Motivating Kids to Excel

motivating kids to excel
How to motivate children to excel is an issue facing many parents. Some children have a natural desire to succeed, and some just do what is necessary to get by. Here are some ideas to help kids not just get by, but to succeed...

by Jennifer Shakeel

This is an issue that I feel most parents struggle with, trying to motivate their kids to “Be all they can be.” As parents we want them to get good grades, be the best athlete around. It’s only natural to want the best for our kids and want the best out of them. For some children there is a natural desire to want to be the best. Some kids want to be Valedictorians, others want to be the best athlete on whatever team they are on. Then there are those kids that will only do as much as they need to do just to get by. There are also children that have no desire to do much of anything.

Taking a look at my two children, we have one who wants to be the best at everything he does and we have our daughter… who… well, let’s just say that she is perfectly content to do next to nothing. She wasn’t always this way, when she was younger she had drive, she played soccer and did awesome in school. Now she doesn’t work to be really good at anything. She runs track and cross country, but she is happy to finish a race and then gets mad when the coach doesn’t pick her for competitions. She is a straight A student who can get B’s with next to no effort, so that is what she does next to nothing.

This bothers my husband and I, we are both go getters and very competitive. We have both always been that way. So the example that has been set is not one of mediocrity, our children have always been told to do their best, as long as they did their best we were happy with them. We are supportive of our children, anything they have ever wanted to do we have supported them in doing it, gone to every practice, been to every game, gotten up to drive to auditions. They have also been told that anything in life worth having is something that they have had to work for.

If you are in the same boat and are looking for ways to motivate your kids to be the best they can be, here are a number of suggestions.

Creative Rewards

I can remember when I was young my grandmother used to give us $5 for every “A” that we would get on our report cards. This used to drive my mother nuts, she didn’t believe in paying for grades. I am somewhat in the middle, I think as a child your job is your school work, you are suppose to do the best you can. With that being said, think about when you are at work, and you go that extra mile to get a job done… you are rewarded with a raise, possibly a promotion… so this is the same tactic that we use at home. Our son is a B/C student, he has ADD and when he brings home all “B’s” he gets a reward… if he happens to bring home an “A” that is something extra special. “C’s” are never rewarded because we know that both children can do better. When our daughter brings home the “A’s” she is rewarded as well.

They both know that every 9 weeks they are going to get a review. We are going to sit with them go over their grades and come up with a plan to help them bring up their grades.

You don’t have to use money. You can reward with them a special prize that they really want when they bring home the grades.

Praise Them

We all like to hear when we have done a good job or tried something new, especially children. If you don’t praise them for the accomplishments that they have made they are less likely to keep trying.

Lead by Example

Don’t expect your child to do something that you yourself don’t do. The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” really doesn’t work. I know that for us, that is part of the problem with our daughter. I used to run with her, it was our thing and it kept her in shape and ready for track and cross country. With a complicated pregnancy I have had to cut back on a lot of the physical things I used to do… I believe that this has fed into her lack of desire to run on her own.

Empower Your Children
Let them make decisions about what they want to do and how they want to do it. Work with them to devise a plan for them to accomplish their goals. This way the feel as though they have some control over what is going on and they are more likely to do better.

Try not to be pushy or overbearing with your kids, remember how much you hated it? Also remember that not every kid out there will be the next Einstein, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady or Bill Gates. Just encourage them to be their best.

Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse. As a mother of two incredible children, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting. One of my children has ADHD, our journey of learning to come to terms with the diagnosis and figuring out what works best for us has been a challenge and a joy. Our son was diagnosed about two and half years ago, and we have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows. If I can just offer you one day of hope or one idea that may work to help you and your family then I know that my purpose has been fulfilled.

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  • One thing I find is that there is so much push in childhood to be the "best" that often kids feel not so great about themselves even when they’re just fine. My daughter is fantastic and excels at many things, but spends time and energy feeling bad about the things she’s not great at. Most activities of grown up life don’t require being the best, just doing well. Perhaps kids who are able to find a balance in childhood and not push for being the top are the ones who’ll have an easier time finding that balance as adults. Perhaps one of the best ways to motivate kids is to find out what they are motivated by and support them on that.

  • Kids (as well as adults) don’t have to be the best. They need to know they have done the best they can to excel in what they consider important and learn to enjoy the path, even if the destination isn’t reached.

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