motivating children from within
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This might seem an odd thing to teach and to talk about because it is a very personal thing, but we all know that no matter how skilled or knowledgeable a person might be, their attitude may well be the deciding factor in their success, both personal and professional.

For children, too, attitude can be a powerful factor in whether or not they succeed. Their behaviour will reflect their attitudes and when these are negative, they can undermine progress and override common sense to compromise their future.


During the past year, several parents got in touch because they were tearing their hair out over teenage children who, at a critical stage in their education, were not or would not study and who were ‘deaf’ to all appeals from the parents. No amount of cajoling, threat or admonishment seemed ‘to work’ and the parents were exhausting themselves with argument, anxiety and frustration.

The situation is not helped by the fact that, unfortunately, ‘teenagers’ regularly get very bad press and this reinforces the negativity and concern in parents so the situation can get to a point of stalemate, with everyone miserable and no one knowing how to move forward.

Breaking the deadlock

Breaking the deadlock needs a fresh approach and it can seem ‘easy’ for an outsider to say this. However, when I was a very young teacher a head teacher I worked for gave me the following piece of great advice: never get into a confrontation with a child because you will always come off worst.

On the occasions where I have blundered into a confrontation – and it is easily done! – I have seen the same deadlock occur and had to struggle in myself to find the way out. This is the best of what I have found so far and even though each child is different, many of the processes we encounter are the same.

How I begin

In general, this is how I begin:

FORGET HISTORY. Give it a clean slate. Take personal out of it.

In other words, take a deep breath, swallow your pride and indignation and make the decision to LISTEN to what your young person has to say without interrupting, judging or criticising.

LISTEN without looking for a solution

This means ignoring the sullen tone of voice and complaint that may come first – they are testing to see if you really want to help – or (from their point of view) – just want to control them and ‘start another argument’.

LET GO OF YOUR CONDITIONS – (no one said this would be easy!)

Basically, be prepared to make the changes that will help. Adopt the mindset that this young person is trying to express a negative feeling and may not have the language to express it. They need to get the message that you recognise their struggle and are there to support them. Not control. Not tell them what to do. Just help.


Talk to them. Often they feel that they are talked AT rather than TO. Recognise how they are feeling and if you are not sure – ASK! – they’re not really interested in ‘when I was your age’….they want someone to connect to them.

BE PREPARED TO MAKE CHANGES in routine, in practical ways and even in yourself if it is necessary.

Adopting a positive attitude

We are ALL on a development journey of one kind or another and we are bound to encounter challenges if we are to grow. We know from experience attitudes can not only be chosen they can be changed but children and young people do not have enough experience and reference to be able to do this themselves. By adopting a positive attitude ourselves and behaving in the best of ‘human to human’, we are in a better place to lead them to change theirs while they learn.

This is a short extract from a series of writing about Attitude. Please feel free to comment and add from your own experience to help us all along the way. Thank you!

1 Comment
  1. Great advice… a parent I can relate to this…..

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