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How to Motivate Kids to Study

1.  Provide the inspiration – Is there anyone near you whom your child admires?  If that person went to college, he or she may be a great person to talk to your kid about going to college.  Let the person share his fond memories of college, and how he benefited from going to college.  Periodically, let the person talk to your kid just to check up on his progress and encourage him.  And when it’s time to apply, get that person to encourage your kid periodically because the application process can be very frustrating.  (You can always try to inspire your kid yourself, but based on what I’ve seen, teenagers are more likely to listen to outsiders than to their parents.  That’s why I recommend getting someone outside to talk to your child.)

2.  Explain the benefits – Going to college has concrete benefits, such as getting one better-paying, less labor-intensive jobs.  Explain these benefits to your kids when you have a chance (but don’t do it all the time – they may become de-sensitized).  For instance, sometimes when I see a sign waver at the street corner, I’d tell my nine-year-old daughter that if she doesn’t study and go to college, that may be all the job she can get.  That’s the kind of impression I want to implant at a young age.  (I also explain to her that anyone working to make a honest living should be admired, but there are better jobs and she needs to work hard to get them.  By no means do I look down at those sign wavers and I made sure she understands this.)

3.  Raise the expectations – Kids tend to grow to your expectations (most kids, at least, try to make their parents proud of them), but no further.  If you don’t raise your expectations, they won’t aim higher – why do more work than asked?  Therefore it’s crucial to tell your kid that he is capable of reaching really high goals if he chooses to work for it.

4.  Guide, don’t dictate – I’ve seen many cases of kids being told what to study in college, and in some cases that caused resentment that may last a lifetime.  I assume that some kids resent their parents’ dictation of their future even before entering college, and some may choose not to go to college as a result.  Generally, you as a parent can help guide and even influence their decisions, but please try to avoid dictating your child’s future career, even if you feel strongly that the decision you make for him is the best decision.  Let him figure out that in college.

5.  Show support – Nowadays, kids face many temptations, and so they may feel discouraged sometimes when they have to choose studying over spending time with friends.  To the extent possible, you should show your support for your child’s hard decisions and remind him that it’s the right decision for his future.  Also, college application is a stressful process, and your unconditional support is crucial during this whole process.  There will likely be some stressful moments and rejection letters to agonize over.  Your unconditional support is very much needed.