How can you help your child stay motivated during the long winter months?

As the days get shorter and we find ourselves in another period of lockdown, we know it’s hard to keep our children motivated; we are all faced with an urge to hibernate but with continuous assessments all year our children need to keep going.  We asked Educational Psychologist Wendy Anthony for her tips on supporting children to stay on top of their academic game while negotiating their inevitable winter woes. 

The most effective way to motivate your child is to create intrinsic motivation. This is a way of helping your child tune into their own feelings of accomplishment and pride when they have learnt a new skill. For example, when they first learn to ride a bike, they are excited and keen to do it again. This feeling of success is internally motivating and is preferable to external motivation, such as using bribery, which will be likely to have only short-term gains. 

It’s worth noting that learning should be within the ‘zone of proximal development’. This concerns the range of skills that your child is close to mastering independently, but just needs a little more practice to achieve. Tasks should not be too hard or too easy.

Some of the following may be helpful to create internal motivation and enable your child to feel in control of their own learning:

  • Set goals together with your child. They must be achievable, e.g. it’s no good asking a fish to ride a bike!
  • Make a plan with your child and build in fun activities, for example, doing something together as a family. 
  • Break tasks down into small steps, sandwiched between regular pauses with a change of pace. 
  • Give your child choices, such as, ‘Would you rather do your homework before or after a snack?’
  • Identify with your child what has gone well that day, recognise their success. Ask them how they feel when they achieved a goal.
  • Encourage your child to think of their own solutions to any set-backs. Children’s solutions often work better than parent-suggested ones.
  • And remember, mistakes and set-backs are all part of learning. There is a need to be flexible.
  • Set jointly negotiated targets.

Wendy Anthony is a Chartered and Educational Psychologist working in independent practice. She has over 20 years of experience and specialises in learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and offers a personal, friendly service. Further details can be found at www.edpsychology.co.uk