Interests are our #1 motivators. Engaging in our interests makes us happy, energizes us and wakes up our brains! When we are truly interested in something we will work long and hard and stick with it until we “get it.”
This goes for adults as well as kids. In fact, interviews with the families of people who are accomplished in various areas – such as Olympic winners – reveal that very often the “winner” had a sibling who was more talented in that area. But the “winner” had such an interest that he/she worked for hours, practicing and improving his/her skills.
And, yet, how often have we heard comments such as these:
- No dancing until your spelling improves.
- Memorize the math facts and you can go back to art classes.
- Bring your grades up if you want to play tennis.
But we never hear: No spelling until your dancing improves or you can’t do math until you get better at tennis!
I know, you’re probably thinking: But spelling and math are important – dancing, tennis, art are not!
Well, here’s the thing: YES THEY ARE! Actually dancing, tennis, art and other passionate interests ARE more important than spelling and math if those are the things that will help students feel confident and believe that they have gifts to contribute. Especially if spelling and math are not being offered to the student in ways that work for his/her learning needs.
Feeling confident and believing you have gifts is what keeps a person – child or adult – motivated and moving toward goals. If the things you do well are taken away from you until you “get better” at something you don’t understand and cannot learn in the way it’s being presented, then you’re in a no-win situation and out of luck!
Please note – I am NOT saying that math and spelling (or other academic skills) are not important.
But if you take away Interests as a punishment, or because you think this will motivate the student – think again! You will only succeed in creating resentment, possibly even more dislike or downright hatred for the skill in question, and very often plant the seed that the area of Interest is not important – leading to general discouragement and lower motivation for anything at all.
In this scenario the child loses every time.
So what can you do to help the student improve in the area of difficulty?
Stay tuned for Part 2.