How to Motivate Your Child: 9 Tips and Tricks

Sometimes there’s just nothing more frustrating than seeing your child lacking in motivation, particularly when it comes to their schoolwork. Seeing them constantly leaving homework and assignments to the last minute, doing only the bare minimum in order to escape punishment. Or worse, not attempting it at all, and offering up “what’s the point?” or “who cares?” as justification. It can feel disheartening, and like they’re throwing away their talents and opportunities.

In truth, though, it’s very likely that your child isn’t actually unmotivated, but more the case that they are being motivated by the wrong things – like trying to show you that they won’t do what you want them or tell them to do, or some vague effort to prove the pointlessness of school. Often this kind of negative motivation stems from a power struggle between you and your child. They are growing up and seeking the independence that comes with that, and wanting to set and live by their own rules is a natural part of that.

So knowing now that your child does have the potential to be motivated, the secret is knowing how to unlock this potential, to drive them towards positive sources of motivation. Here are 9 tips and tricks to try to motivate your child:


1.  Introduce something new.

Change is as good as a holiday, and that philosophy is certainly true when it comes to your child’s schoolwork. Sameness and repetition can become stale after a while, draining a child’s motivation in the process. Introducing something new into the equation can be an effective remedy to sparking motivation in education while at home. It could be something small like a new set of highlighters, or a stress ball, or something more significant like a new laptop or desk. Whatever it is, a bit of change, something new, can be the perfect way to reinvigorate your child.

2. Encourage curiosity.

We’re naturally curious beings, and appealing to this disposition is a great way to encourage motivation. When it comes to any task, ask your child “why do you think this task is important?” Focusing on the ‘why’ may keep at bay their cries of “what’s the point?

3. Give them some agency.

One of the big reasons your child might appear unmotivated is because they are pouring their energy into resisting your directions or requests. Giving your child some agency with their approach to tasks can make a big difference. Let them have a say in how they approach their work. Making them accountable to themselves may motivate them to prove you wrong and show you they can do their work on their own!

4. Create a goals chart.

Setting and tracking goals is incredibly important for succeeding in anything in life. In terms of your child’s motivation, creating a goals chart can be a great way to give them some perspective and show them how the pieces of the puzzle fit together in terms of their work helping them to achieve their goals.

5. Challenge them.

A bit of healthy competition can work a treat! The trick to motivating your child is to set them a challenge that is at the edge of their capabilities. Too easy and it will just be boring. Too hard and they’ll likely give up.

6. Praise the process, rather than the outcome.

Giving your child praise and encouragement is incredibly important for creating a positive working environment. Care needs to be given, though, about what it is that is being praised. Rather than focusing on the outcome, commend the process. If they’re putting in the effort, offer praise and encouragement – this will help motivate them to repeat this behaviour. Focusing only on the outcome can actually discourage your child from trying for fear of failing.

7. Place yourself in their shoes.

We’re all different. It’s completely normal for your child to have different interests and goals to you. Put yourself in their shoes by asking “what are their interests?”, “what do they like?”, “what do they want?” Seeing things from their perspective will give you a better idea about what they’re driven by and what they’re striving towards.

8. Be inspiring.

It goes without saying that you are a role model for your child, and your behaviour rubs off on them. If your child seems to be lacking in motivation, it is worth reflecting on your own behaviour. Are you a setting a good example? What kind of language are you using when discussing tasks with them? Are you inspiring them to action or nagging?

9. Use rewards (sparingly).

Incentives are an easy and effective way to motivate anyone – your child being no exception! Just be careful you don’t overplay your hand with this one. Too many rewards will only teach them to expect a reward every time they complete a task, and won’t generate longer term behavioural change.