Singapore mom's secret to getting unmotivated child to study

By Jane Ng

I remember it was an uphill task getting my eldest child, now 11, to revise for exams when he was eight.

When I enthusiastically showed him a study schedule I had planned for his first exams in Primary 2, all he did was to give it a cursory glance and mumble “okay”, before moving on to other fun activities.

The same thing happened in Primary 3. After several instances of prodding him to revise for his mid-year exams and hearing him say “I already know my work”, I decided to leave him be.

I could have forced him to sit down and revise, but thought it would not benefit him in the long run, since he was not self-motivated to learn.

Even though he said he wanted to do well, he was reluctant to put in the effort. So I thought it would do him good to learn the hard way – if he wanted good results, he would have to work for them himself.

I was frustrated that my repeated attempts to help him were not appreciated and decided not to be so “enthusiastic”, since I was not the one sitting the exams.

He came back crying after his mathematics scores were released, because he scored almost 20 marks below what he had previously got – a result of insufficient practice, lack of exposure to different questions and carelessness.

I told him in a matter-of-fact manner that he should have done his revision and there was little point crying over it after all was said and done.

He spent the June holidays doing the revision he should have done before the exams.

Related: 6 best study strategies for kids in Primary 4 and Primary 5

It was an effective lesson. When I subsequently read up on ways to encourage self-motivation in a child, one of the suggestions was to allow the child to make his own decisions and face the consequences.

Since then, we have made a pact. I sit down with him to set targets for each subject before the exams. Once he reaches the targets, I do not make him do any revision or assessment books during the holidays.

And instead of prescribing and forcing him to do a certain number of pages of revision, I tell him what I think he needs to cover, but leave it up to him to plan when and how much he wants to do.

Having spent one vacation doing revision, the thought of playing during the entire next…

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