viewpoints and begin to tune their parents out.


A mentor can be particularly helpful when there’s an ongoing conflict between parents and children.

In this kind of situation, your children can benefit from having a neutral third party they can turn to. The mentor may help your children to see the issues from a new perspective.

So where can you find a mentor for your children?

A mentor could be:

  • A sports coach, art teacher or music teacher
  • A neighbour or family friend
  • One of your co-workers
  • Someone who runs a coaching/mentoring programme (I’m not ashamed to say that I fall into this category of people, because it’s extremely rewarding work)

These ten principles will help you to build in your child a deeper motivation to work hard.

Some of these principles, like establishing routines and structure, may take a while to implement. But other tips and principles you can put into practice right away.

For example, you can start practising active listening today.

I’m confident you’ll start seeing positive results.

(Here’s a link where you can explore more tips on how to motivate a teenager .)

Wishing you all the best on this challenging but meaningful journey!

Like this article? Please share it with your friends.

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May 14, 2019 at 7:49 am

Very good article indeed.

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May 14, 2019 at 8:04 am

I’m glad you like it!

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May 15, 2019 at 11:13 am

Great article! I think you are doing a wonderful job with the kids and their parents. Keep up the good work!

May 15, 2019 at 11:14 am

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May 15, 2019 at 1:16 pm

I needed this. Great article!

May 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Hope it helps!

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May 18, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Hi Daniel, your article comes at the right time and reminded me to look at the process and not result when my girl did not do well in her studies. Thanks

May 18, 2019 at 1:23 pm

You’re welcome, Joanne.

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May 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Great articles. Had shared it with my daughter-in-law as she is having problems with her son.

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June 29, 2019 at 10:39 am

Hi Daniel,the article is really good.wish I had read this article when my child was in her teens.

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October 6, 2019 at 6:58 pm

My daughter age 7 yrs has lack of interest in studying and in school..she is far behind from other her classmates..I am worried about her development ..

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October 25, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for sharing this good article.

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November 8, 2019 at 3:28 pm

What if we do all these things to a T and the child still doesn’t want to study or doesn’t seem to care about grades at all?

November 9, 2019 at 8:27 am

Then I would recommend that you check out this guide that I’ve written ( https://www.daniel-wong.com/resolving-conflicts-guide/ ), because I’m confident that it will help.

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November 26, 2019 at 12:01 am

Thanks. Very useful tips.

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December 4, 2019 at 1:42 am

I really needed advice!

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January 22, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Amazing article. Loved it

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January 22, 2020 at 7:55 pm

Parents can motivate their children to perform better academically with these tips.

To add, parents should always remind their children of the fruit of hardwork. This will push them to aim higher.

Daniel, thank you for sharing this great piece

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February 26, 2020 at 7:53 am

Thank you so much I’ve recently started work as a guidance counsellor in a college . and have quickly realised that counselling tools alone don’t cut it . I am looking at ways to adjust my work and came across your article . I am very appreciative that you have shared your tools and insights . and can add them in my own toolbelt . Thank you for helping me to help others . Blessings

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June 18, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Powerful elements. Thank you very much.

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July 30, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Parents can really use these tips to motivate their child. Great principles, thanks for sharing!

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August 6, 2020 at 11:36 pm

Great artical very helpful for parents.thanks

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August 9, 2020 at 6:32 pm

Thanks Daniel im going to use this in my orientation to the parents in our school… I will acknowledge you in my talk… God bless!

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August 21, 2020 at 6:57 am

Good i can see things change

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October 24, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Having raised 2 valedictorians both having graduated with over 600 students, these suggestions are a little weak. Better suggestions include:

1. As soon as they are old enough to understand, encourage your kids to assume ownership of their education as the result is information power & increased future opportunities. 2. Instruct the kids to expect social pressure from classmates to not excel thereby making classmates to look less capable i.e. don’t slow down. 3. The objective is subject mastery; not grades. Mastery facilitates future learning. 4. If you don’t understand something, keep asking for help from different sources until you understand the subject. 5. Ignore teachers who deemphasize rote memorization. That is terrible advice. 6. Learn to teach yourself as that will be your situation sooner or later. 7. Instruct the kids, if people think you are smart, don’t disagree because they will never understand the work you did to master a subject. Keep your mouth shut & don’t announce you test grades or class rank. 8. Ignore people who tell you a subject if difficult to master.

T. Edison once said genius is 1% inspiration & 99% perspiration. Hard work is often mistaken for being smart.

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November 25, 2020 at 7:42 pm

So, everything I have done has been wrong.

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January 16, 2021 at 4:22 pm

Great article, very helpful for parents. I read it at the correct time. Thank you.

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June 25, 2021 at 6:16 pm

Great article I hope to apply some of the theories. I am already applying some on the article. There are more for me to learn and apply.

Many thanks

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April 24, 2022 at 11:15 pm

Hellow Daniel Is this article similar to your 16-keys book?

April 25, 2022 at 9:52 am

Hi Nasima, there is some overlap but the details and content are significantly different.

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March 17, 2023 at 4:05 pm

Delightfully nice, realistic and practical. Tnx…

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How to Motivate Kids to Do Well in School

Last Updated: May 6, 2021

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. This article has been viewed 105,246 times.

Motivated children are more likely to do well in school, and they are more likely to have a positive attitude towards learning. Often times, the missing ingredient to get a child motivated to do well is something as a simple as adapting assignments to the child’s preferred learning style. Other factors, such as setting appropriate expectations and demonstrating the importance of school to your child through your own behaviors, can help make your child motivated to do their best in school.

Setting Appropriate Expectations

Step 1 Talk to your child.

  • For example, you might ask, “What’s your favorite subject in school? What makes it your favorite?” or “What’s your least favorite subject in school? Is it because you’re not interested in the subject or you think it’s too hard?”
  • Don’t dismiss your child’s interests if they don’t line up with your own. For example, if your child loves literature and you rarely read, don’t tell your child that literature is useless. Instead, find a way to support your child’s interest—for example, you might offer to take them to library on Saturdays.

Step 2 Adjust your expectations.

  • For example, if you child excels in math and loves the subject, tell them that you expect them to get straight As in math. On the other hand, if they have trouble with social studies—memorizing state capitals, for example—tell them you expect them to put in thirty minutes of work on the subject every night. Tell them that as long as they put in the work, you’re not concerned about the final grade.
  • If you’re afraid your child simply isn’t trying hard enough in a particular subject, and that’s why they’re doing poorly, making them work in that area every night will quickly decide the issue. If they just needed to work harder, you’ll see their grades rise. If they really have little aptitude for the subject, at least they’ll be learning to put effort into difficult things.

Step 3 Help your child to set goals.

  • Write them down. Children, like, adults, are more likely to put the effort into completing a goal if its written down. Post the list on the refrigerator or on their bedroom door so it’s conspicuous.
  • Make them specific. Instead of a general goal like “improve reading comprehension,” make the goal specific. For example, “Raise English grade from B- to B+.”

Step 4 Break tasks down into manageable chunks.

  • Set out specific daily activities that can help your child achieve their homework goals.
  • For example, you might write, “Spend fifteen minutes studying assigned reading material every day. Spend another five minutes discussing the material with the teacher or a parent.”

Demonstrating the Importance of School

Step 1 Project a positive attitude about school.

  • In the morning, try to be upbeat about the coming school day even if you’re not a morning person. This will help teach your child that school isn’t something to dread. For example, you might start each morning by asking your child what they’re looking forward to most during the day.
  • Instead of talking to your child about how they “have” to go to school, talk about school as an opportunity for your child to learn interesting things and see their friends every day.
  • You could also try to arrange a day for your child to meet someone in their goal profession. If your child really wants to be a police officer, for example, see if your local precinct is hosting any community outreach events. If they are, take your child and give them the opportunity to talk to a cop. Let them learn first hand about what kind of skills and education they will need.

Step 3 Have a positive relationship with your child’s teacher.

  • Attend parent-teacher conferences whenever they are held. This is the time your teacher sets aside to talk with you directly about your child’s performance and how they might improve.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher before or after school. If you drop your child off in the morning or pick them up in the afternoon, ask their teacher if they can set aside five minutes to speak with you about any issues your child may be having. Ask in advance if you can so that the teacher can be prepared and give you the best feedback possible.

Step 4 Set aside space for homework.

  • Make the space comfortable and inviting, but free of distractions. For example, tape your child’s goal sheet over the desk and include a few plants to liven up the area.
  • If possible, place the study area away from the living room and your child’s bedroom. This will cut down on distractions like TV, computers, and conversation.
  • If your child has trouble staying focused, a separate space for homework will ensure that they stay on task. You can even set a rule that your child can’t leave the homework area (except to use the bathroom) until they’ve completed their homework.

Step 5 Relate learning to the real world.

  • Start by asking your child what they want to be when they grow up. If they have an idea, talk about what is required to get there. For example, if they want to be a doctor, talk about the importance of science and math.
  • Keep up with your child’s curriculum and look for areas where you can provide real-world perspective. For example, if your child is learning about medieval history, find a museum that has displays of armor or other artifacts from that time period.

Encouraging Your Child

Step 1 Acknowledge your child’s efforts.

  • If your child does well on a test, comment on their hard work. For example, you might say, “Your hard work really paid off on this test.”

Step 2 Use descriptive words to encourage your child.

  • Words of praise such as “this is really good” teach your child to rely on someone else's assessment. On the other hand, descriptive words such as, “This paper really demonstrates your knowledge of the material,” is just an observation and has no evaluative judgment. Thus, it will teach your child to form her own positive self-assessment. [8] X Research source

Step 3 Encourage your child even if they don’t do well.

  • For example, if you child does poorly on a math test despite studying hard, tell them that the two of you will work on a different study method for the next test.
  • Never put down your child’s efforts. If you criticize your child after they put in effort, they’ll feel like there’s no point in trying.

Step 4 Be kind yet firm.

  • Tell your child that if they don’t do their homework you will start taking away privileges such as TV and videogames.
  • Avoid judgmental words. Never tell your child that they’re stupid or lazy.
  • Make it clear that any punishment is simply a way to motivate your child to do better. For example, you might say, “TV is taking up too much of your time and you’re not getting your work done. If you can show me that you can get your work done with time to spare, I’ll let you watch TV again.”

Supporting Your Child’s Learning Style

Step 1 Notice your child’s learning style.

  • To figure out your child’s learning style, watch how they try to figure out a math problem. If your child is a visual learner they will probably want to see a picture of the quantities in the problem. If they’re an auditory learner, they may want to recite the problem out loud. If they’re a tactile learner, they may want to touch real objects that represent the quantities in the problem.

Step 2 Adapt homework to your child’s learning style.

  • If your child is an auditory learner, have them read math problems or book chapters out loud. For memorizing, have them use mnemonic devices that use familiar phrases or make use of alliteration. For example, if your child has to remember the four states of matter, suggest the mnemonic Parents Get Lazy Sometimes.
  • If you child is a visual learner, have them turn math assignments into visual problems. For example, if it’s an addition problem like 8 + 9, have your child draw eight coins on one side of a line and nine coins on the other side. To help your child absorb reading material, have them draw out a plot line or draw a picture of the characters.
  • If your child is tactile learner, help them finds ways to turn assignments into hands-on projects. It’s not always possible to translate assignments into tactile projects, but if you give your child lots of objects and space to work with, they will often find creative ways to make problems tactile.

Step 3 Encourage your child to experiment with other learning styles.

  • For example, if you notice your child always reads math problems out loud, encourage them to try one problem by drawing it out instead of talking out loud.

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Home / Expert Articles / Child Behavior Problems / Laziness & Motivation

Motivating the Unmotivated Child

By james lehman, msw.

Unmotivated teenage boy staring blankly

Over the years, many parents have asked me why their kids aren’t motivated and what they can do about it. How can you get your child to be more motivated? To do better in school? To even go to school?

The important thing to remember is this: your child is motivated. They’re just motivated to resist you and others when they do not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn their negative motivation into a positive one.

Lack of Motivation is a Form of Resistance

When kids won’t get out of bed, won’t do their homework or school assignments, or won’t get involved in activities, it’s important for parents to realize that there is motivation in the child. But the motivation is to resist . The motivation is to do things their way, not yours. The motivation is to retain power.

When kids feel powerless, they try to feel powerful by withholding. A child or teenager who feels very powerless will stay in bed, not go to school, avoid homework, sit on the couch, and withhold overall involvement because it gives her a sense of being in control.

To the parent, the behavior looks completely out of control. But the child sees it as the only way to have control over what’s going on around him.

You’ll see it when you ask your child a question and he doesn’t answer, but you know he heard you. What’s that all about? That’s a child withholding an answer to feel powerful. When he says, “I don’t have to answer you if I don’t want to,” you see it as a lack of motivation. He sees it as a way to win control over you.

All Kids are Motivated by Something

I want to be clear about this point: everyone is motivated. The question is, motivated to do what? If a child looks like he’s not motivated, you have to look at what he’s accomplishing and assume that this is what he’s motivated to do.

So part of the solution is getting him to be motivated to do something else. To assume that the child is unmotivated is an ineffective way of looking at it. He is motivated. He’s simply motivated to do nothing. In this case, doing nothing means resisting and holding back to exercise control over you.

Kids Resist Because They Lack Problem-Solving Skills

The child who uses resistance as a form of control lacks both social skills and problem-solving skills.

They don’t have the social skills to know how to talk to other people, how to be friendly, and how to feel comfortable with themselves. Also, they don’t have the problem-solving skills to figure out what people want from them, how to deal with other people’s behavior, and how to meet expectations and demands.

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These are basic skills we all have to learn in order to be successful as adults.

If continually resisting is how a child tries to solve problems, then parents will have a hard time until they teach the child how to solve problems appropriately.

The first step in teaching kids problem-solving skills is to understand that these kids are not helpless victims. Instead, they’re simply trying to solve problems in an ineffective manner.

Don’t Argue or Fight With Your Child About Motivation

Very often these kids are motivated by the power struggle. They find different ways to have that struggle with their parents. The job of the parents, therefore, is to find other ways for the child to solve the problem that’s causing the power struggle.

But if parents don’t have those other ways then the power struggle continues with no end in sight.

If you’re fighting day after day with a kid who won’t get out of bed, you’re never going to solve that problem. Because even if he gets out of bed then he won’t brush his teeth. And even if he brushes his teeth then he won’t comb his hair. Or he won’t wear clean clothes, or he won’t do his homework.

Understand that when you yell at your child for lack of motivation, you’re giving their resisting behavior power. So don’t yell. Don’t argue. Don’t give their resisting behavior power.

I understand that parents get frustrated—that’s normal. And sometimes you will lose your calm, even when you know better.

The point I want to make here is that yelling and fighting won’t solve the problem. If you’re yelling and fighting over these issues, you’re giving him more power in the struggle, and you don’t want to do that. Here’s what to do instead.

Be Clear, Calm, and Give Consequences for Your Child’s Behavior

Make the situation clear for the child. Use “I” words. Say the following:

“I want you to get up out of bed and get ready for school.”

“I want you to do your homework now.”

Then leave the bedroom. If the kid doesn’t do it, then there should be consequences. There should be accountability.

If your child says, “I don’t care about the consequences,” ignore her. She will tell you she doesn’t care just as a way to feel in control. Or, she may not care now, but as consequences get applied consistently, she will eventually see compliance as a better alternative to consequences.

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Therefore, give consequences. And don’t worry if the kid doesn’t like it. You are not your child’s friend, you’re their parent.

Related content: Unmotivated Child? 6 Ways to Get Your Child Going

By the way, if your child doesn’t get out of bed, he shouldn’t be doing anything else. He shouldn’t get to play video games. He shouldn’t spend four hours in front of the TV. If he’s too sick to go to school, he shouldn’t be going out of the house. These rules should be set and enforced consistently.

Give Effective Consequences

Understanding what is and what is not an effective consequence is critical. The right consequences actually motivate your child to good behavior. They put you back in control and teach your child how to problem-solve, giving your child the skills needed to be a successful adult.

Know that effective consequences are not punishments. Indeed, I say all the time that you can’t punish your child into behaving better.

All parents should read my article on how to give kids consequences that work . And take a look at my sample video from The Complete Guide to Consequences .

Let Your Child Experience Natural Consequences

I would always tell parents in my office that you have to have the courage to let her experience the consequences of her behavior. It takes a lot of courage for a parent to step back and say:

“Okay, you’re not going to do your homework, and you’re going to get the grades that reflect that.”

But in these cases, it can help to let the child experience the natural consequences of resistance. You don’t let the kid watch TV. You say:

“Homework time is from six to eight. And if you don’t want to do your homework during that time, that’s fine. But you can’t go on the computer, you can’t play games, and you can’t watch TV. If you choose not to do your homework, that’s your choice. And if you fail, that’s your choice too.”

Remember, natural consequences are an important part of life. That’s why we have speeding tickets. A speeding ticket is a natural consequence. If you go too fast, the policeman stops you and gives you a ticket. He doesn’t follow you home to make sure you don’t speed anymore. He lets you go. It’s your job to stop and take responsibility. If you don’t, you’re going to get another ticket fifteen minutes later.

Natural consequences help people take responsibility, and they can be used to help kids take responsibility for things like going to school, participating in class, and doing homework.

Don’t Forget to Use Rewards

Along with the plan to let her experience the natural consequences of her decisions, build in rewards for success if she does make the right decision.

For example, if my son failed a test, there was no punishment. But if he passed, there was a reward. It was very simple. We rewarded A’s and B’s. We didn’t take anything away for C, we just didn’t reward it.

So my son eventually strived to have A’s all the time. So with kids who resist, it’s important to have a rewards system as well as a consequence system.

Be Patient and Persistent

Calmly and consistently using effective consequences is your fastest and best way to get your child motivated. Just be patient and persistent as consequences do their job and your child begins to learn better problem-solving skills. And know that the vast majority of kids come around and get motivated once they are held accountable in a meaningful way.

Related content: Motivating Underachievers: 9 Steps to Take When Your Child Says “I Don’t Care”

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About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® , The Complete Guide to Consequences™ , Getting Through To Your Child™ , and Two Parents One Plan™ , from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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I wish it was this easy. It's not that simple I've read what you wrote here and I don't think you have teenager's because it's eazy as you say

Sandra Sometimes the lack of motivation is a sign of something deeper - fear and shame felt because of failing grades - and so the child enters denial and resistance mode.

Emma Same here. I hate that the school requires the use of the laptop. It is nothing but a distraction and you can't take it away because they need it for school. The closest we've come to a solution is parental control software.

Tracy I have the same situation with my son. Ignores homework or any other responsibilities, bedroom is a disaster. Can't babysit all day, I am a single mom and I work full time. He knows how much this upsets me yet he does nothing to fix it. I take xbox, pc More power cords away, NOTHING motivates this kid.

Dad.com The issue with parents right now is that they have the same issue of all assuming their child’s goal is to fight them and be rebellious. A lot of kids who are struggling right now would love to pass and work hard and get good grades, but there are many More factors such as depression, low self-esteem and confidence, and the reaction, the relationship, and the treatment from the parents that greatly effect a child's motivation and perspective. Stop using punishment as a way to help your kid, use positive re-enforcement, and let then understand that what they’re going through isn’t their fault, they didn’t choose to be depressed, stressed, or have little to no motivation. Try and be helpful and realize that they are the ones carrying more emotional baggage then you can imagine.

Hyporeal Agree with some other comments here re consequences - they made difficult situations much much worse. No tv? She turned it on anyway. Confiscated phone/guitar - ransacked the house & took my keys in order to find them. Eventually, at age 24 she was diagnosed with severe ADHD, & More I realised those consequences would have produced anxiety in her worse than the original requests.

This. I'm already late for work every day (I take him to school) I can't sit at home with him all day every day.

He does have underlying issues (depression, anxiety), but 'nothing works' so he won't even try anything anymore - medication, therapy, exercise.

I'm at my wits' end and it's to the point that by the time he gets dropped off, I'm practically in tears, but have to get it together so that I can go to work and do what I need to do.

Emma Certainly it's important to rule out clinical anxiety and depression. But it appears to me that absolutely everything these days is being blamed on anxiety and depression and we are too quick to medicate and relieve children of their responsibilities.

Melissa382 Thank you for this I hope more parents see this.

Emma Agree 100%.

Janelle383 Maybe your child is depressed or something. You never know what really goes on in a teen’s mind.

Thanks for taking the time to put this article together to support parents. This is something I spend a lot of time also doing. I would love to be able to use your work as a reference for the families I come in contact with. The above article leaves me with a question that I feel would come up if I used it; "If the key is to avoid the power struggle, how do I then avoid the power struggle that would ensue from implementing the consequence?" Many of the struggles people have result from the secondary behaviour that follows the logical (as opposed to natural) consequence implementation. I look forward to hearing your strategies for this next step. Kindest Regards

Emma Same question here. And how can natural consequences work when they are not immediate? A 14-year-old has trouble understanding that missing homework assignments, being lazy with schoolwork, and not studying will impact his future. His immediate natural consequence is lower grades, but what if he doesn't care because he can't More see how this affects him in the future?

Txmomma Yes I have the same issue. In response to a consequence he break things, slams stuff, locks me out screams and yells. He doesn’t care if he gets bad grades. He doesn’t care if he fails or has to repeat a grade.

Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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  • 1. Unmotivated Child? 6 Ways to Get Your Child Going
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  • 3. Motivating Underachievers: 9 Steps to Take When Your Child Says "I Don't Care"
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  • 5. 5 Ways to Help Kids Who Procrastinate
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Disrespect... defiance... backtalk... lack of motivation...

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Does your child exhibit angry outbursts , such as tantrums, lashing out, punching walls, and throwing things?

Would you like to learn about how to use consequences more effectively?

Backtalk... complaints... arguments... attitude... just plain ignoring you

Do you struggle with disrespect or verbal abuse from your child?

Has your child been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

Or does your child exhibit a consistent and severe pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance, and vindictiveness toward you or other authority figures?

Intimidation... aggression... physical abuse and violence ...

Are you concerned that your child may physically hurt you or others?

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How to Develop Strategic, Effective Leadership

School leaders can work to understand their own and their team members’ areas of strength and weakness in order to assign work productively.

Photo of two teachers speaking

How can principals better understand and deal with anxiety and frustration when their leadership and day-to-day work responsibilities require skill sets that they have yet to develop? Managing this is crucial because when implementing schoolwide initiatives, anxiety increases throughout the staff when the principal, and others, are ill-equipped with the strengths needed to move things along.

Patrick Lencioni’s recent book The 6 Types of Working Genius has helped me to conceptualize a model that shows principals how to better understand and deal with this anxiety and frustration.

HOw school leaders Can Apply This Model

When a school leader attempts to lead and execute any type of an initiative, from a curriculum revision to a change in student management programming (to name just two), they will lead three stages of work:

  • Contemplation of an idea
  • Activation of the idea 
  • Implementation of the idea

Experienced principals know that different skills are required to fulfill each stage. Work can become very frustrating when a school leader realizes that those requisite skills are not among their strengths.

Lencioni states, “We all have areas where we thrive, areas where we struggle, and areas that fall somewhere in between.” To help leaders understand the skills needed to move initiatives from an idea, or vision, to full implementation, he identifies six specific types of strengths that move ideas from beginning to end. In each area, people perform at a genius, competent, or frustration level.

At the genius level, people find work to be joyful, inspirational, and rewarding. At the competent level, work is neither completely miserable nor joyful. It consists of tasks that are tolerable and generally completed well. But the frustration level drains people of joy and energy, and they often struggle to complete tasks in this area. If not addressed, people who toil in areas that frustrate them will burn out. Most people have gifts (genius status) in one or two areas, competence in two, and frustration with two. These are the areas:

  • Wonder—the inclination and ability to ponder the problems within a school and strategize ways to address them.
  • Invention—the gift of original, ingenious, creative thinking that results in fresh, new ideas.
  • Discernment—an uncanny judgment, intuition, and ability to assess a situation, ask important questions, and provide effective feedback in ways that others cannot.
  • Galvanizing—the ability to inspire, motivate, and enlist people to embark on worthwhile endeavors.   
  • Enablement—the ability to anticipate and respond to others’ needs and empower people in ways that others cannot.
  • Tenacity—the strong desire and inclination to push through obstacles and finish a job.

So, what is the big takeaway for principals from Lencioni’s model? If you’re consumed each day with work responsibilities that require a skill set for which you are ill-equipped or unprepared, you probably are not a happy principal. That doesn’t mean you’re failing, but you are likely exhausting yourself by taking on work that others may consider to be enjoyable. Would your assistant principal, or another member of your leadership team, be better suited to galvanize the staff to positively transform a new approach to grade-level teaming, coaching models, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, etc., freeing you to focus your time and efforts on another genius area?

Using This Model With Your Leadership Team

If you conducted a book study of Lencioni’s working genius framework with your leadership team, you could collectively identify each person’s areas of strength and frustration. You probably already know what they are. But to get people out of the traps in which they find themselves, especially principals, a serious discussion about the burdens of work and the most effective distribution of responsibilities according to team members’ unique gifts must take place.

Here’s an example of how Lencioni’s model could be applied in your school. 

  • If you were to prioritize a reduction in office referrals for student behavior and classroom management, who are the people among your staff that could easily ponder the status quo and suggest a plan for addressing issues? (wonder geniuses)
  • Who thinks outside the box? (inventive geniuses)
  • Who knows how and when to ask questions that will keep an initiative moving forward? (discernment geniuses)
  • Who is a genius at motivating people in the trenches to do the hard work needed to accomplish goals? (galvanizers)
  • Who has the unique skill set that shines most when people need help, support, encouragement, empathy? (enablers)
  • And finally, who are the people that will determinedly push your staff’s collective vision across the finish line? (tenacity)

You most likely have people in each area who you already know possess the requisite skills needed. Any work goal or priority requires people who can perform at genius level in each of the six areas. Principals cannot do everything alone.

If paperwork, scheduling, or issues with student or parent engagement consume your day and increasingly frustrate you, perhaps there’s another person on your leadership team who would be excited, gifted with skills, and tenaciously motivated to complete the frustrating aspects of work that don’t suit your natural, God-given strengths.

Making that determination is an example of identifying and defining boundaries and working smarter, not harder. It becomes an important step on the pathway toward rediscovering joy in your work. You shouldn’t feel guilty or incompetent—rather, you are effectively delegating work responsibilities among those most capable (genius) and who will likely enjoy getting them done. You aren’t abdicating responsibility. Instead, you are spreading and sharing responsibility for success.

That’s strategic and effective leadership.

16 Clever Ways to Boost Workout Motivation, According to Trainers

These pro tips will help you get moving.

funny portrait of a young black curvy woman during a training session

While getting into a regular workout routine can be tough—it’s not impossible. Once you form the habit and start feeling stronger, you’ll find yourself really looking forward to moving your body. The hardest part, of course, is just getting started.

If you need a little inspiration or motivation to embark on your fitness journey, try these 16 tips and tricks from certified personal trainers and group fitness instructors to help you achieve your goals.

Find something you enjoy

female tennis player playing

If you find an activity you enjoy doing, you”ll start to look forward to your workouts more, Katelyn Hissong , a Pilates instructor and the founder of the Elevate with Kate app, explains. “That could be a walk in the park, a hot yoga class, or a sport like tennis. When you find and do what you love, you’ll naturally keep gravitating back towards it,” she says. Makena Rae Diehl, Equinox group fitness instructor, agrees. “Discovering a workout routine that brings you joy is key to maintaining consistency and staying committed to your fitness journey, especially on those days when the motivation is low,” she shares.

Reward yourself

redhead woman drinking healthy milkshake after working out at home

Sometimes all you need is a little incentive. Fitness trainer Stephanie Butterfield, CEO and founder of Activate House , suggests treating yourself when you reach certain milestones or stick to your workout routine. “These rewards don’t have to be extravagant. They can be as simple as a relaxing bath, a favorite healthy treat , or even a guilt-free Netflix binge. Connecting positive experiences with your fitness journey reinforces the idea that exercise is a rewarding and enjoyable part of your lifestyle,” Butterfield adds.

Make it social

multi ethnical group of runners high fiving after a good run

“Meet up with a friend at your workout class, or add in additional cardio with a walk or hike to really chat and catch up,” suggests certified trainer and Pilates instructor Dylan Davies, co-founder of LIFT Society . “Creating a social schedule around your workouts versus food and alcohol is a fantastic healthy alternative.” Having some banter and company as you get through a tough workout makes the whole thing so much more fun.

Invest in yourself and classes

group of women doing barre  trx workout

If you pay for a class or even a session with a trainer, you’re going to want to show up. “When you’re spending your own money, it’s that much harder to avoid working out,” says AJ Mason, an ACE-certified trainer at Studio SWEAT onDemand . “Invest in tried-and-true classes like spinning, yoga, boot camp, or barre, where you can get the most bang for your buck. Trust me, there’s no better workout motivation than knowing you’ve got an entire class and dedicated trainers expecting you there!”

Grab a workout buddy

couple doing stretching exercise on stairs in the city

Finding a workout buddy can make all of the difference when it comes to motivation. “Having someone there with you not only keeps you accountable, but it’s more fun, too. Plus, studies have shown that working out with someone who motivates you can increase your performance by up to 200%,” says Mason. “Try creating goals with friends that you can work on reaching together and make a scheduled weekly gym date so you both stay on track.”

Switch up your workout routine

a woman hiking in the mountains

“Repetitive workouts can quickly become monotonous, leading to a loss of motivation,” notes Butterfield. To keep things fresh and exciting, she suggests incorporating variety into your routine. “Try new classes, explore different forms of exercise, or even take your workout outdoors. Keeping your body guessing not only yields better results but also keeps you mentally engaged and eager to see what’s next.”

Start Small

young woman taking exercise in her living room

Baby steps are key. If exercise is new to you, Maeve McEwen , the director of programming and head trainer at Pvolve , recommends committing to just ten minutes of working out a day, a few times a week. This way, you’re not overwhelmed. “This may mean running on a treadmill, lifting weights, or just standing up and doing a few stretches,” she says. “Simply moving your body boosts endorphins , [increases] blood flow, and can improve mood.”

Redefine what “exercise” means to you

businesswoman using smart phone on steps

“Find ways outside of going to the gym or following a workout program to move your body,” says McEwen. Incorporating more activity into your everyday routine with some creativity will leave you feeling great. “Try walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or encouraging others to walk with you on a work break.”

Put it on the calendar

exercises for the week

To enhance consistency, Diehl advises treating your workouts as non-negotiable appointments in your daily schedule, akin to a work meeting. “Over time, this mindset shift transforms the question from whether you’ll exercise today to when you’ll prioritize your physical well-being. Making these adjustments transforms exercise from a task to an integral part of your routine, promoting a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle,” Diehl notes.

Create a dynamic workout playlist

plus size latin woman doing sit ups after jogging

Everything’s better with a little music, and according to Butterfield, playing some tunes has an incredible impact on our mood and motivation. “Craft a playlist that resonates with your energy and the type of workout you’re planning. Upbeat tunes with a rhythm that matches your pace can turn a mundane session into an exhilarating experience.” She encourages people to explore different genres and build playlists that speak to their personal preferences.

Prepare for success

flat lay image of sports clothes and shoes on a wooden floor

Planning ahead will make working out so much easier, according to Xavier Munden, personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and the CEO of Xtreme Fitness Solutions . “What are you going to listen to? Do you have your earbuds ? Do you have something to drink?” Being overly prepared—even picking out your clothes in advance—can be the extra motivation that gets you out that door.

Dress for success

smiling woman resting after workout

If a cute new workout outfit or brand new pair of running shoes motivates you, go for it! “How many times have you had a first date or a job interview and you wanted to put your best foot forward?” asks Munden. “Look at your gym appointment as the best first date you should keep with yourself, for yourself.”

Touch the Machines

beautiful muscular fit woman exercising building muscles athletic girl doing lat pulldown fitness woman working out in gym doing exercise for back

“Get up out of bed or push away from your desk. Walk or drive to your fitness center, walk in, touch a machine, and leave,” says Munden. It may sound silly, but this simple first step can help motivate you to work out, especially if the task of going to the gym feels insurmountable. “It’s about creating a habit, a lifestyle change. Your workout journey is about self care and keeping a promise to you, for you. We want to develop positive habits, and getting there is half the journey,” he notes. “Who knows, while you’re there, you may even work out a little bit.”

Pair exercise with something fun

customer in sports store

Personal trainer Vincent Celeiro , suggests planning a fun activity before or after your sweat session. “Something that sparks your joy so that you can look forward to it! Go out to lunch, treat yourself to some retail therapy, or culture yourself and go see a Broadway show!”

Track your progress

over the shoulder view of young active woman using exercise tracking app on smartphone to monitor her training progress after exercising at home

“Wearable fitness trackers are a fantastic way to track your workouts,” says De La Haymon Holly , assistant fitness manager and certified personal trainer at Bay Club . “Some have features that allow you to receive notifications whenever you or your friend completes a workout. They also allow you to set up friendly competitions with each other to make it more fun.”

Set a specific timed goal

young woman finishing marathon race and greeting with group of supporters

Oliver Nam, a personal trainer and owner of Thrive Training in Orange County, CA, suggests being super specific with your goals. “Use SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely goals,” Nam explains. “If you can become as detailed as possible, with a deadline, you have something to shoot for rather than an ambiguous thing.” This could mean signing up for your first 5K or half marathon , which will give you a great crash course in sticking to a workout routine as you prepare.

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