In today’s world of social media and on-demand entertainment, parents have a tougher job of raising motivated and self-driven kids than ever before. With so many distractions obstructing their path, children have fewer reasons to step away from their digital world and engage with other more useful activities like exercise, socializing with friends or becoming more involved with their school studies.
So with all these modern obstacles, what’s the trick to motivating a 10 year old? A good starting point is using discipline to make them see that their actions – such as failing to complete homework – have consequences. They will not respond to constant discipline on its own, however. It’s also helpful to step back from expecting your child to be a certain way and actually ask them what they want out of life so that they feel heard instead of constantly nagged.
Many parents can be quick to blame themselves or feel guilty about their child’s lack of motivation. But the fact is, some children are naturally less motivated than others and when it boils down to it, they are ultimately responsible for their achievements and future success (not you!). The best thing you can do is try and bring out the best in them by nurturing their interests and offering (background) support.
Lack of Motivation Due to Behavioral Issues?
In the first step towards understanding your 10 year old’s lack of motivation, it is a good idea to rule out any behavioral disorders that could be contributing to their low drive and disinterest. It’s easy to assume that your unmotivated child is just ‘being difficult’ and in an immature phase that they may soon grow out of, but if your 10 year old is showing persistent signs of low mood and a low desire to engage with their peers or with learning, then it may be in your child’s best interest to consult with your local pediatrician for a formal diagnosis.
Children with behavioral disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression, for example, can display symptoms that include a lack of motivation and focus, so it’s important that a genuine condition is not misinterpreted as ‘laziness’.
Behavioral disorders in young children.
Signs of anxiety/depression:
- Social withdrawal
- Disruptive sleep
- Changes in their appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
Signs of ADHD:
- Low attention span
- Interrupting people
- Frequent emotional outbursts
- Leave tasks unfinished
Signs of ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder):
- Blaming others for own mistakes
- Frequent arguing and tantrums
- Resisting authority, disobeying adults
- Easily annoyed by others
Fortunately, these behavioral disorders are treatable in young children and getting a diagnosis as early as possible can help to ensure that symptoms do not affect your child’s emotional and social development in their adult years.
Helping Your 10 Year Old Become Self-Motivated
If you have ruled out the possibility of any behavioral issues in your 10 year old and they are still unmotivated, you should start by taking a look at their home life and whether there are areas that need to be addressed. Do you listen to your child often enough, for example? Are you giving them the kind of discipline they can learn from or could you simply be punishing them out of habit? Psychotherapist Debbie Pincus suggests that as parents, we often use the wrong approach when it comes to trying to motivate our kids because “we’re taught that we need to somehow control our kids, so we often jump in their box without a second thought.”
Pincus goes on to suggest that “we think we’re supposed to motivate our children to want certain things in life, but that only causes them to function in reaction to you. Your child might comply to get you off his or her back, but that doesn’t help them get self-motivated.” Remember that you cannot force someone to care simply because you do. Pincus advises that in order to successfully motivate a child, parents need to own their role as influencers and inspirational figures in their child’s eyes, not always as strict authority figures.
To help your 10 year old become self-motivated, we’ve outlined some tips you can use to inspire and influence them in each area of their life…
The best we can hope for as parents is that our children grow up to be happy and well-rounded individuals and an appetite for learning plays a huge part in their healthy development. In an ideal world, every child would soak up the world around them and continue to have the same curiosity to learn in their teens as they did as babies and toddlers.
In reality though, not all kids are born with a love for learning and many can be late bloomers. It can be disheartening when your child fails to do their homework on time, or worse still, that they show little or no interest in any of their school subjects. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have no passions or goals – only that they may require different learning styles or need less of a pressured environment to pursue them.
How can I motivate my child to learn?
- Don’t force your child to care – Forcing your child to be more motivated – and regularly revealing your anxiety about this fact – will only have the opposite effect and actually get in the way of them feeling motivated. Parent educator and author of ‘Discipline Without Distress’ Judy Arnall points out that yelling at them to do their homework to ensure a good job in the future is “too remote to mean much to the average 10 year old.”. As a result, they will ultimately focus on the yelling and not the advice.
- Show that poor choices have consequences – A step in the right direction of raising a self-motivated 10 year old is to let them face the consequences of their own poor choices (in this case, failing to do their homework by a set time). If they fail to complete their homework, hold them accountable by withdrawing their privileges until it is done. If not for his future grades and job prospects, your pre-teen will at least learn that the reward of Netflix, computer or gaming time comes after they have taken responsibility.
- Switch up their learning style – every child picks up knowledge and information in different ways, so it can be worthwhile exploring which learning styles suit your 10 year old best. If they are visual learners, for example, turning a written science or mathematical problem into a fun illustration can help them grasp the concept more effectively if they can ‘see’ how things work.
- Ask them about their interests (and listen) – step back from viewing your child as a lazy, dismissive kid who needs to be ‘taught a lesson’ and try to see them as a separate person with their own interests and ideals. Ask them about their favorite subject or if there was a topic they recently found fascinating in school and encourage them to explore this. If your child has a fascination with space, for instance, stoke their enthusiasm by doing research together and finding out cool facts.
The friendship bonds your child makes in their early years can be vital to their well-being and emotional growth as teens and young adults. It’s therefore important that your child’s social needs are being met both at school and in their free play time. Your 10 year old may have a friendship group they have begun to withdraw from or may have even found it difficult to make friends full stop.
Discovering that your child is lonely and socially withdrawn can be a heartbreaking thing for parents, but it’s important to respond sensitively to help them become more sociable and not force them into uncomfortable situations for a ‘quick fix’ solution. The following tips can naturally help your child become more sociable.
How can I help my child become more sociable?
- Host playdates and family gatherings – if you have noticed your child becoming socially withdrawn and less willing to play with friends, arranging a playdate at home or a family celebration can be a gentle way of easing them into socializing. Your child may feel nervous at first, but having a social event take place in their own home compared to an unfamiliar public setting will make them feel more relaxed and open to socializing with kids their own age.
- Encourage them to volunteer – if one-on-one play dates are too daunting, encouraging your child to get involved with volunteer activities can be a great way to bring them out of their shell. As well as offering the chance to make new friends and acquaintances through volunteering, they will also have a renewed gratitude for their own free time. From local community programs such as soup kitchens to wildlife sanctuaries and clubs like the Boy Scouts, your child would have many activities to choose from, so let them select one they’d feel most comfortable with.
- Rule out bullying or other issues – if your child’s social withdrawal seems sudden, this may point to anxiety in relation to bullying or an anxiety disorder itself. A good place to start is by speaking with your child’s teacher or better still a school counselor. If you have ruled out school as a cause for their anxiety, your local pediatrician will be able to offer further guidance on how to proceed with treating underlying mental health issues.
Some kids can be high achievers at school but show little to no motivation once they come home. The kind of kids who have no problem doing homework on time but complain about chores and housework not only lack motivation, they also lack a sense of responsibility (not to mention a lack of respect for the parents too).
Giving your 10 year old kid the skills to show independence and responsibility now will help them become self-motivated in their teen years and beyond. Rather than simply telling them to do the following, here are some tips to help your child learn the value of sharing responsibility and the importance of self-reliance.
How can I motivate my child at home?
- Set accurate chore expectations – Rather than getting angry about the fact your 10 year old is useless when it comes to doing their chores, take a moment to sit back and ask yourself this: Am I setting the right expectations for my child’s age/ability or am I setting my own unrealistic expectations? In other words, you may need to be more specific when it comes to giving them chore duties and give them the kind of detailed instruction they are able to follow. You wouldn’t, for instance, yell at your 3 year old for putting their toys in the wrong box, since they’re not emotionally mature enough for this instruction.Parenting author and host of the ‘Mighty Mommy’ podcast Cheryl Butler suggests that kids will learn to do their chores effectively and repeatedly as long as parents “invest the time and positive energy into teaching him/her where things belong.” Playing a little ‘show and tell’ with the chores makes them seem less of a drag, and if you show them how to tidy in a memorable way, this can have long-term benefits, as Cheryl Butler explains: “your child will not only learn to do it right and by themselves, but they’ll ultimately learn about the benefits of organization in other aspects of life as well.”
- Involve them in adult decisions – As well as helping them prove their responsibility with household chores, you can also teach your kids a valuable life lesson in self-motivation by involving their input in some of the grown-up decisions – and the best example of this is the weekly grocery shop. They may not be thrilled by joining you in the actual food shop, but by getting invested in the meal planning aspect and preparing the food together, they’re given something constructive to do some nights besides starting at their phone screens. As a mom of 8 children (that’s right, 8!) Podcast host Cheryl Butler can confirm the importance and many benefits of involving your kids in the grocery shop: “If you have kids that are picky eaters, this can be wasteful and add even more to the grocery bill. But I’ve found that by involving my kids in the meal planning and preparation, they tend to eat nearly everything I serve and don’t complain about what’s for dinner.”
When our kids are very young, they are little bundles of energy and never seem to tire out from running around the park or the playground. Fast forward to their pre-teen years though and many kids begin swapping physical activity and the great outdoors for the comfort of their phone screens and video games, causing most of their motivation to go out of the window (and this has only gotten worse in recent years).
That’s why 10 years old is a crucial age to instill the values (and fun) of regular exercise while they are still kids and before they hit their teenage years. (Trying to motivate lazy teens is a whole other article!).
How can I help my child become more active?
- Be an example – kids learn how to act and think mostly by observing mom and dad, so if you are guilty of being a couch potato, then your 10 year old is certainly not going to be convinced of the benefits (or purpose) of exercise! Turn this around by inspiring them to get active and stay active. Start off small by encouraging them to a race around the garden or compete to see who can do the most start jumps in 60 seconds. Perhaps you can begin a fitness challenge yourself and involve them in your progress so they can observe you working towards a goal.
- Show them the joys of nature – It’s a fact backed by science that getting out amongst nature actually gives you more energy, so inspiring your kid to explore the great outdoors once in a while is one of the best motivational tools you can give them. Organize active family days out that involve things like walks on the beach, swimming or hill trekking. You could also encourage your child to try a new sport or hobby and play them with you or a sibling. Give them a reason to love exploring the great outdoors and they’ll be more likely to make it part of their routine – sowing the seeds for self-motivation.