Note from Daniel: This is a guest post by Julia Robson.
All parents want their children to do well in school and in life.
Of course, succeeding in school doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed in life.
But in a society that still places an emphasis on formal educational qualifications, it’s only natural that you want your children to do their best in school.
Unfortunately, some students just don’t like to study.
Our task as parents isn’t to punish them for their lack of interest.
It’s to help them to enjoy the learning process as much as they can, while developing the necessary life skills along the way.
Before we talk about what you can do if your children dislike studying, let’s first address this question:
Why do so many students dislike studying?
Getting to the root of the problem will enable you to find better solutions.
So before you start applying a remedy, examine your children’s behaviour and talk to them and their teachers to figure out what the real issue is.
Here are some common reasons why students dislike studying…
A. They find studying boring
Some students feel bored because of the repetitiveness of the learning process.
There are also students who feel bored because the material isn’t challenging enough. If they grasp the material faster than the rest of their class, they’ll naturally feel bored during the lessons.
They’ll then attach this feeling to the entire learning process.
B. They don’t see the point in studying
Many students need to see the point of something before they’ll be willing to do it. To them, getting good grades isn’t a strong enough reason for them to study hard.
If this describes your children, devote time to bridging the gap between what they’re learning in the classroom and the real world outside the classroom.
C. They feel like they’re being forced to study
Many students dislike doing things they have to do, because they feel forced into doing those things.
To these students, having a sense of autonomy is extremely important.
D. They feel like they’ve fallen behind
Students at the bottom of the class are likely to feel discouraged.
This is especially so if they’re being teased by their classmates, or if their teachers don’t have the time to give them extra help.
Of course, there could be other reasons your children dislike studying besides the reasons listed above.
Before you start nagging or threatening them – I don’t recommend either approach – take some time to figure out the root cause of the problem.
You’ll then be able to apply the most suitable solution.
Here are 9 possible solutions:
1. Admit that studying can be frustrating
Be honest with yourself and your children, and admit that studying isn’t always fun.
But there’s a life lesson to be learned here. It’s impossible to enjoy everything that you do on a daily or weekly basis.
There will be things that have to get done, even if you dislike them.
Instead of believing it’s possible for learning to be fun 100% of the time, have an honest conversation with your children. Admit that some things may be boring and difficult to learn.
By teaching your children how to take on tasks that don’t appeal to them, you’ll be arming them with a valuable skill they’ll use throughout their life.
2. Learn together with your children
Depending on your child’s age, you can adopt a “learning together” approach in different ways.
Visiting museums, galleries, historical sites and other places can be a great way to help your children to connect what they’re learning about in school to the real world.
This approach may only be possible for certain subjects. So you can also watch relevant documentaries or movies with your children to make the learning process more interesting.
Try disentangling complex problems with them too.
You may not remember geometry or algebra as well as you’d like. But you can ask your children to explain the principles to you, and you can work on the solution together.
This doesn’t mean you should study with them every day.
Instead, establish a process where they can come to you when they get stuck or need to discuss a concept with you.
3. Use a variety of tools
Your children might find some of their school assignments to be boring or irrelevant.
Perhaps their school isn’t a good fit for their learning style?
Or maybe they would thrive if they were exposed to different kinds of learning methodologies?
While you can’t expect your children’s teachers to adopt a completely individualised approach, you can provide some additional stimuli.
Here are some resources that your children may enjoy:
- National Geographic Kids
You can also try audiobooks or other apps that would make the learning experience more engaging for your children.
4. Relate the material to real life
Some students just want to be able to understand why they’re supposed to learn something.
They don’t think that “you have to do this to get a better grade” is a valid reason for completing an assignment.
If this describes your children, you’ll need to empower them to understand the purpose behind the concepts they’re required to master.
Ideally, you’ll want to start providing relatable explanations at a very young age, so as to establish a principle for later.
- Math is associated with money, online shopping and personal finances
- Languages are connected to the stories your children enjoy and how humans make sense of the world
- History tells us where we came from, so that we can determine where to go and how to avoid repeating mistakes from the past
And so on.
5. Don’t blame, scold or punish your children if they get a bad grade
When your children come home from school with a grade that’s lower than what you were expecting, your reaction shouldn’t be to blame or reprimand them.
Instead, have a calm conversation with your children.
Ask them how they feel about the situation, and find out what went wrong.
Have a problem-solving discussion about what your children can do going forward to learn more effectively.
I encourage you not to use your parental power to demand an explanation or demand that they get a better grade the next time around.
And definitely don’t blame the entire situation on them. If you do that, they’ll become defensive and the conversation will get nowhere.
You may need to set new rules and boundaries for your children, but it’s usually best to go through this process together with them.
6. Teach them how to fail
Failure is an unavoidable and integral part of life.
The sooner we learn to cope with it in all kinds of situations, the better.
If your children learn to cope with their failures early on, they’ll be more equipped when it matters most.
So refrain from coming to their rescue every time, even when you notice that they’re definitely not doing what they ought to prepare for a test.
If they know that you’ll always be there to remind them and keep them on track, they’ll start to rely on you too much.
This isn’t healthy, because their education is their responsibility, not yours.
The goal is to be there to support and encourage them, not to do the things they should be doing themselves.
And if they falter, don’t go down the “I told you so” route. There’s no point kicking them when they’re down.
Instead, use the approach described in Tip #5.
7. Focus on the positives
Given that you’re reading this article, there are probably a lot of negatives that you could focus on, such as:
- Your children don’t enjoy learning
- They’re not motivated
- They’re not managing their time well
- They’re not performing well in school
- They don’t have a positive attitude
- They don’t display resilience
- They lack concentration
But this is precisely why you must refocus on the positives.
The more nagging and lecturing you do, the more likely it is that a power struggle will ensue. As a result, they’ll be unlikely to adopt a positive learning attitude.
If they aren’t performing well in school, focus on the concepts they’ve been mastering.
Focus on the areas in life in which they’ve been making progress, instead of harping too much on their shortcomings.
8. Talk to your children’s teachers
If you notice that your efforts aren’t making much headway, it might be time to talk to your children’s teachers again.
While you know your children well in a home setting, it’s hard to tell what they’re like in school.
Their teachers may be able to provide some insights and tell you what they’ve been observing about your children.
Go into the meeting with an open mind, and be ready to hear some unpleasant comments about your children.
Maybe they’ve been exhibiting behaviours in school that you’ve never seen at home?
In consultation with the teachers, develop an action plan to help your children going forward.
9. Don’t focus too much on school and grades
You don’t want to be a helicopter parent who’s obsessed with your children’s grades, how they’re doing in school, how much time they’re spending studying, and what they’ve been learning.
While doing well in school is important, there’s more to life than school.
Perhaps your children have other talents and inclinations?
Perhaps they have dreams and ambitions that don’t involve them going to university?
If you find your children getting annoyed because they feel as if you focus too much on school and grades, then give them some space.
If not, the relationship will be damaged. This will make it even less likely that your children will become self-motivated.
If your children dislike studying, try implementing the tips we’ve discussed in this article.
But before you do that, get to the root of the problem. If you don’t, all your efforts will be wasted.
And always remember that you’re there to support your children. As they get older, you’ll be more of a coach and consultant to them – you’re not meant to run their life as a micromanager.
If you keep this in mind, I’m confident that they’ll make excellent progress over time!
Julia Robson is a mother of two girls, and the doggie mum of two Labradors. She is a writer, a runner, and a passionate advocate for a child’s right to be themselves. She blogs on Medium while trying to find the time to set up her own blog.