Anyone who’s ever been a substitute teacher will tell you how tough it can be to motivate a lively group of boisterous kids.
Children have lots of energy. They might struggle to focus. They might get distracted easily. Some children will feel overwhelmed, or insecure in their abilities and avoid engaging. Others would rather be outside doing something active.
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Does any of this sound familiar? Probably. Because a lot of these issues are the very same that affect our motivation as adults.
The only difference is that as an adult you are both the teacher and the student. It’s your job to motivate yourself, whilst being the unruly inner-child who needs guidance. This can be exhausting. So first off – cut yourself some slack! We all struggle with this.
And the good news is – you can become a better motivator for your inner child. And along the way, learn some great tips for engaging your kids.
Positivity and Passion
It’s pretty difficult to persuade a child to do something they don’t want to do. Especially if they don’t see the value in it.
But as soon as the task at hand involves games, or music, or rewards, or any other exciting thing a child has already decided they love – well then just try and stop them!
The first pillar of motivation is passion. And sometimes as an adult, we can forget what made us want to achieve our goals in the first place. This needs maintenance – it’s something your teacher needs to remind the inner child of.
So if you’re struggling to get yourself to go for a run, take a minute to think about how good it will make you feel, how much better you will look, how much you’ll probably enjoy it once you’re there. Write it down if it helps.
If you’ve got some work you need to complete before you go out, think about the positive repercussions on your career, on your sense of achievement, and on your ability to relax later in the day.
You’ll be surprised what a difference a few minutes focus on a positive outcome can have on your motivation.
Recognise Strengths and Embrace Imperfections
Everybody has different abilities and things that they struggle with.
One child might be able to read a sci-novel in a weekend but struggle with her math homework. Another might be able to fix their playstation but feel completely out of their depth with a paint brush.
And that’s fine. We all have imperfections. But a good teacher recognizes the learning preferences of their students, then gears their lesson plan to optimize their productivity. Give yourself the same courtesy.
If you’re a visual learner, you will work better with images, colour and visual metaphors. If you’re an auditory learner, you will prefer working with someone else, and talking through ideas. Whilst reading-writing learners respond to the written word, and kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on activity and roleplay.
If you find that you (or your child) is struggling within your learning preference, it’s always worth checking in for an eye-exam, or looking into miracle-ear hearing aids, to make sure your strongest senses aren’t being compromised.
Set Goals and Make a Plan
Everyone likes to feel like they’ve done well. When you achieve a goal, it gives you a dopamine hit and builds confidence in your ability to do the next task.
Children respond to direct, achievable tasks that have been clearly articulated. Too vague and they lose interest. Too difficult and it feels impossible.
Adults are exactly the same. It’s no use putting aside three hours to work with no clear plan laid out. Or worse, giving yourself a list of tasks that you won’t be able to finish.
It makes it difficult to track your progress. And it can make you feel insecure or guilty, which are not conducive to motivation. So be a good teacher and set yourself a clear, achievable list of tasks for each session.
It’s also best to set yourself a time for each task. Some research suggests that the optimal ratio is 52 minutes work to 17 minutes break time. Does this surprise you? If so, you’re probably also trying to work for longer than is beneficial.
And the knowledge that you’re only 52 minutes away from a coffee break makes it a lot easier to get started in the first place!
And that’s it. Some simple, achievable goals for making yourself a more motivation teacher to lively kids, or to the most unruly student out there – yourself.