Five Ways to Motivate Your Child

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What do I need to do to motivate my child? A very important part of social-emotional learning is helping students own and control their own motivations and behaviors towards work. Getting students to be intrinsically motivated and energized by any work, especially schoolwork, is already a challenge for most teachers in a classroom. Now it’s even more difficult.

We know this is a topic many of you are struggling with and one that we see parents all over the country struggling with at Possip.

It can be a difficult topic to address generally because each child needs something different. But having a toolbox of strategies to try things out to see if they work for your child is the first step to finding what works for your child.

As a parent, it’s also important to explicitly say to our kids the reality of motivation. Sometimes as adults when there’s something that we HAVE to do, not something we want to do, it’s hard for us too! The goal of these strategies isn’t to always convince your children that everything is fun and enjoyable.  But it is to help them connect to a purpose that they can appreciate and connect to.


1. Make Things Relevant to their Interests and the Real World

Making sure students see a fit between content and life is important, especially with the increased self-motivation required with remote learning. Here are some ideas on how to do this:

-Have your kids list their interests.

As parents, we assume we know our kids’ interests.  We may not.  Have them make a list with you of 30-50 things they want to learn about. One of our speakers at a Possip webinar shared with us, “be a student of your child at this time.” What interests your child? How can you find projects, books, articles, websites, hands-on activities, and other materials they’d get interested in? is a great resource for classes based on unique interests.

 -Use “Hook” videos


Finding videos online like youtube content that connects to your topic can invest your child in a topic before they start lessons or worksheets. You could also do the opposite of this and if they were watching a video that can relate to everyday life that they were really interested in, create a fun project or task for them to do about that real-world interest.

-Link it to a Future Career

Find “real-world” scientist, mathematician, or other career-related to the class/assignment so students can possibly see themselves in that career and increase motivation for a larger purpose.

-Use Media

Podcasts are great for both younger and older children. High school teachers have used “Serial” and other crime podcasts to increase critical thinking skills. There are assignments posted about those podcasts online already, but find podcasts that your child is interested in. You can easily search podcasts by topic on the apple podcast app.

Podcasts to search in Apple podcast app:

Other sources of media like newspapers or tv news clips are great when they connect to content or themes. Finally, conducting interviews is a great and fun way to build literacy, stay connected with people, and practice professional communication skills. Students can write a summary of the interview or transcribe the interview to incorporate literacy. Their interview could also easily be turned into a blog if the online audience is a motivator


2. Provide Feedback and Encouragement

Your kids, no matter the age, care about what you think, about them, and their work. Your feedback matters. Just like in a physical classroom, you want to be giving as much feedback as possible at home. Create a system you can manage – even if it is just them signing off on their progress and you check it once a week.  This helps you progress-monitor their understanding and create accountability. Even if you don’t know the correct answers, show interest in it, and read it.  You can ask questions like “How are you doing with this assignment? What are you struggling with?”  So as a parent, you don’t have to know if it’s right or wrong – you’ll just want to engage!


3. Get an Audience

An audience increases accountability to a bigger purpose and pushes students to have a final product they are proud of and want to share. This could look like “facetiming” a family member to present a project, posting a blog for an online audience to read, or creating a parent-approved vlog for friends and families to watch.

4. Provide Choice

Part of helping students self motivate is giving them agency.  When we’re telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, they don’t have the opportunity to motivate themselves.

That’s why providing choice is so powerful and has so many benefits for children. It can self-differentiate so kids can find work that is at the right challenge level for them. They can also find assignments that match their interests and passions. When that happens, there’s more joy and investment in the learning process. Creating choice creates intrinsic motivation, builds ownership, and a personal sense of responsibility to their learning.


5. Talk about the Why:

Similar to real-world connections, giving students a rationale on why assignments are important is crucial. Have discussions with your child about the importance of the work. Ask students why they think it could be important. Relate the work to a future career or solving a world problem. Also, think about ways the assignment or learning experience can connect to them personally (called a self-connection), connect to other texts or school work they’ve done in the past (called an “other” connection), or connections to the larger world. This will help your student with investment in a larger picture. As an example, one of our colleagues is a former Math teacher.  Especially in high school, not all Math has a real-world application.  There are many of you who have never used Trigonometry or Calculus since high school (though many of you also may have).  Regardless, for students who aren’t motivated by upper-level Math, teachers often share that part of learning advanced Math is learning that you CAN learn and that learning to solve problems or learning to apply a framework to a specific problem is important. For children, it’s not always that knowing how to write a proof is the lasting skill. But learning how to learn, and applying that learning, is a lasting skill.


The fact is that parents can motivate students by catering to their interests, encouraging them, providing choice, and making the assignment connect to the bigger picture of our world.


Reach out to with questions!