Back to articles A New Attitude for School This Year by R.N. Whitehead

Categories: Parenting


It’s back to school time again! Certainly, we have enjoyed the company of our children for the summer. We have enjoyed our progeny for 9 1/2 weeks or 63 days or 1,512 hours or 90,720 minutes or – if you are really a masochist – 5,443,200 seconds!

            As  happy as we may be to have them back at their studies, our fondest wishes are reserved for their feelings. We want them to want to return to school. To want to succeed. To enjoy the quest. To work hard – perhaps even harder – this year.

            But, how to accomplish this? What can we do to help? A quick review of the three rules of motivation will help.

1.       We cannot motivate children. We can create lots of stress for them (and us); we can complicate their lives, we can insist, we can see that the homework gets done.  But motivation comes from inside.

2.       Children motivate themselves when they discover we are offering them something they want. This means that our job is to lead them to understand why they should motivate themselves.

3.       Your child is already motivated to do those things that they feel are important or of value to them. They lose motivation when they are expected to do things they do not understand and that do not appear to be important to them.

            So what happens when our kids start back to school seemingly motivated and then lose that momentum? Where does their motivation go?

            No matter how hard it is to believe, our kids are capable of logical and rational thought. How they are acting is a direct result of some conclusion or feeling they have – usually not consciously held – about themselves. If they don’t appear motivated, it’s because, deep down, they have concluded that giving the appearance of trying is not in their best interest. The trick for us, as parents, is to make sure that our expectations are properly understood at our child’s level, not just at ours. Visualization exercises can often help. Have your child visualize success in school. Make the picture complete. See the classroom. See completed homework being handed in. See a report card. See him/herself studying without distractions. See the final result – happiness and so on.

            And finally, here is the last, true secret. Motivation is a result of the action you take to achieve your values and goals! Action comes first; motivation follows. For the first few months of every new school year, help your kids devise a study time, help them get and stay organized and make sure they know how to start every assignment or homework piece. Enrolling in a good study program at Oxford Learning will help.

            Help them get started! That’s the key – starting – action! Action first, feelings later. Don’t expect deep feelings of motivation to arrive before action. Start the engines first. The celebration comes later!


Oxford Learning has been helping students for years build their skills, confidence and motivation, and develop more active minds for learning. Visit for program information and a location near you.