Motivating boys to learn (may work for girls too!)

motivating boys to learn 
It’s year-end exam season and a mum asked how to motivate her 7yo son to learn.

I usually don’t gender stereotype. That is, my boys are free to love pink, wear pink, play with dolls, doll houses, cooking sets, etc. However, there are commonly observable differences between young boys and girls.

Interestingly, I’m from a family of three daughters and no son. And now, I have three sons and no daughter. It’s really a world of difference in both my families.

The traditional preschool and primary school system is typically designed by females, implemented by females and suited for females. Just compare the ratio of female to male teachers in the lower grades.

At home, the primary caregiver and homework tutor is also typically female (aka mummy dearest). 90-100% of my workshop attendees are females!

That’s why mummy can sometimes tear her hair over her boy who is so different from her younger self. (Well, I leave my hair alone and indulge in chocolates when needed.)

I know that many boys feel stifled in school, and then rebel or become unmotivated. So how do we help them?

In replying the mum, I’ve rounded up some key ways that I keep my boys motivated to learn and diligently practice.

  • Read interesting books and magazines to him outside of school syllabus. If he’s a reluctant reader (like mine), it’s ok, just keep reading to him daily. Sometimes you can link it back to what he learns in school again. For about 5yo onwards, The Young Scientists and Smart Mathematicians magazines are very suitable and create lots of topics to explore.
  • Link topics to short online documentary videos. I restrict screen time and am very selective about the content they view. Among my favourites are National Geographic videos, which are informative and superbly produced. Since we can’t watch real wildlife like lions and snakes easily, they view short clips and are intrigued to learn more about nature and science.
  • For his topic of interest, I find articles online, print out, then read and discuss with him. Recently Vee asked about the differences between typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes. Wow… I didn’t know too. So I found out and shared with him.
  • Go on excursions related to his learning interests. It can be visiting a farm, the zoo, the Science Centre, a museum, go on road trips or overseas travels. Many boys love to move, explore, go on adventures, and watch learning come alive. (Our excursions are logged here.)
  • Offer him materials at home to be creative: art materials, scraps, tools for experiments, etc. Many boys learn by doing and are motivated this way. For example, when I change batteries of a clock at home, I teach him how to do it. Perhaps explain the science of batteries and circuits where appropriate. In a similar way, involve him in many things that the parents do to solve problems at home.
  • Ensure free play time every day after work is done. In between indoor work, I give him a yoga mat to jump on. Or we may dance together to re-energize and go back to homework or music practice. We allocate up to 1 hour per day for outdoor exercise. Otherwise we do indoor exercise or games.

For 7yo Vee, I don’t bother about his actual exam results. Instead I teach him study and revision skills:

Most importantly, it’s the effort he puts in to learn and practice. Once an exam / competition is over, we just go and celebrate for the effort put in. (I need a celebration for my effort too!)

As usual, shower the child with lots of love and encouragement. Have patience to let him bloom when he’s ready. As mentioned, these ideas may work for girls too.

All the best!

~ MieVee

P.S. Check out my workshops here

2 thoughts on “Motivating boys to learn (may work for girls too!)”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, MieVee. This post is exactly the answer to a question I had wanted to ask you. Btw, how exactly do you teach study and revision skills, and what are your challenges? I would like my children to become independent learners one day so I don’t have to breathe down their necks till forever.

    1. mievee @

      Hi Cheryl, maybe I’d write deeper about that next time. The most important thing for us is scheduling / routine. Set aside a fixed block of time for home study every day and a bit during weekends (for weekend homework / supplementary work).

      Also instil good habits such as finishing work before more free play. My school-going child typically have some play time before and after school. Then it’s work period. During this time, no free play. (We typically try to study in an interesting manner.)

      If child chooses to not to focus, it means he’s choosing to reduce the evening outdoor / exercise / free play time. (We set aside 1 hour for this, which is a highlight of the day they love.) After consistent reinforcement, he learns to work efficiently during work period.

      Invest in the time and effort to build good habits. Hope this helps. 🙂

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