Do you have a problem with your child spending too much time glued to the TV? Is it a struggle to get them active on the sports field or performing optimally in the classroom?
Perhaps you think they’re just lazy. But, warns Cape Town educational psychologist Retha Kruger, this sort of behaviour isn’t always caused by laziness. “Seeing your child as lazy is a change of mind-set,” she explains. “So instead of thinking about them as lazy, rather ask yourself if they could be unmotivated.”
'So instead of thinking about them as lazy, rather ask yourself if they could be unmotivated.'
According to Retha, it’s lack of motivation rather than inherent laziness which adversely affects kids’ behaviour.
And although it can be frustrating, there are simple ways to solve the problem.
“Every child has something that interests them,” Retha says. “Parents must identify that thing and focus on it.”
It can be anything – from a love of acting to playing the piano, mountaineering or toy trains. Continue to expose your child to this interest because it will keep them away from the TV or computer, which is not necessarily a productive way for them to spend their time.
Children also enjoy copying what their parents do. “So set an example,”Retha says. “Children will copy what they see. So if you want them to be active, walk the dogs or climb a mountain yourself, and invite the kids along.”
Another good way to motivate your kids is to structure their days and teach them to stick to a schedule. This teaches them effective time management, a skill a lot of children lack, Retha says.
“For instance, draw up a rotating timetable for the household tasks,” she explains. “The parents must also get involved in it. Give every child a turn to do a certain household task such as taking out the garbage or feeding the pets. Rotate these tasks on a weekly basis, because if kids have to do the same thing every day they soon get bored and don’t want to do it anymore.”
Also use the concept of reward and punishment. Praise your children’s achievements because it will motivate them to carry on achieving. On the other hand, also make sure they will be punished if they don’t follow your instructions.
“And make sure they’re not just empty threats,” Retha says. “If your child doesn’t carry out their duties, confiscate their computer, for instance, or don’t allow them to watch TV for a week. They must understand their behaviour has consequences.”
Regularly praising your child is also important, Retha says. “Parents often don’t understand how much pressure they put on their kids – that’s why good behaviour and achievements must be praised.” If children do not excel at school or are reluctant to do schoolwork, it may point to underlying learning problems their parents are not aware of.
Attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity are just two learning problems which could be responsible for your child’s underachievement at school.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about your involvement in your children’s lives,” Retha says. “Do things together as a family; invest in your kids’ interests and before long they’ll be watching less TV and spending more time on their favourite hobbies.”