Back To School: Motivating Your Kids Matters

After a summer of hearing the delightful sounds of my two sons playing non-stop, my house feels really quiet. It’s been almost a week since they went back to school, and I think they’ve adjusted to all the changes this time of year brings better than me!

It’s good to see them get back into the school groove so seamlessly. It makes me glad I put so much thought into all the little things. Yes, we did the clothes shopping and buying school supplies – trust me, a cool new Spiderman t-shirt, a fresh box of pencils and some nice erasers can get any kid psyched about school.

I took them to the grocery store specifically to pick out snacks so they’d have something tasty to munch on at recess. They got brand new haircuts and new toothbrushes so that they can be extra clean and neat. I also bought my third grader some deodorant! I can’t believe he needs it but he does!

But, even with all the “new” stuff, the most important thing has been the constant conversations we have around setting and achieving goals.

Because I used to be a teacher, I know how important it is to build motivation and the desire for knowledge in children. That motivation and desire is what really gives kids the confidence to walk into a new classroom with an “I can do this!” attitude. A teacher can help with that, but I really believe it’s something that kids have to hear at home, too.

I don’t believe in boring sit-down lectures about setting goals and working to achieve them. Instead, every year on the day before school starts we head out to Venice Beach for our very last end-of-summer vacation fling. This year, as we sat on the edge of the shore, letting waves splash over us, we shared our favorite memories from the summer and then we each said what we were looking forward to most about the new school year.

Yes, my first grader said he was looking forward to seeing all his girlfriends again. All 279 of them! Never mind that he doesn’t even KNOW 279 girls! (Yes, I know there’s girl-drama in my future!) But once we got past that, he talked about wanting to become a better reader so he can read cool comic books like his brother.

My third grader talked about wanting to be at the top of his class. He wants to be the smartest boy in the class, and he wants to learn even more science so he can be an astronaut… and an actor. I guess he’s going to be an astronaut who acts on the side!

One new thing I talked about with them is not being afraid to ask for help if you need it. The more I read about successful people, the more I’ve noticed how much they ask other people for information or help. My first grader’s response? “Yeah, I’ll definitely need help with all my girlfriends.”

That night my boys were so excited for the next day, the first day of school, they couldn’t sleep! Even my eldest, the child who’s been freaked out all summer over who his teacher would be, was excited!

The morning of the first day, I was so proud to see them walk into their school so confidently. There were no tears from them. I only cried as I watched them trail away in the lines for their new classes, so full of anticipation that they didn’t even give me a backward glance. I’m not complaining though because at least they both still kissed me goodbye!

Lots of us are enjoying the back to school season – an exciting, fun and sometimes, hectic time. Hallmark has put together this great resource to help you calm the butterflies and build your kids’ confidence. Just for joining the conversation you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card. Check it out.

You can ALSO win a $50 Hallmark gift card courtesy of Hallmark and yours truly, Los Angelista! Just leave me a comment telling me one way you encourage and motivate the children in your life to do well in school! You must live in the continental United States and enter by 11:59 pm on September 18, 2009. Good luck!

UPDATE: We Have A Winner!!!

So happy to share that our randomly chosen winner is Tech Savvy Mama! Thanks everyone for entering and thanks to Hallmark for the gift card!

Be on the lookout for more exciting giveaways this fall here at Los Angelista.


Jameil said…
I don't really know many children. So I just try to encourage the undergrads in the course I'm assisting to hold on to journalism ethics so they can become some of the best journalists of their class. If I can give something back, I feel really happy.
Unknown said…
Oh my gosh, until I read this it had not occurred to me that this year I did not need to "say" or "do" anything! Could it be the last 13 years have paid off???? OR maybe it was that "fun-filled" summer at that military academy!! LOL!
Anonymous said…
I think my motivational moments are more along the lines of "The floggings will continue until morale improves." :o) Bribery is good too.

Here in "A-ba-lama-ding-dong" we've been back to school for a month already.....
Anonymous said…
So I just "catch" my kids doing things that I know will help them do better in school. For example when my daughter declines going to a friend's house to study because she knows that she studies better at home I say "that's a smart idea" or something to show that I approve of her choice.
Maisha said…
I was the "anonymous person". Sorry.
Jessica said…
On the first day of school and on each new quarter, before any work has even begun, I remind my son, Aaron, that on that day he has an A+. It gives his spirit a little boost.
Call Family said…
I am planning my curriculum night, and although I wish I could read this post to my parents instead of my usual spiel, I will instead reference encouraging the "can do" attitude and goal setting at home.
Anonymous said…
I try to encourage my girls' passions and interests. Fortunately, they both seem to be driven and need very little nudging. Although they are young, their independent natures sometimes motivates me!
pooneh said…
Mine are still little - but the pre-schooler counts down the days until school - and on her days off pines to go to school. I doubt I'll have to motivate her when the real work starts.

the littler one just wants to go where the older one does, so that seems easy enough - at least until homework enters the picture! ;)
Anonymous said…
Wow this is a good question. How to motivate the kids in school? I do it by showing interest. I ask questions of all the kids in my life. Often, when they get off the schoolbus in front of our house, we are out walking, so I stop to ask them how their day was. What did they learn today? What are they excited about at school? And it seems to take them back that a grownup really wants to know! :) Gayatri
I think kids learn by example. The best way to get your kids interested in learning is to be a life long learner yourself. Parents who read books have kids who read books. Parents who support education have kids who want to do to school. I don't think it's more complicated than that.

P.S. Did you ever find the hamster?
As a teacher in an elementary school, I model the kinds of behavior I expect from my students such as respect, manners, and common courtesy. If I treat my students with respect, they are far more receptive to the learning I am trying to impart.

For my own children, ages 3 and 5 1/2, I foster their interests, encourage them to take risks, and provide lots of positive reinforcement every day!

Thanks for the great giveaway!

tech savvy mama at g mail dot com
Deb said…
Just this evening as I was driving my 6 y/o nephew to my grandma's house (that would be his GREAT grandma), I was amazed at his being able to read just about EVERY sign we passed by. Instead of telling him that the constant chatter was giving me a head ache (it was), I piped up about his amazing reading abilities. He said, "Yah. I can read pretty good. I like to read." I told him that next time we go to visit Great Grandma, he needs to bring a book to read to her. He thought it was a great idea!

Made me feel like I had contributed ... even if in just some small way.

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