By Vicki Panccione
Motivation. Some kids have it and some don't.
For some, grades are their own reward. For others, grades are just the indicators of how much trouble they are in. Still others are motivated only to put in the minimum effort, claiming, "What's the matter with C's? C's are average!" Or worse yet: "At least D's are passing!"
Motivation is usually equated with effort, which is equated with grades. The first issue at hand is whether this is true for your child.
Your student could be highly motivated, putting in a great deal of effort and still getting grades below your expectations. If this is the case, it may be necessary to acknowledge that your child is working to her capacity and adopt a more realistic approach to academic expectations.
Or, a child could be highly motivated but lack the skills to apply efforts effectively. This may indicate a need to develop better study habits or better time management and organizational skills.
If, after taking a look at your child's degree of effort and study habits, you find she simply isn't internally motivated to put in the effort required to get good grades, then some external motivation might be appropriate.
Motivation can be encouraged by means of negative or positive reinforcements. In other words, a child can be presented with a series of meaningful consequences if the desired grades are not achieved, or with meaningful rewards if the grades are acceptable.
I use the word "meaningfull" to indicate that whether they are negative or positive outcomes, they have to have some significant meaning to your child.
For instance, if he is not a lover of sweets and you threaten to take away desserts, this may not have any significant motivational effect on his academic efforts. However, if your student likes to talk on the phone with friends (or in this day and age "IM" friends) then the opportunity to communicate with friends may be useful as either a meaningful reward or consequence.
Now, you might ask how can the same activity (i.e. use of the phone) be both a negative consequence and a positive reward? It's all in the way you present it.
You can threaten to take away a privilege if grades don't improve; or you can reward with privileges for academic improvement. Most of us are more motivated when working toward something (i.e. a raise or promotion) rather than working away from a negative (i.e. threat of being fired).
Putting the proverbial "carrot" in front of your child can light a fire and create the motivation to achieve.
Granted, she may not be striving for grades, per se. But if the dangling carrot gets the desired result, then you both win.
You get the academic achievement that is meaningful to you, and she gets the reward that is meaningful to her.
Clinical psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., has a specialized practice in Melbourne, working exclusively with children, adolescents and families.
To contact Dr. Vicki regarding her workshops, seminars or publications, call (321)-722-9001 or visit www.askdrvicki.com.