A common complaint that parents bring to me is some variation on the theme of the child being poorly motivated.
Parents will say things like, “He just doesn’t seem to care about anything (other than screens). We’ve tried everything and nothing seems to motivate him. Now, if it’s something he likes doing like surfing at the beach, he will get up early and do it all day. For that, he’s motivated.”
One of the things that gets my back up is when professionals fall to simplistic explanations after the parents have checked off a few of the classic items on a rating scale at the doctor’s office that point to “ADHD.”
While the child may have this neurodevelopmental disorder, I could easily come up with about 20 different things that contribute to the child having low motivation.
A favorite author of mine who has written a number of excellent books on learning issues and struggling children is Dr. Ellen Braaten.
While cruising around Barnes and Nobles recently (yes, people still go to real bookstores sometimes), I came upon her latest book whose title says it all: “Bright Kids Who Couldn’t Care Less: How to Rekindle Your Child’s Motivation.”
Even though we don’t know each other, I’d like to think we are kindred spirits.
While parents often want to focus on the question, “How do we fix it,” I try and push back and remind parents that their children are not car engines and that there’s nothing broken.
I encourage parents to follow the child’s strengths. (That is the theme of The Shut-Down Learner.”)
Following the child’s strengths is a lot easier said than done and getting a child through the rigors of school can be extremely challenging (The last time I looked surfing wasn’t a part of most school’s curriculum.)
Dr. Braaten also emphasizes building on strengths to help break the cycle of low motivation.
One of the things I particularly liked about Dr. Braaten’s book is a chart that she includes that highlights what low motivation looks like at different ages. For example, how does low motivation look with a five year old compared to a 17-year-old?
If you’ve been frustrated as many parents are with issues of motivation, I strongly encourage you to get a hold of Dr. Braaten’s book. It’s loaded with great ideas and offers good food for thought.
I believe your perspective on why your child is unmotivated will broaden once you go through her book.
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