Throughout my career as an educator, I have often been asked how I inspire students to be at their best each day. Though it would be nice if there was a single method for this, I have to admit that there is not. 

However, when finding a factor that can lead to inspiring a student, I find that really getting to know the student and the situation surrounding the student is the best place to start. I’ve encouraged parents to do the same when I assist them with their child. It takes time, effort and persistence—but the end result can be amazing and fulfilling.

To raise a self-motivated student, it is important to remember that learning is not limited to a school or classroom setting. Creativity and learning can be encouraged throughout the day with every new experience. This is crucial with young students who are inquisitive and desire to learn all they can about, well, everything! Talking with them, encouraging their questions, and researching topics together, demonstrates the potential to learn in all situations. Allowing them to take ownership of their learning is essential in helping a child become a self-motivated student. 

We all make mistakes, and this is no different for children. Part of the growth process is learning how to deal with our mistakes, overcome and grow into a stronger person because of them. Oftentimes parents tell their children what to do and fix problems for them in an effort to help, instead of allowing their child to make his or her own choices and face the outcome. We all desire for our children to grow and become self-motivated, and we must let them face the positive and negative outcomes of choices they make. 

This is especially true in learning environments. Forgetting to complete an assignment, not turning in homework or not preparing for an exam are all choices a student makes from time to time. When this happens (and it probably will at one time or another), use it as a learning moment for your child. This is a great time to talk about organization habits, time management skills and, quite simply, choices.

It is best to avoid blame, but rather talk through how the situation could have had a different outcome with a few simple changes in the choices made. Allow your child to face the consequences in order to learn how to be successful the next time. It takes patience, but it is well worth it.

As we approach the summer months, take every opportunity that you can to cultivate an environment of learning with your child. 

Without the the day-to-day hustle and bustle, packed schedules, evening activities and homework assignments of the traditional school year, summer is the perfect opportunity to assist your child with ownership of learning and self-motivation to continue to be at their best.  Be that inspiring person to whom your child can look when their inquisitive minds take flight. 

Craig Smith is the Manager of Counseling Services at Arkansas Connections Academy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music from the University of Oklahoma. He has spent 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator in Oklahoma and Arkansas and finds it most rewarding to support students and assist them in developing a plan for the future.