I want to study: Developing a passion for learning in schoolchildren
Apr 04, 2019
“He is kind of a smart boy, but he doesn’t want to study at all. It’s been happening since he finished elementary school. He used to get straight B’s! I know he could do better, but a lot of things happened. Now he doesn’t do his homework, doesn’t want to go to school, he totally lacks discipline. I always tell him: “Vadik, you should study, then you’ll be able to find a good job”, and he replies daringly by telling me all businessmen failed at school. We are getting along well, but his studies… Our child simply rejects going to school, what should we do?”
– Elena, 32
Change the age and the name of the child in this story, and you’ll get the typical picture of a child losing interest towards studying. Children often have no desire to study, and it always happens for a good reason. Those reasons may come from age, school, peers, teachers and the children themselves.
You might say: “The reasons may be good, but they should still study!” Of course they should, because school education is mandatory.
Let’s find out why children refuse to study and help them find the interest in learning new things once again.
Reasons a child struggles at school
All children are curious about the world since their earliest days. Just remember how your children were when they were very little. You didn’t have to make them play with educational toys for hours or taste new things. Many children maintain their level of curiosity in school and enjoy studying. However, if something happens, a child may start to neglect his/her studies, skip classes and even talk back to teachers and relatives.
So why do some children start doing so? We can divide the reasons for reduced interest towards studies, with lower grades as a consequence, into three groups depending upon the age of child. We can also look at the common reasons for each age group.
- A child might have been unprepared for school, both physically and mentally. The main method of learning until the age of 7 involves role-playing.  In other words, a child learns about the world around them through playing. Academic studying becomes prevalent only at the age of 7 or 8. At this age, schools have few opportunities for playing, they have a more “adult” system. You must sit still for 40 minutes, you cannot walk around the class, you cannot bring your own toys, you must complete certain tasks, etc. Children who experience difficulties transitioning from playing to studying find it hard to adapt to school rules, grow tired faster and need more time to understand the subjects.
- Perhaps your child already knows all the subjects taught in the first year. Each child’s process of development is unique, so it can happen that your child can read, write and count by the time they go to school. In that case, the classes may well be boring for the child, because they learn nothing new. They start to think that school is not interesting, and they don’t develop any interest towards studying even later, after the subject becomes more complicated.
“My daughter attended pre-school classes before going to school. Well, what do you think, they have all the same subjects in the first grade! Once again they learn to read and write from scratch, and the teacher absolutely must follow that program! They even use the same books as in pre-school! My daughter is always whining that she doesn’t want to go to school. Her attitude to studying is getting worse and worse. She is suffering from all this, but what should I do? She has to go to school, after all. This is utter nonsense.”
– Ekaterina, 29
- New studying process. In Russia, for example, almost all classes in elementary school are taught by the same teacher, while in middle school a teacher is responsible for only one subject. At this stage, children have to adapt to this new system and varying requirements from many different teachers. This can lead to stress and lower grades.
- Shift in leading activity. By the age of 12, the personal interaction between peers becomes the leading activity.  Children are more focused on developing social connections and finding themselves than on school subjects, so they have less and less desire to study. You shouldn’t punish a child for this shift in priorities. It is a natural process, you cannot undo this and cannot “switch it off”.
- Teenage crisis This is a difficult stage in a child’s development. It is characterized by hormonal changes and the intention to distance oneself from parents and fight for the right to have a personal opinion. Depending upon the progress of this crisis, a child may develop problems in school. They may, for example start to skip school as a sign of protest or argue with teachers in order to defend their opinions and views, etc.
“My son used to be so diligent, but then he found his first love in middle school and ran amok. He has stopped studying, he doesn’t even do his homework anymore. He still goes to school, but only if he has time for this, and not anything better to do. He told me he is going to find a part-time job in the summer to earn his own money. He grew up so fast.”
– Inna, 39
- Need for personal identity. At this stage teenagers have to choose what to do next: stay in high school or pursue some vocational education. They need to decide upon their major subjects and set their future goals. Many teenagers get extremely disoriented by this, especially if they were not ready for this transition to adulthood.
- Increased academic workload. There is a greater focus on the academic workload and a focus on mandatory state examinations. Teachers pay too much attention to success at exams at this point rather than imparting new knowledge. Students receive “training” for the final examination, and all the lessons get reduced to the mechanical solving of similar tests, following the structure of the state examination. Some teachers may even resort to intimidation, which can raise anxiety levels, leading to worse grades.
General reasons for bad grades
- If a child often has a cold or a sore throat, he/she may miss classes due to this. Perhaps the student suffers from regular headaches or has poor eyesight. These would make studying more difficult and he/she would need to make a more significant effort. As a result the child may blatantly refuse to go to school.
- They might think they lack the ability to understand a certain subject. There are stereotypes which dictate what subjects they should succeed in, and what are absolutely not for them. For example, literature has traditionally been for girls and math for boys. Under such pressure, a schoolchild could lose faith in their abilities, justifying their failures by saying “it’s not my thing”. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy: I am no good—I don’t study—I get bad grades—I knew I was no good. It is important to let children understand that they can master any subject depending upon their efforts.
- Bias from teacher or parents. Bias towards the child’s abilities can lead to lower grades. Sometimes the teachers or child’s parents adopt the following mindset: “I know he has no talent in math, so why should I help him understand the subject?” Such an attitude promotes the loss of interest towards studying.
- A boring subject or boring and unclear explanations from a teacher. If the child does not understand the subject, they can lose any interest and become reluctant to study it independently.
- Excessive academic workload. An advanced curriculum or lack of communication between teachers can lead to an increased amount of homework. In order to do the homework in time, a child might have to sacrifice rest and sleep. Chronic fatigue has a negative effect on studying.
Extracurricular activities can make it even worse, as they take up time a child could be spending studying.
- Falling behind the curriculum – when a child has missed or didn’t understand a topic. This can happen due to either an illness or an increased workload. It is hard to catch up and acquire knowledge that is based on the topic in question. Studying becomes increasingly hard and a child might develop a sense of shame in their own “stupidity” while not knowing what to do in this situation. Consequently they start to skip school in order not to embarrass themselves.
- A child does not like the teacher. Perhaps they have conflicts, for example, if a teacher is too authoritative. The sense of distress that children get during the lessons given by such teachers can reduce motivation and lead to lower grades.
- Conflicts with peers. A bullied child often refuses to go to school. In this case, it is very important to consult the teacher or the school counselor. Bullying rarely goes away without interference from adults.
- Parents study for their children. Sometimes parents overestimate the importance of having good grades and do everything they can to ensure straight A’s for their child. They do their homework and watch their every move, thus actually crippling the child’s interest towards studying.
These reasons in conjunction, or even by themselves, lower children’s motivation. They start doing badly at school and skipping classes. So, what should you do to avoid such consequences?
“I call for help. My child has started studying less and less. A new Russian language teacher reprimanded my daughter for using the wrong quotation marks. She was upset and strongly discouraged from studying. In a mere couple of months she went from straight A’s to consistent C’s. She goes out in the morning and comes home in the evening, but she doesn’t always go to school. She doesn’t tell me where she goes instead. She is already in middle school, I shouldn’t have to take her there myself! How can I make her study again?”
– Galina, 36
Can we make children study?
Some parents tend to think that if their child has started to do poorly at school, the obvious solution is to make them study harder by intimidating them and depriving them of entertainment until they start doing better. It doesn’t work that way. We cannot make a person like studying by force, it will only make them hate it even more.
Of course, a child might study under this pressure, but this will end once the parents divert their attention. Are you sure you want to study together with your child until they graduate from university?
Reviving interest towards studying
First of all, take a deep breath. Do not aim for immediate better grades, but rather talk to your child and find out what are their most and least favorite subjects. Find out what are their relationships with teachers and peers. Do not reprimand your child or lecture them, just talk.
- Find out what interferes with your child’s studies. Once you find the reason and the cause, you will be able to figure out your next step. If the reason is a conflict with a teacher, think about ways to alleviate it. If it happens because of boring lessons, find some videos and books that your child will find more interesting. If your child missed an important topic, help them study it. You know the drill.
- Help your child develop motivation, a skill that will be extremely important for any activity. Help them find their personal goals in the academic process. A child should learn to develop their individual skills and overcome hardships. An obsession with grades can become counter-productive; once we are out of this system of education, what matters is our abilities and the ways we can apply them to our lives.
- Teach your children to move forwards.  A child must understand that grades are not representative of their personality and a bad grade does not equal stupidity. Success depends upon the effort put into achieving the goal. Help your child find their potential and have faith in their own abilities. For example, you might say: “You’ve got a C. Let’s see what you can do to solve the task better next time. What do you think?” Forget about calling your child names like “bummer, lazybones, slouch, stupid, slow”.
- Help your child study (just don’t study instead of them). This is a skill that will prove useful even during adulthood. A person who can acquire new knowledge can enter a new profession and develop the skills needed for career advancement.
- Help your child develop willpower, self-control and self-direction.
Our psychologists have specifically developed a behavior modification course that will help children control their study process, improve their motivation and rekindle their interest towards studies.
It is important to note that a child takes a course of 7Spsy behavior modification technique individually. Parents can only help with understanding the material and by supporting them for the duration of the course, but it is ultimately children who acquire the skills. In 2-6 weeks a child will develop a new behavior pattern and a positive mindset. This will lead to a change in the mode of behavior and a healthier scenario and consequently to greater success in studies.
A psychologist will support the child and answer their questions remotely, by online chat, phone or e-mail. Children find these means of communication more convenient. Also, this allows you to keep the classes secret if a child decides to hide the fact of taking them from others.
School is a difficult period in any person’s life. We have to succeed in many things and enter adulthood fully prepared, while maintaining our interest towards new knowledge. Help your children change their attitude towards studying, and they will thank you afterwards.
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Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics.
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