I want to study: Developing passion for learning in schoolchildren
04.04.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
“He is kind of a smart boy, but he doesn’t want to study at all. It’s been happening since he finished elementary. He used to get straight B’s! I know he could do better, but a lot of things happened. Now he doesn’t do his homework, doesn’t want to go to school, he totally lacks discipline. I always tell him: “Vadik, you should study, then you’ll be able to find a good job”, and he replies daringly by telling me all businessmen failed schools. We are getting along well, but his studies… Our child simply rejects going to school, what should we do?”
– Elena, 32
Change the age and the name of a child in this story, and you’ll get the typical picture of a child losing interest towards studying. Children often have no desire to study, and it always happens for a good reason. Those reasons may come from age, school, peers, teachers and the children themselves.
You might say: “Reasons are good and all, but they still should study!” Of course they should, because school education is mandatory.
Let’s find out why children refuse to study and help them find interest in learning new things once again.
All people want to learn more about the world since birth. Just remember how your children were when they were little. You didn’t have to make them play with educational toys for hours or taste new things. Many children maintain their level of curiosity even in school and enjoy studying. However, if something happens, a child may start to neglect studies, skip classes, talk back to teachers and relatives.
So why do the children start doing so? We can divide the reasons for reduced interest towards studies, with lower grades as a consequence of that, in three groups depending on the age of child, and also figure out reasons common for each age group.
A child might have been unprepared for school, both physically and mentally. The main method of learning until the age of 7 is a role-play game.  In other words, a child learns about the world around them through playing. Studying activity becomes prevalent only at the age of 7 or 8. Schools obviously have little in terms of playing, they have a more “adult” system: you have to sit still for 40 minutes, you cannot walk around the class, you cannot bring your own toys, you have to complete certain tasks, etc. Children who couldn’t transition from playing to studying find it hard to adapt to school rules, grow tired faster and need more time to understand the subject.
Your child already knows all the subjects from first year. Each child’s process of development is unique, so it can happen that your child can read, write and count by the time they go to school. In that case, the classes will be boring for a child, because they learn nothing new there. They start to think that school is not interesting, and don’t develop any interest towards studying even later, after the subject becomes more complicated.
“My daughter attended pre-school classes before going to school. Well, what do you think, they have all the same subjects in the first grade! Once again they learn to read and write from scratch, and the teacher absolutely must follow that program! They even use the same books as pre-school! My daughter is always whining that she doesn’t want to go to school. She is studying worse and worse, she is suffering from all this, but what should I do? She has to go to school, after all. This is utter nonsense.”
– Ekaterina, 29
New study process. In Russia, for example, almost all classes in elementary are taught by the same teacher, while in middle school a teacher is responsible for only one subject. Children now have to adapt to this new system and new requirements from many different teachers. This can lead to stress and lower grades.
Shift in leading activity. By the age of 12 personal interaction with peers becomes the leading activity.  Children are more focused on developing social connections and finding themselves than on school, so they have less and less desire to study. You shouldn’t punish a child for this shift in priorities. It is a natural process, you cannot undo this and cannot “switch it off”.
Teenage crisis This is a difficult stage in child’s development, which is characterized by hormonal changes and the intent to distance oneself from parents, fighting for the right to have a personal opinion. Depending on the progress of this crisis, a child may develop problem in school, for example, they may start to skip school as a sign of protest, argue with teachers in order to defend their opinions and views, etc.
“My son used to be so diligent, but then he found his first love in middle school and ran amok. He stopped studying, he doesn’t even do his homework anymore. He still goes to school, but only if he has time for this, not spent on something else. He told me he is going to find a part-time job in summer to earn his own money. He grew up so fast.”
– Inna, 39
Need for personal identity. At this stage teenagers have to choose what to do next: stay in high school or go get some vocational education, they need to decide upon their major and set their future goals. Many teenagers get extremely disoriented by this if they were not ready for this transition to adulthood.
2. Increased academic workload and faults in organizing academic activities, focus on mandatory state examination. Teachers pay too much attention to success at exams, rather than obtaining new knowledge. Students receive “training” for the final examination, and all the lessons get reduced to mechanical solving of similar tests, following the structure of the state examination. Some teachers may even resort to intimidation, which can raise anxiety levels, leading to worse grades.
General reasons for bad grades
Health. If a child often has a cold or a sore throat, skips classes due to this, suffers from regular headaches or has poor eyesight studying becomes too difficult and requires significant effort. As the result a child may blatantly refuse to go to school.
They might think they lack the ability to understand a certain subject. There are stereotypes which dictate what subjects they should succeed in, and what are absolutely not for them, for example, literature is for girls and math is for boys. Under such pressure, a schoolchild can lose faith in their abilities, justifying their failures by saying “it’s not my thing”. This leads to a self-sufficient prophecy: I am no good—I don’t study—I get bad grades—I knew I was no good. It is important to let children understand that they can master any subject depending on their efforts.
Bias from teacher or parents. Bias towards the child’s abilities can lead to lower grades if the teachers or child’s parents adopt the following mindset: “I know he has no talent in math, so why should I help him understand the subject?” Such attitude promotes the loss of interest towards studying in students.
A boring subject or boring and unclear explanations from a teacher. If the child does not understand the subject, they can lose any interest to study it independently.
Excessive academic workload. An advanced curriculum or lack of communication between teachers can lead to increased amount of homework. In order to do it in time, a child might have to sacrifice rest and sleep. Chronic fatigue has a negative effect on studying.
Extracurricular activities can make it even worse, as they take up the time a child could spend on studying.
Falling behind a curriculum, when a child missed or didn’t understand a topic. This can happen both due to a disease and an increased workload. It is hard to catch up with it and acquire knowledge that is based on the topic in question. Studying becomes increasingly hard, a child might develop a sense of shame for their own “stupidity” while not knowing what to do in this situation, so they start to skip school in order not to embarrass themselves.
A child does not like the teacher, they have conflicts, for example, if a teacher is too authoritative. A sense of distress that children get during the lessons given by such teachers can reduce motivation and lead to lower grades..
Conflicts with peers. A bullied child often refuses to go to school. In this case, it is very important to consult a teacher or a school counselor. Bullying rarely goes away by itself, without interference from adults.
Parents study instead for their children. Sometimes parents overestimate the importance of having good grades and to everything they can to ensure straight A’s for their child: do their homework, watch their every move, thus actually crippling the child’s interest towards studying.
These reasons, in complex and even by themselves, lower their children’s motivation, the children start doing bad and school and skipping classes. So, what should you do to avoid such consequences?
“I call for help. My child started studying less and less. A new Russian language teacher reprimanded my daughter for using wrong quotation marks. She was offended and strongly discouraged from studying. In a mere couple of months she went from straight A’s to consistent C’s. She goes out in the morning, comes home in the evening, but she doesn’t go to school and doesn’t tell me where she goes instead. She is already in middle school, I shouldn’t have to take her there myself! How can I make her study again?”
– Galina, 36
Can we make children study?
Some parents tend to think that if the child started doing poorly in school, the obvious solution is to make them study, intimidate them and deprive of entertainment until they start doing better. A mix of sticks… and sticks. It doesn’t work that way. We cannot make a person like studying this way, we can only make them hate it even more.
Of course, a child will study under this pressure, but this will end once the parents divert their attention. Are you sure you want to study together with your child until they graduate from university?
Reviving interest towards studying
First of all, take a deep breath. Do not aim for better grades, but rather talk to your child and find out what are their most and least favorite subjects, what are their relationships with teachers and peers. Do not reprimand your child or lecture them, just talk.
Find out what interferes with your child’s studies. Once you find the reason and the cause, you will be able to figure out your next step. If the reason is a conflict with a teacher, think about ways to help. If in happens because of boring lessons, find some videos and books that your child will find more interesting. If your child missed an important topic, help them study it. You know the drill.
Help your child develop motivation, a skill that will be extremely important for any activity. Help them find their personal goals in the academic process. A child should learn to develop their skills and overcome hardships. Grades don’t matter; once we are out of this system of education, what matters is our abilities and the ways we can apply them to our lives.
Teach your children to move forwards.  A child must understand that grades are not representative of their personality, a bad grade does not equal stupidity, and success depends on the effort put towards achieving the goal. Help your child find their potential and have faith in their own abilities. For example, you might say: “You’ve got a C. Let’s see what you can do to solve this task better next time. What do you think?” Forget about calling your child a “bummer, lazybones, slouch, stupid, slow”.
Help your child study (just don’t study instead of them). This is a skill that will prove useful even during adulthood. A person who can acquire new knowledge can get a new profession any time and develop the skills needed for career advancement.
Help your child develop willpower, self-control and self-direction.
Our psychologists have specifically developed a behavior modification course that will help children control their study process, improve their motivation and rekindle their interest towards studies.
It is important to note that a child takes a course of 7Spsy behavior modification technique individually. Parents can only help with understanding the material and support them for the duration of the course, but it is ultimately children who acquire the skills. In 2-6 weeks a child will develop a new behavior pattern and a positive mindset, change mode of behavior and master a healthy scenario. This will lead to successful studies.
A psychologist will support a child and answer their questions remotely, in online chat, by phone or e-mail. Children find these means of communication more convenient. Also, this allows you to keep the classes secret if a child decides to hide the fact of taking them from others.
School is a difficult period in any person’s life. We have to succeed in many things and enter adulthood fully prepared, while maintaining our interest towards new knowledge. Help your children change their attitude towards studying, and they will thank you afterwards.