Motivation for School

Motivate your child to achieve success at school with these tips for parents from psychologist Justin Coulson.

The request to “Wake up for school please Ashton” was met with a groan.

“I don’t want to go to school mum.”

Most parents will experience a child who is not motivated to be at school at some point in their lives. Many parents were that child!

Trying to stimulate your child’s motivation at school is extremely difficult for parents, primarily because so much of what happens at school is out of your control. The environment provided by the teacher, other students, and the school community can have a powerful impact on your child’s level of motivation. There are, however, several things that parents can do to increase their child’s motivation at school:

Remember, relationships matter

Encourage your child to develop positive relationships with other students at school. If the peer environment is one that is safe, fun, and comfortable, then your child will be more motivated to be at school than if bullying or teasing is common place.

Your child’s relationship with the teacher should be positive

Look for ways to speak with your child about what the teacher is doing well, and the positive aspects of the student-teacher relationship. By building a positive perspective on classroom relations, children are likely to be more motivated at school.

Speak positively about the school

When our children hear us openly criticise school, the teachers, or the principal, we undermine their faith and confidence in the people who are influencing and teaching them each day. Look for things that the teacher or school are doing well, and emphasise them publicly. When your children hear you speaking positively about their school, they will experience your enthusiasm as an endorsement and respond accordingly.

Encourage mastery and mistakes, not performance and perfection

Developing competence requires practice, mistakes, and a long-term approach to mastery. If you’ve ever had a boss watching over your shoulder you will know how your focus on perfect performance can cause you to unravel. It also probably reduced your motivation! When children know they will not be judged on their performance, they feel free to experiment, make mistakes, and try again. By reducing pressure for perfect performance learning becomes an enjoyable process, and motivation goes up.

Emphasise effort

When your child brings home a report card (or when any evaluation is occurring in relation to schoolwork), emphasise the effort that they’re making over the results they’re achieving. Ask questions such as, “Do you feel like you’re working hard?” Point out what a teacher says about your child’s effort and ask, “Is your teacher right about this? Are you putting in less effort than you can?” Emphasise that you care more about effort than outcomes.

Share your child’s successes

When your child demonstrates competence, let him/her hear you telling other people about what was accomplished.

“Ella has been making such a big effort at school, and today she received an award for it.”

“Jack got 22 out of 25 on his weather project.”

“Matt just did his first serious high school exam. I’ve never seen him put in so much effort before. We still don’t know what he scored, but I’m so proud of him for working so hard.”

By telling people about the successes your child experiences, and by finding the good in what they do, your child will be more motivated to continue to work hard, practice, and develop good academic outcomes.

This article was written for Kidspot by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find him at

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  1. Alezandra 07/03/2020 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I always try to make sure I constantly ask my son how his day was at Kindy and I will continue on, to ensure that we have conversations. I’m not sure how motivation would be like when big school starts though and I would definitely come back to to this article to see if I need to do some hacks.

  2. Micht 07/03/2020 at 6:39 am

    I totally agree… school should be a place they go to enjoy learning and becoming little excited learners is great….id hate to have to beg my kids to go to school… at the moment thankfully they enjoy their friends and teachers and learning new things…for that im grateful… its fun and they look forward to going.

  3. Mands1980 02/03/2020 at 7:59 pm

    2 of my children are fine but the other has a few days where he does not want to go to school. It’s usually something he doesn’t want to do or he is tired and I really have to try bring out all the positive things he will miss out on. I have never let him stay at home. It’s really hard when they have learning difficulty’s but trying to make them feel happier about school.

  4. Bevik1971 28/02/2020 at 10:01 am

    This is great – occasionally my 7 year old daughter says the old “I don’t want to go to school today”. Usually it’s if she’s been sick and maybe has had a couple of days off beforehand. She’s generally pretty good, loves her school and the teachers and has a good group of friends. I’m sure that might change as she gets older but will deal with that when it comes 🙂

  5. Shorrty4life1 26/02/2020 at 4:10 pm

    Great tips and tricks to make school more positive for your children. Oh my goodness yes I do struggle to get my children out of bed in the morning. Motivation in the mornings is just not there. I ask whats for breakfast then tell them to get up because breakfast is ready and that normally works. I also put on music as I feel like it helps to motivate them especially if they start singing away to the songs then I know I’ve succeeded.

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