Issue 60 / October - December 2007
How Can We Motivate Our Children To Learn?
How often do we hear the words “I hate maths” or “I don’t want to do my homework” and “I don’t like school.” Just imagine how a carer or parent who is concerned and exerts a great deal of time and effort feels when they find the child still refuses to respond positively towards learning.
“Why is my child not interested in learning?” “What makes my child not want to go to school? Why does my child say learning is boring?” “Why is he/she showing higher results in one subject than in another?” “Why does he/she no longer enjoy English?” These are just some of the questions which arise with concerned parents when their children demonstrate a lack of interest in studying both at home or at school. Some parents have opted for home schooling, others have their children join breakfast clubs, sports clubs or after-school creative clubs as a means to enhance their child’s thinking and stimulate interest in them for learning. God Almighty urges us in chapters of the Holy Qur’an to spread knowledge and not to conceal it.
He also speaks of children in numerous verses with regards to their upbringing and welfare. The first verse which was revealed to the Prophet pronounced powerfully “IQRA” meaning “READ”; this again emphasizes the power of knowledge for a human being to attain success in both worlds. It was narrated by Ibn Masud “The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would take care of us by preaching at a suitable time so that we would not become weary. He abstained from pestering us with religious talk and knowledge all the time.”1 The Prophet said, “The pen has been lifted from three: the child until he reaches puberty, the insane until he is cured and the one who is sleeping until he awakens.”2 We are commanded to be mild and loving towards children. Give instructions gently to make things easy. It takes time for the child to understand what you’re saying and to respond correctly.
But remember a child is not accountable for their actions so be patient while they respond to you in their own time. Children differ from one another in intelligence and comprehension. Some can be corrected by a mere stern glance and others need to be scolded firmly. But we should never stop following the advice of the Prophet Muhammad who said “Those who do not show mercy to our young are not from us.”3 A child is won with tenderness, mildness, and love. Let us now look at some of the reasons why our children may display a lack of interest in learning. Sometimes the reasons can be obvious; maybe the parents do not have the time to interact with homework tasks and the children struggle without this assistance, or maybe there is far too many distractions in the environment, so the child finds it hard to concentrate. But there can also be hidden pressures; perhaps the child does not like a particular subject, or finds it difficult to understand it, or does not enjoy writing or arithmetic. Some times a change of routine or a new teacher can affect the child, peer pressure or lack of confidence can also result in a lack of interest in studying at school or at home. The important question is how do we, as parents or education workers, draw the child’s attention to learning and generate joy and satisfaction in them? The early years of a child’s life are of utmost importance and play a crucial role in determining every child’s future. Brain research has confirmed that the experiences children undergo in the first five years of life form vital connections in the brain. These connections lay the foundation for all later learning and social/emotional development. Children develop at individual rates; therefore, variations in development are to be expected. Professional education workers come in contact with children from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This includes children who are learning a language that is different to their native language. New guidelines provide extra activities to meet these children’s needs. Sometimes boys perform less well than girls and a survey report back in July of 2003 by the Office for Standards in Education in
Britain published two reports on methods schools can use to raise achievement among boys. They found that macho peer pressure remains a key reason why boys underperform in comparison to girls in nearly all subjects, except for maths and science. They also found that boys were more affected than girls by how interesting the lessons are. Teachers who were best at motivating boys were those who used humor and real life situations. Children with extra special needs and those who have a short concentration span will not settle at one activity for more than 5 to 10 minutes. Their needs are different from other children, and thus there are curriculum guidelines that help them with appropriate learning. Spending time with your child through the process of playing or completing homework is a key opportunity for interaction and establishes confidence and motivation for the child to learn; we must not forget that children are learning all the time and not just at schools. Tips to encourage motivation Therefore, the following top ten tips are useful in encouraging motivation in your child:
1. Nurture your child’s interest by providing opportunities for them to explore and learn about their interests, be they dinosaurs, stars, or flowers.
2. Expose your child to new ideas and areas by participating in community programs and not just school programs. It is important not to single out traditionally female activities or male activities, as it is the child’s interests that are important.
3. Attempt using short term goals and rewards since sometimes a child becomes overwhelmed by a large task. It is not that the task is difficult in itself, but the child may feel nervous, fearful or confused, resulting in a need for more time or input to understand the concept better. A child will sometimes abandon a task they even begin to try, so it is best to help your child break the task down into a series of smaller tasks. Also allow children to set their own weekly targets which they can reward themselves for completing.
4. Help your child learn to arrange time as when they start to go to school some may learn quickly and easily at different levels or stages of learning, but others may not. However later on, they will need to know how to independently set time aside to complete certain tasks.
5. Praise your child’s efforts since some children have trouble connecting personal effort to achievement. To help a child succeed, efforts should be praised at every success and the praise should be specific. So rather than saying “you could have done that better,” you could say “you tried your best and worked hard.”
6. Help your child take control; underachievers sometimes see achievement as something that isbeyond their control and this makes them feel as if all their efforts are pointless. The child needs to understand the role personal responsibility plays through success.
7. Keep a positive attitude about school because children need to see that their parents value education. Even if a child’s problems in school are a result of a problem with the schools or the teacher, you need to be careful about what you say and when.
8. Help your child make a connection between their schoolwork and their interests. Sometimes children lack motivation because they cannot make a connection between the work they are being asked to do and their goals and interests. For example, a child who wants to be an astronaut should know that maths and science are important in these jobs. However, under-motivated children generally do not focus on anything but the present. They cannot plan ahead for the near future, so rarely reflect on adult life or ambitions.
9. Turn homework into games as most children love a challenge, particularly with a familiar person whom they trust. Sometimes, dull homework can be turned into something excited like a challenging game. Checking children’s work shows them you care about it. Another creative approach to homework is to link it to an interest or encourage them to mark it for themselves.
10. Adults should keep in mind that motivation is not always about school achievement and that it is important to note that some children are highly motivated to achieve goals, even if the goals are unrelated to school. Remember achievement is NOT motivation. It is therefore very important to know that while you may get your child to get the homework done, he or she may never be truly motivated to do it. So what is the difference between the two; what is motivation? Motivation is a temporal and dynamic state that should not be confused with personality or emotion. Motivation is having the desire and the willingness to do something. A motivated person can be aiming at a long–term goal, such as becoming a professional writer, or a more short-term goal like learning how to spell a particular word. Attention from a pupil is necessary and essential for learning and this gives a student a feeling of self worth and makes them want to exert effort. If a teacher can secure the interest of the pupil and the student does the work assigned, and if the work holds their attention, the interest is maintained. There are two kinds of interest, the positive and the negative. When a student has a positive interest in learning, they are getting value because there is something they want to obtain. But if they only have a negative interest, they may still learn a small portion of what is being taught, but not as much as if they were to have a positive interest. The student needs to have a desire of their own to learn and learning should be a result of this, not of outside pressure. They will strive to learn if their interest is positive. If a child is interested in a subject, a wise teacher or parent can make use of this interest. They can work towards maintaining this motivation for learning. But before an adult can hold a child’s interest, they need to have an understanding of how the interest is obtained and how purposes that cause an appetite for learning develop in individuals. A person’s daily life, their character and their personality all determine their drive for learning. This interest can lead them to take action and want to acquire knowledge. There is also a need for a desire to be active; if a person is lazy, they will not have desires or urges to learn. A student also needs to have a desire for approval from their parents, teachers and peers. They need to have a desire to have a feeling of accomplishment, as this will lead them to seek more and more knowledge. They need to feel proud about their personal accomplishments.
We have not been able to mention all the desires that lead to motivation and learning here, but we have touched upon a few of the primary desires. Some parents may feel they do not know the best way to keep their child motivated with the same joy and satisfaction away from school and at home. Parents can worry over this, but it is comforting to know that a simple activity, such as a trip to the park or library or a small activity such as cooking or planting with your child can be interactive, fun, enjoyable and always a creative part of learning. Talking to your child’s teacher or other parents in similar situations is always encouraging and you may pick up tips for new steps that will help bring enthusiasm to your child’s education. At the present time we are fortunate to have easy and affordable resources and free websites which help parents to understand this topic better and which provide step-by-step guidelines on how to generate the joy of learning in kids. The curriculum in schools is continuously reviewed and updated to be a friendly and interesting framework of teaching and learning, with interaction between teachers and students across the globe.
1. Muslim 1:68.
2. Tirmidhi, Hudud, 1; Nasai, Hudud, 17.
3. Tirmidhi, Birr, 15.