The Complete Parent's Guide to GCSEs

Motivation 101 If Your Child Just Won't Revise

This year, we spoke to numerous teachers across the UK trying to uncover the most burning questions asked by parents around exam times, so we could step in and provide the answers. We discovered that parents were regularly asking “How can I make my child revise?" around GCSE exam periods.

This worrying revelation shows us that many parents might not be aware of the detrimental effect that forcing education-related tasks has on a child's motivation. Making a child revise sends negative messages about who the child is actually studying for. Hint: it's themselves.

Instead of threatening students with punishments, such as taking away their access to technology, or banning social activities, you really want to drive a focus on intrinsic motivation to revise - where a child is motivated to revise for its own sake and their own personal rewards.

Let’s rephrase the question: “How can I motivate my child to learn?”

These top motivational tips will help you work out a way to ease your child into revision. Not only will encouraging intrinsic motivation be beneficial to sustain adherence to a revision schedule, it will also provide fundamental positive lessons that will benefit students throughout adulthood.

Take your teenager somewhere new to revise

Sitting in a bedroom, surrounded by the same four walls, reading from the same four textbooks certainly isn’t our idea of a great day. The good news is that revision doesn't have to be boring, and bad days do not have to correlate with GCSE revision.

Of course, revision locations are limited when you don’t have the freedom to drive. This is where you can step in.

Why not offer to take your child to a cool cafe or coffee house with wifi, hot drinks and enough room to study? A change of setting can be great for the brain, and often motivate us to explore new ways to achieve our goals. By letting your teen choose where to go will be empowering, and help them to feel like they’re completely in control of their success.

The chances are, they’ll also see adults working with their laptops too - sending a hugely important message that hard work is something that we choose to do, to achieve success throughout our lives.

Explore solutions to overcome revision problems based on your own experiences

Possibly one of the worst things you can do to a revision-reluctant teenager is make them feel guilty for not studying. This will only cause resentment, even when you offer practical solutions to help.

Maintain an open and honest relationship before the intense study period so they don’t feel overwhelmed when the time comes to step up revision for upcoming exams.

Think back to how you felt when you were revising whilst you were at school, and how you can relate to their situation. Discuss ways that you used to overcome hurdles in your motivation and reassure them that you’ll be there for them every step of the way. 

If your children can see a specific example where you were able to overcome similar difficulties and get to where you are today, then they'll be more motivated to to be proactive in their learning throughout the year. 

Consider that your child might not be lazy after all

You might be wondering how to motivate a lazy teenager - but what you might not be considering is the real reason why your child is being “lazy” - or if it is even laziness you’re dealing with in the first place.

Anxiety is often a common reason for children to refuse to be productive. Unfortunately, young people can be reluctant to divulge mental health problems to their parents. However, if you can resolve anxiety issues and reduce the stress they are under, you can gradually help them to build up the time spent on studying for their GCSEs out of school.

Psychiatrist Dr. Hayley van Zwanenberg offers her best advice on how parents can help their children find solutions to stress-related lack of motivation;

Young people are often 'catastrophising'; they believe they will fail spectacularly. Help them look at the true evidence regarding their hard work, so they can challenge irrational thinking.

 Help your children 'problem solve' and form a plan so that even if their results are not what they hope for, there are options and a future.  Do not continually put pressure on your child to revise. Remind them that they will feel satisfied if they know they have tried their best, and to achieve this they need a healthy balance of revision and relaxation."

Our top tips on how to support a stressed teenager (even if they don’t know you know it) will be really helpful if you think that anxiety could be an issue. 

Treat your children like you’d like to be treated after a difficult day

Although bribery isn’t a good idea — especially using money as a reward for success — there is nothing wrong with treating your child after a hard day at school.

Exams can be some of the most stressful days of our lives. Just as you’d appreciate your partner running you a hot bath when you’ve had a tough day, a slice of cake after a hard day at school is definitely well-deserved.

This kind of support is integral to allow your child to reset so they aren’t afraid or anxious to make a start on revision.

Up next: 8 Ways to Help Your Child Smash Grade Expectations at School

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