How to motivate an extremely smart child who lacks passion?
My son gets exceptional grades and he has a strong interest in Math and Science. He's been invited to participate in a special program for kids that excel in those subjects. This is great and I feel it will really challenge him. This is the problem. He is very unmotivated because everything comes easily to him.
My son is bright, but not very passionate. He can give half effort and get straight A's without studying. How do I motivate him to want to push himself? Satisfaction comes from working hard at what you love. He's 14. Life isn't always going to be this easy!
Well, I married two of these left brain thinkers so I know these guys.
1. Don't worry too much because they have it all figured out - they're just not going to tell you.
2. Try to figure out who he admires in science - what field. He might be drawn to electrical engineering like my first husband who ended up being part of the team who designed the internal defibrillator. Your son might like theoretical science like Sheldon on "The Big Bang" or computer science like my present husband who thinks very linearly in all things (linear or not). Pinpointing his passion will help with the next steps. You can do this through observing what types of science he is drawn to. You have be a bit of a sleuth to figure out where his interests intersect with career fields.
3. Once you find out his specific interest, try to see if he would like to have a "career" interview with someone in the field to which he's attracted. One of the problems is that young people have vague ideas of what people in their fields do. I forgot where you live, but in S. CA there is the Jet Propulsion Lab and Boeing, etc. It might be hard to get a tour but easier to get someone to sit down with him. IT ISN'T TOO SOON for a career interview.We have a friend in his 70s who flew to Africa to pick up the "reels" (?) of the first pictures back from the moon. There are very interesting people like that around.
4. try to find kits at the hobby shop that tweak his interest. My first husband buildt rockets when he was a kid. Be careful to monitor this kind of stuff 'cuz he told me he blew up a basement once when he added too much gun powder to his rocket. But Heathkit has some interesting projects to build (or used to a gazillion years ago). Of course, with a 14 year old all of this has to be subtle, I would think. (It had to be that way with my daughter).
5. Don't worry about that whole "life isn't always going to be this easy" stuff. My husband's son is a sound engineer, working at a well-known sound studio here in LA. He works on one of those huge, huge sound boards, mixing music at a studio groups like the Deftones, famous hiphop artists, etc.. He's actually one of the brightest kids I have ever met, but his affect is sooo lay back that you'd think he was going in reverse, meanwhile, he's solving complicated problems at lightning speed in his head.
6. Help him find more difficult challenges. (Again, subtly and by himself.) My first husband left a job at Boeing, EF Johnson, Medtronic "because they weren't challenging me." In my experience, that kind of person is always looking for the new challenge. Not all left brain thinkers are like that, but some are.
7. Belief in their skills and love sprinkled with subtle guidance - that's all these left brain thinkers need. They'll take it from there.
Hello Christian. My oldest daughter was the same way, and honestly still is and she is 18. She was placed in the programs for the "gifted" made straight A's her whole life, never really was overly challenged at anything school related ever. But she has now discovered that college is more of the real world and while it isn't overly challenging academically there is just more work period so she has learned whether she wants the workload or not, she's got it. I encourage her with all of the "you can do its" and "hang in theres" but ultimately their need/drive to be done with it and get it over with is the best motivation that I've seen. As long as it's workin' no complaints from ol' mom here! Best wishes.
I bet college was a def. wakeup call . I keep telling my son high school is next year and it's going to be a lot more work. "eh" he says lol - Time will teach him I suppose .
It's all about finding your passion. Once that's in place, All "work" becomes something else. "Flow" kicks in. Csikszentmihalyi wrote about it. Mind you, I haven't found the place where "flow" and money intersect, but I'm getting there.
I homeschool all three of my boys. The benefit to that is they can follow their interests. Which means they are a lot more motivated to learn, and are willing to push themselves more. Nobody likes being told what to learn and how to learn it. Maybe that is part of your son's lack of passion right now.
Great question Christin! My son is also very smart in Math and Science.
What I have found that works for him is to find an area that he loves to focus on. Such as, my son loves legos. He went to a lego camp over the summer where he got to build motorized lego cars for ramps. He learned so much from that. Even though there were challenging moments, it helped him focus more and he revamped his entire bedroom to build bigger lego structures.
Lately he has been focusing on becoming a weather man. He loves studying tornadoes and lightning. This morning I asked him if he wanted to wear short sleeves because it's humid outside. He said, "well, I just saw on the weather channel that there is s strong chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, so I think I'll bring my long-sleeve light-weight shirt and a jacket."
I guess my point here is that your son loves math and science, but what really keeps him focused on those areas?
If your son is bored with a standard classroom setting than the obvious and simple solution is to get them out of a standard classroom setting. A standard classroom setting being one in which the same material is fed to everyone at the same rate.
This could mean artistic classes (art, music, drama), classes in which the student is producing a product that they can put as much as they want into (e.g. writing classes, computer programming), language classes, or hands-on classes (woodshop, autoshop, etc.). Where I went to school, I know there was a bit of a stigma attached to shop classes, it may not be the same everywhere, and I still think it'd be better than sitting in a class bored.
Another option would be to try and get them on field trips and/or other out-of-the class excursions. A subject that is boring in a book in a class can be fascinating in actuality. Reading about rocks vs. digging them up in the field is a perfect example.
You could also try and get him into camps. I've seen some robotics camps that I would have loved as a kid, but there's all sorts of camps you could try. Robotics is actually a really good option I think. It combines a mechanical putting things together aspect, a computer programming component, as well as general math and science, and has a very good future as far as career opportunities go.
One thing I think that is important to point out is that aptitude doesn't necessarily mean interest. I tend to think that the core aptitude of a left-brainer is an ability to see and understand complex systems, patterns, and interrelationships along with an interest in problem solving. These aptitudes are why they may be good at math and science, those aren't the only things for which those abilities are useful. These days, everything is a complex system, from business and economics, to social and political science, to communications and computer technologies, to medicine and genetics, etc. Even music is essentially a process of assembling complex mathematical patterns into a harmonious whole (that's where three hours of my day went when I was in H.S.)
I suppose my overall recommendation would be to keep him out of as many classes as possible that you know he will be bored in. Anything is better than being bored, in my opinion, and until something jumps out and grabs his interest try to get him as much variety as possible. Towards the end of High School he should have advanced classes open up that should be sufficiently challenging.
I feel for you. I really do. My daughter is 13 and is bright but chooses not to apply herself. She is making good grades but can't find her niche that she can grasp and the niches sometimes keeps them out of trouble, you know? So I'm kind of worried.
In your son's case, I was wondering if you could line him up with some type of volunteer work that would cause him to try and solve some real life problems.
Poverty-soup kitchen or food bank
Raising money for firefighters
Rewarding policemen with treat bags on holidays
Perhaps he could mentor some struggling in the subjects he favors.
Perhaps he could create a musical instrument and then donate to an orphanage
These things build character and teach where true happiness comes from while teaching him that there are real life problems he can help solve and he will have to plan to do a fund raiser so he'd be learning plans and choosing options, also part of the real world.
I've read most of the answers here and people really delivered, didn't they? Great answers for a great question!
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