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How to motivate your child to study?

How do you motivate a naughty child to study?

Is your kid playful and easily distracted?
Does he/she hate the sight of assessment books?

One comforting thought is that - You are not alone!

Countless parents all over the world are simply sick of nagging and punishing their children to study. For example, ff you wish to find ways to motivate your child to put in extra efforts in his Chinese tuition class, it’s time to accept that the old school methods of using the ‘stick’ don’t work anymore.

Motivating your child is a tough responsibility to bear. Repeated naggings about getting a good education and landing a good job 10 years later doesn’t cut any ice with a kid who is already bogged down with a full day of schooling and feeling miserable from all the homework given. Asking him to do more assessment books will result in rebellion and frustration, as he cannot understand that the sweat put in then will result in a more comfortable life in future.

The fact is that most children are not self-motivated and they will need motivation to get them to start learning. This is especially made difficult if the child is weak in the subjects and keeps failing test after test, which discourages them even more. Reaching the goal of scoring an A grade will prove even more difficult without help and coaching.

What can a parent do in this case? Some suggestions we have:

Short term goals

If it is difficult to achieve big long-term targets e.g. distinction in PSLE, try setting short-term goals that are easy to achieve, such as improve from 50 to 70 marks in the next class test. Doing it step-by-step is better than nagging at the child on the importance of a long-term goal of say, achieving A1 in the O level

Once your child taste the sweetness of success, the morale will be raised and the self-motivation factor kicks in. A child who is self-motivated and sets his own personal targets is likely to achieve them than one who is pushed or dragged along by his parents.

Words of encouragement, not words of scolding!

Parents should use words of encouragement that will inspire their child, e.g. “That was a good English composition you wrote!” or “You have remembered those formulas well”. Make this a habit and use positive reinforcements so that your child’s self-confidence in his / her abilities.

Rewards (“carrots”) works better than the “stick”.

Whenever your child has done well, reward him generously (but don’t over-indulge else you will spoil the child). Bring him to his favourite restaurant or buy a small gift. Knowing that his efforts are appreciated and recognised, and that they will be rewarded when his goals are achieved will incentivise him to work harder for the next goal.

Leading by example

As a parent, you have to lead by example. You are the role model for him to follow and children pick things up from adults very quickly. If you have any bad habits, kick them before your child learns it. If you play video games while he is studying hard, then he will be distracted and thinks you are such an inconsiderate parent!

Try to help out with their homework whenever you have the time. Spending an hour a day solving difficult singapore maths questions, showing enthusiasm when he writes a new composition, will show the child that you care and behaves like a responsible parent.

Know his interests, his friends, his homework, everything!

It pays to spend a few minutes chatting with him to know what are his interests in sport/music/games and the latest happenings in school. By understanding these aspects of your child’s life, you will know what can motivate him better. If he does well, you will know how to reward him appropriately by getting him something he likes e.g. a new basketball rather than a soccer ball if your child prefers to play basketball. You will also be the first to know in the event of any changes to his school timetable or CCA’s which affects his lifestyle and eventually his schoolwork.


There are many parenting and motivational strategies as an alternative to scoldings or punishment. Positive reinforcements and encouragement will encourage growth and discipline in a child. Over time, once the child builds up his confidence and starts planning what he wants to achieve, your job as a parent is very much lightened. Your role will then be more of a mentor and provide guidance whenever he reaches an obstacle he cannot overcome on his own.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.