Does your child seem disinterested in school or unmotivated to learn?
If so, you’ve probably felt exasperated at your efforts to get them to do their homework or study. Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “Is there something wrong with my kid?”
It’s okay, you’re not alone. Many parents have this experience.
And there’s nothing wrong with your kid. In fact, the issue might not have anything to do with what’s going on in the child’s mind. The issue might actually be what’s going on around the child.
Is learning the norm?
Take a minute to think about what normally goes on in your household because that’s what your child sees every day.
Do they see you actively learning? Do they see you challenging your mind with art, music, puzzles, or board games? Do you watch documentaries and TED Talks? Do you talk about what you’ve been learning?
Also take stock of how easily accessible learning is in your home. If you glance around your common spaces, is learning one of the default options? Are there books, workbooks, and textbooks readily available? Does your child have a dedicated home study space, stocked with all manner of school supplies? Do you subscribe to something like CuriosityStream? Or just to something like Netflix?
If you set up your home so that learning is not just readily accessible but one of the prominent options, choosing to learn will feel far more natural.
The environment matters.
No one makes choices in isolation. We all make our choices within the context of our environment. And we’re naturally inclined to go with the flow – to fit our behaviors to the physical and social space we’re in. That’s why kids usually find it easier to do schoolwork at school than at home. That’s why college students find it easier to study in the library than in their dorm room.
So the question to ask yourself is this: Is my house a learning jungle or a learning desert? Are there abundant resources with which to grow? And would that growth feel normal, like a tree in the jungle, or would it feel weird, like a tree in the desert?
Create an ecosystem of learning.
As a habit coach, I often help people become healthier by making better food choices and exercising more often. And one of the core tenets of this work is to set up the household so that healthy behaviors are the default option. Replace junk food with healthy snacks. Put away the video game console and set up an easily accessible home gym. Put a book where the TV remote normally lives. In other words, create an ecosystem of healthy living.
You can do the same thing for learning in your own home. Make learning an obvious choice. Make it more convenient. And demonstrate through your own behavior that it’s normal to choose learning when no one is making you.
I wish I could tell you that this strategy will produce immediate and massive shifts in behavior, but it won’t. This isn’t a quick fix. In fact, there are no quick fixes for a child who’s unmotivated to learn. But if you transform your home into a thriving ecosystem of learning, you’ll be providing them the best possible environment in which they can grow.
Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris also offers habit coaching, helping busy adults with habit formation and productivity.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.