If your child is heading toward the end of his high school years and seems uninterested in finishing with a diploma, you need to act. Although you can’t necessarily force him to graduate, you can try to motivate him in a variety of ways. With the right approach and level of involvement, you can help him want to earn his diploma and maybe even continue on to higher education.
Let money talk. Explain the differences in salaries and unemployment rates for graduates and non-graduates. According to 2012 figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average high school graduate will make $652 weekly, compared to $471 a week for a person who doesn’t have a high school diploma. Also, the unemployment rate is at 12.4 percent for dropouts, compared to 8.3 percent of high school graduates. The more education your child gets, the better the chances are that he will find a job and make more money.
Praise his successes, big and small. Be a cheerleader for scholastic achievement. This helps boost his self-esteem and shows him you notice and care. Positive reinforcement can help motivate him to keep trying and apply effort. He might not be the best student, but having an encouraging parent can motivate him to keep going.
Get involved. If your child is struggling in school, do something about it. Get him additional help and offer assistance when he needs it. Take it one day at a time, remind him to have a “stick with it” attitude and keep him focused on the goal of graduating.
Have an earnest conversation about his expectations and goals. Ask him what he wants to do with this life. He doesn’t have to have it all figured out, but at least encourage him to explore his passions and interests. Help him set some life goals. If he likes tinkering with cars, discuss his educational options and vocational opportunities that follow this focus. If you have an artist on your hands, talk to him about art schools.
Consider offering a reward for graduating. As the George Washington University's Center on Education Policy points out, this type of motivation comes with some debate about its effectiveness and long-term effects on how your child will perceive external rewards for his academic effort. However, you can consider it as a last resort if you are desperate to simply get him to the diploma finish line after other methods have failed. For instance, for every week that you see he’s working toward the goal of graduating, such as handing in assignments and passing exams, put some money aside for his reward. This can be $5, $25 or whatever you can afford. When he receives his diploma, use that money to take him on a weekend getaway or buy him a prized item that he has had his eye on. Just ensure the reward is something that he wants and is given only after obtaining his diploma, not before. The reward holds no weight if it is given early.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Education Attainment
- Kids Health: Motivation and the Power of Not Giving Up
- Great Schools: Fostering Motivation in Kids With Learning and Attention Problems
- George Washington University, Center on Education Policy: Can Money or Other Rewards Motivate Students?
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