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How to Motivate Your child to Study: Tips and Tricks for Parents

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Getting your kids to study is hard! At one time or another, every parent that I know has struggled with how to motivate their kids to study. With our kids we’ve tried a little bit of everything. Rewards, reminders, even punishments like the loss of screen time. I wish there was an easy way to help kids study. But the secret isn’t in rewards or punishments. It’s up to us, as parents, to ask the question, “How do I motivate my child to study?” As you do, you open the doors of motivation. By understanding what really makes your child tick – things like feeling in charge (autonomy), getting better at what they do (mastery), and connecting with others (relatedness) – we’re not just pushing them to hit the books. We’re setting them up for success, not just in school, but in life. In the beginning, fostering that inner motivation for your child starts with you.

Understanding Motivation: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Have you ever found yourself in a tug-of-war of trying to decide the best path to motivation for your kids. Maybe your son has a big homework assignment due and you are trying to decide whether or not to bribe your kid with a chocolate bar or threaten no screen time if they don’t?

This is the dance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic is all about those carrots and sticks – external rewards or threats. Intrinsic motivation, though, that’s about getting your child to want to learn without all the extras. Why fuss over this? From what I’ve seen and what the experts say, when the drive to learn comes from inside, not just to snag a reward or sidestep trouble, it sticks around. It builds a hunger for learning that lasts, well beyond when the goodies or threats vanish. Leaning into intrinsic motivation is your secret weapon for turning your child into a lifelong learner.

Three Keys to Sparking Your Child’s Love for Learning

Have you ever heard of self-determination theory? At its heart there are three big ideas: autonomy, mastery, and relatedness.

Here’s the breakdown – if your child feels they have a say in their learning (autonomy), believes they can get better at something (mastery), and feels connected to their family and friends (relatedness), they’re more likely to want to learn, even the hard stuff. Which is great news for parents. You don’t have to worry about bribing them with treats or scaring them with consequences. Instead, create a space where they feel capable, connected, and in control. That’s where their natural drive to learn and study will really take off.


Everyone feels better when they make their own choices! That’s the magic of autonomy. It’s not just about letting kids pick their own clothes; it’s about empowering them to learn and grow. When your child decides the topic of their next project or chooses where to dive into their homework they are going to be much more exited about it! It’s not just giving them freedom—it’s encouraging their natural curiosity. This isn’t just me talking; it’s backed by that fancy term, the self-determination theory, which places autonomy right at the heart of motivation.

But how do you strike that balance of protecting and guiding your child and letting them have autonomy? Here are some straightforward tips:

  • Provide options: Let them choose between a couple of subjects or activities. It’s like choosing between ice cream flavors—either way, they’re engaged.
  • Set boundaries, not limits: Guide them with a gentle hand, not a tight leash. Think of it as setting up bumpers in bowling—they’re free to roll, but you’re keeping them on track.
  • Celebrate their choices: When they make a decision, big or small, acknowledge it. A little “good job on picking your study topic today!” goes a long way.

By fostering autonomy, you’re not just encouraging them to study; you’re helping groom self-starters who believe in their choice-making abilities. It’s about empowering them today for the sake of their tomorrow.


Picture this – your kid is trying to do a puzzle that’s just a smidge too hard for them. At first, there’s a bit of huffing, maybe some complaints. But then, there’s that lightbulb moment, and they’re solving it, piece by piece. That’s what we’re aiming for when we talk about setting the right kind of challenges. These are the tasks that push our kids a little, making them stretch their skills but not so much that they feel it’s out of reach. It’s like saying, “Hey, I know it looks tough, but I’ve got your back, and I know you can crack it.” And when they do, it’s not just a win on that task. It boosts their self-belief big time. They start to see themselves as problem-solvers, ready to dive into the next challenge. That’s the sweet spot of encouraging a mastery mindset in your children.

  • Set achievable goals: Start with challenges that are just above their current skill level.
  • Show patience and encouragement: Offer support and positive feedback throughout the process.
  • Highlight the progress: Celebrate the small victories along the way to keep them motivated.
  • Instill a growth mindset: Remind them that every expert was once a beginner.


Isn’t it amazing how the simple things we do for and with those we love can have such a big impact? I’ve seen it firsthand. Showing your child that what they’re doing in school matters to you can make all the difference. It’s not always about the big achievements; sometimes, it’s those small study sessions at the kitchen table where you’re there, cheering them on that will really motivate your child. The climb towards academic success can and should be a shared journey, one where the bond between you and your child serves as the strongest motivator. Here’s the thing: kids want to feel connected, not just to their studies but to their family. It’s this sense of relatedness that fuels their drive to learn.

  • Make everyday efforts matter: Acknowledge the little things they do, not just the big wins.
  • Show genuine interest: Ask about what they learned in school and listen actively.
  • Learn together: Occasionally, sit down and learn something new with them.
boy and girl studying

A Growth Mindset

Let’s get real for a sec. Adopting a growth mindset is sort of like unlocking a secret level in motivating your child to study. You want your child to tackle a tough algebra equation or dense history chapter without throwing in the towel. A lot of kids think that if it’s hard, that they aren’t smart enough. Fortunately, it’s more about your child knowing deep down that with a bit of elbow grease and brain power, they can get better at anything. A growth mindset means that your child knows that no matter the challenge, they can get better and improve enough to succeed.

What this boils down to is helping your kiddo see the power in “yet” – they might not understand something yet, but they’re on their way. This is something we’ve been working on with our kids every single day. It takes practice. A growth mindset comes easier to some of my kids, and not as easy to others. But all kids are capable of developing a growth mindset!

When kids catch on that trying hard and sticking with it brings results, they’re more likely to muscle through challenges. It changes the game from dreading failure to being pumped about conquering something new. And trust me, when your child starts seeing study challenges as steps to mastery rather than roadblocks, genuine academic success starts to feel well within reach. Here’s some tips for helping your child develop a growth mindset:

  • Frame challenges as opportunities: Start conversations about how every struggle is a chance to learn something new.
  • Celebrate effort over results: Praise them for how hard they’re working, not just the A’s on their report card. Stop giving compliments such as “You’re so smart!” and start saying, “You are working so hard!”
  • Share stories of resilience: Talk about times you or others faced setbacks and came out stronger because of the perseverance shown.

Read also: 100+ Compliments for Kids

Encouraging Words and Phrases for Kids

Practical Steps to Motivate

When it comes down to motivating your kids to study, it can feel like a puzzle that’s missing half its pieces. Parents can fill in the missing pieces with just a few easy strategies. Here’s how:

  1. Encourage autonomy by giving them control: Try setting up a study schedule together, allowing them to choose when and what they’d like to tackle first. This sense of control fosters autonomy.
  2. Set mastery learning challenges: Introduce them to tasks slightly above their current level – the perfect challenge. It will push them gently out of their comfort zone but is still within their reach through effort and perseverance, encouraging a mastery approach.
  3. Strengthen relatedness: Show genuine interest in your child’s studies. Sit down with them and talk things out whenever you can. This nurtures relatedness, motivating them to engage for the shared joy it brings.
  4. Promote a growth mindset: Shift the conversation from “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet.” Teach your kids that effort and hard work can improve their capabilities.
girl studying

Finding the Sweet Spot in Helping Your Child Study

There’s a fine line between supporting your child’s academic journey and smothering their independence. Balancing parental involvement is difficult at times, but it’s also crucial for your child’s self-motivation. I’ve learned with my own kids that if I hove too much, they loose all motivation. But the same also happens if I “check out” and let me kids do everything on their own. Here are my best tips for finding the sweet spot in helping your child study:

  • Be present, not pervasive: Be available for questions or help, but don’t take over.
  • Encourage self-reliance: Nudge them to look for answers on their own before stepping in.
  • Applaud effort, not just results: Praise the hard work they put in, regardless of the outcome.

Fueling Academic Success: The Impact of Well-being

Kids need to feel good to do good. If my child is dealing with a nagging headache or fretting over friend troubles, their focus isn’t on fractions or the causes of World War II. So much of their success depends on how they’re feeling right there and then. Make sure your kids are in good health and emotionally well! Feeling good is the first step in helping your kids feel ready to study!

What Not to Do: Common Mistakes

As you navigate the often choppy waters of parenting, it’s tempting to fall back on what feels like tried and true methods to motivate your kids to hit the books. You might think, “If I can just find the right thing, my child will finally get motivated.” But let’s talk about why relying on punishment or financial rewards misses the mark.

  • Punishment in motivation often backfires spectacularly. Remember when you were a kid and how being punished made you feel? More often than not, it didn’t light a fire of motivation within you; it probably just made you feel resentful and even less inclined to do what was asked. It’s a common mistake to think punishment will build intrinsic motivation. Instead, it sours the parent-child relationship and sucks the joy out of learning.
  • Financial incentives, while seemingly effective at first, also fall short in the long run. Sure, your child might hustle for that cash to buy the latest video game, but are they really learning? Or are they just jumping through hoops to get to the reward? Paying your child for good grades shifts the focus from the joy of learning and mastering new skills, to simply performing for a payout. It’s a short-term fix that doesn’t foster a love of learning or the development of academic motivation and self-determination.

I’ll be honest, my husband and I have used these tactic more than I’d like to admit. It’s been a long learning process for us! We’ve found that the most effective types of rewards for grades and studying have actually been rewards that encourage connection with our kids. For example, we have offered a night out to the movies with mom or dad if our kids get straight A’s. That’s seems to be much more effective for our kids than simply paying out money for each A or taking away video games when bad grades happen.

Taking the First Step: How to Motivate Your Child to Study

I’ve been there, overwhelmed at the thought of helping to motivate our kids to study without killing their drive or creating a wedge in our relationship. However, I promise, it’s absolutely possible to help your kids love studying when you start with small steps. Have a heartfelt discussion with your child about their interests and goals. Connection sets the stage for success. Together, work on a flexible study schedule. This is about nurturing responsibility not imposing strict rules. Here’s how to get started:

  • Keep it Simple: Begin with straightforward, manageable steps.
  • Engage in Dialogue: Openly discuss interests and set goals together.
  • Flexibility is Key: Create a study plan that adapts to their productive peaks.
  • Acknowledge Efforts: Celebrate every step forward to encourage perseverance in growth.

What you’re aiming for is lifelong learning, not an overnight change. Be prepared to let things flex and change over time. Your kids will learn to self-motivate and study! I promise!

Learning Beyond Books

When we talk about our kids studying, it’s so easy to just think about the next quiz or homework assignment. But what we’re really aiming for is to light up that love for learning that lasts way past school years. By focusing on what drives them from the inside – letting them have a say (autonomy), getting better at stuff (mastery), and feeling connected (relatedness) – we’re setting them up for a lifetime of curiosity and discovery. It’s not about the gold stars or avoiding a time-out. It’s about showing them that learning isn’t just another task, but a part of life that’s exciting and fulfilling. And honestly, that’s the kind of lesson that sticks around much longer than just through graduation.

boy studying with text, "How to motivate your child to study."

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