Is Your Child Bored with School?
These tips can help kids stay interested in academics.
“School’s boring. The only class I like is recess.” These are commonly heard words from many children. Keeping kids interested in academics isn’t easy. Some kids lose interest in school as early as elementary school. Many others lose interest in middle or high school when academics become more challenging and social lives become more interesting than algebra. So how can parents keep their children focused on academics and their future?
Many kids fail to see how schoolwork is relevant to real life. “Help your child make connections between school subjects and real life applications,” says Jean Boyer, PhD, assistant professor of school psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia.
If your son enjoys skateboarding, show him the physics behind mid-air maneuvers and tricks. If your daughter has aspirations of being a fashion designer, show her how math is necessary for taking measurements and figuring proportions.
Set an Example
Matthew Lynch, Ed.D., assistant professor of education at Widener University in Chester, PA, says, “If your children see that you are excited about learning new things, they will more than likely model you. They may begin to see schoolwork and homework as an exciting endeavor instead of work.”
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., Princeton, NJ psychologist and author of the book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, says, “If you complain about your child’s teachers or how out of date the textbooks are, your child may see this as justification for not trying at school. If you complain about your own work, your child may wonder, ‘What’s the point of working hard?’ No child has ever been inspired by the message, ‘I’m suffering, so you should, too!’”
Praise Effort, Not Brains
Sometimes a loss of interest in school stems from frustration as work gets harder and a fear of failing. The wrong kind of praise can make it worse. In her book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, Kennedy-Moore explains that praising children for their intelligence can cause some children to shy away from academics, according to research by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Her studies have shown that children praised for their intelligence often become crippled by a fixed mindset, believing they are born with a set amount of ability and their performance is a reflection of that innate ability.
These children often become afraid of challenges, fearing they will appear stupid if they fail. On the other hand, children praised for their effort tend to develop growth mindsets, believing they can become smarter and more capable through effort.
“A growth mindset allows children to embrace challenges,” says Kennedy-Moore. “The best way to cultivate a growth mindset is to focus on effort rather than performance.”
Enlist School Help
If the school can do something specific to help your child overcome a special need or situation that is hindering her interest in school, talk to the school and work together to find a solution.
“Let your child’s teachers and guidance counselors know what your child needs,” says Montgomery County mom Jennifer T. When her daughter began disliking high school, she worked with her daughter’s guidance counselor to find classes and teachers that better matched her daughter’s needs.
Susan Stopper is a contributing writer to MetroKids.