My College:
Dear Adina

How Do I Motivate My Student?

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

When you know your child is under-performing in college what do you recommend to do? In other words, can you motivate a kid to do well and if so how?


Dear Parent,

Many students arrive at college somewhat burned out on school. They have been entirely focused on getting into college, and having poured the bulk of their energies into academic achievement for as long as they can remember, find themselves now free to do things like make friends and have fun. It’s their first time at the candy story and they’re gobbling it all up, not realizing the belly ache they’re going to have down the line.

And some students, whether or not they were all about academics in high school, simply arrive at college and take some time to re-calibrate their priorities and acclimate to the comparatively unstructured environment. Finding their feet, while a struggle to watch (and certainly a struggle to be in), is the process that helps them build the muscle they need to walk through life as independent adults.

Adjusting to college isn’t just about learning how to tackle harder academics, it’s a lot about learning how to be an adult. And one of the greatest challenges of becoming an adult is shifting the “who’s in charge of my life” from parents to self. With that shift, young people begin to ask themselves what matters to them, what they want for themselves, and what motivates them.

You can help that process by asking good questions and listening to the answers. Think of yourself as a facilitator of a process rather than an escort towards a destination. Your task is to help your student articulate and hear themselves — this is powerful fuel in their efforts to become adults.

You may want to urge them towards a particular path, and a different kind of academic achievement may reflect that, but the best motivators are the ones that come from inside ourselves. Helping your student hear their own voice is one of the best gifts you can give them!

And speaking of gifts, another one at the top of the list is the fantastic way you are believing in your child and seeing their greatest capacity even when they’re not manifesting it. That belief is the torch of parenting that lights their gnarly path towards adulthood!

But it’s not so easy to give that gift without stowaway expectations. Communicating our confidence, but inadvertently also sending the message that we’re disappointed in them when they do less than we know they can, becomes their burden and can drown out the sound of their own inner voice.

Because our kids are invested in our approval, it’s easy for their journey of learning and growing to be overshadowed by the baggage of our unmet expectations. My grandmother used to whisper to my mother (a talented but ambivalent pianist) when she was a girl and they were in the audience at piano recitals, “You should be up there — you’re much more talented than she is.” Ouch? Yay me? Is that a compliment or a criticism? I imagine my mother’s head spinning while she tried to untangle her simultaneous pride and shame.

To motivate, communicate your deep, positive regard for your student. Consider the different reactions they might have to these two questions:

“Wow, I have seen you do some tremendous things as a student. What made that possible?”
vs.
“I don’t see you doing as much in school as I know you’re capable of. What’s going on?”

The first one will allow your child to swell up and remember their best self. The second will likely leave them feeling broken and accused. I suspect you’re going for the first one.

Finally, a word about learning vs. performing. Learning is a process, and a college education is the formal and structured mechanism by which most young people engage with learning. I encourage you to keep “learning” in your viewfinder.

Performing, on the other hand, is a piano recital, singing and dancing on stage, walking the runway, or acting in a play. There is an audience, and the performer has an awareness of that audience. But students are not performers and teachers are not an audience, and if we see school as performative, too much of the student’s attention will be on whether the audience is applauding, and not whether there is good learning going on.

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    18 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?

    When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
    package of your child.

    And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!

    If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)

    But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.

    Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
    But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
    closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.

    Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.

    It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.

    Let’s try this, college!

    - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH
    ... See MoreSee Less

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?  When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
package of your child.  And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!  If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)  But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.  Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.  Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.  It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.  Let’s try this, college!  - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH

    Comment on Facebook

    Marybeth Loyd Bock this is too funny- takes me back - I still have those crazy plastic photo keychains! 😂

    Goodness, I’d love a glimpse of my college freshman “out in the wild”!

    I would LOVE this 💖

    22 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.

    Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.

    She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.

    Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didn't have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.

    My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this year's sophomores — missed.

    (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
    www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )
    ... See MoreSee Less

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.  Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.  She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.  Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didnt have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.  My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this years sophomores — missed.  (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
https://www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )

    Comment on Facebook

    CollegiateParent, thank you so much for this opportunity.

    SUCH good, practical, and wise advice here, Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, for any of our students, really. 💛

    Elizabeth, thank you so much. I appreciate that. ❤️

    Soooo true, all of this. Our sophomores are rediscovering, relearning, renegotiating the whole campus experience. Last year was tough, but I hope that last year's experience has made them stronger and more resilient to anything life throws at them this year. All strength to them! ❤️

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