In this article, I want to share some motivational techniques for children to help you support your child through exams as well as provide them with study inspiration that will see them through to success. This is a compilation of my experience from many years of working as a professional life coach for kids.

Motivational Techniques for Children

Let me start with a real case.

A few years ago, I was working with this nice 15-year-old boy. His family and school were tremendously caring and supportive. However, at some point, he told them that he was going to give up on music (he was at grade 7 for Trombone). He mentioned he needed the time to study. The parents didn’t like it but trusted their kids’ decision making. After a few months, he mentioned how he was dropping off the rugby team. Again, he said he needed the time to study. At this time, the parents started getting suspicious.

While he claimed he wanted all the possible time to study, his day to day habits were not very good. He still had no motivation to study. He would mess around with his homework, procrastinate and resort to arguments when confronted by his parents. Consequently, as you can imagine, his grades were plunging.

We met a couple of times for kids coaching sessions, and it was always a joy to see him. He was intelligent, articulate and charming. However, he was also very closed in a few areas of his life, especially in the academic field. I had to be very careful when entering those areas, but with a good relationship, he allowed me to ask a few questions.

At one point, he burst, saying: Javier, “If I don’t try, I don’t fail. If I try and fail, I have only me to blame”

Motivational Techniques for Children

He then went quiet for a few minutes. When we retook our conversation, he swiftly moved into a different topic. As you can see, life coaching for children can be a tough nut. You need to be very observant and pick your words with caution.

Perfectionism and fear of failures are motivation killers.

The reason I am telling you this story is because I have seen it repeatedly in my years as a life coach for kids. A key reason for the lack of motivation is the fear of failing. However, in their mind, it is not so much as fear but a reality. They believe they will fail, thus, making their effort a waste of time.

Through all my learning and kids coaching sessions with young adults, I have managed to extract a formula for study inspiration. The secret of this formula is that all five ingredients need to be present to a good standard. If we miss one of them, it doesn’t work. 

Let me take you through the five ingredients of my motivational techniques for children:

  • A realistic yet ambitious goal. 
  • A plan of action
  • Understanding what support, they need and what support they have
  • Experiencing success
  • Reward

Here is how it works when it at its best:

I have a goal that I feel I can achieve and will be satisfactory for myself and those relevant people around me (parents and teachers). I have a plan of action—I know what I need to do, how I need to do it. Know how to revise, how to take notes, how to keep on top of things. I understand that If I am behind on something I can ask from help from parents, teachers, online tutorials, etc. This gives me tranquillity to continue working.

As I put in place all these things, I notice how my work is improving, teachers compliment me on my effort, and I can see results getting better. This small but regular success motivates me to continue putting the shot. Finally, because I am being mature and organized, my parents trust me more and I get some additional benefits (maybe more time with friends, some treats here or there) but the most important part is the feeling of being proud of myself and the emotional support I get from my parents.

Simple, isn’t it?

We don’t need each ingredient to be perfect; life coaching for children requires them to be present at a good level. 

Consistency is essential when teaching motivation for children.

I guess you can now see how missing one of those areas can create a domino effect on the others. For instance, If I have a great goal, a plan of action, but I have no idea what help is available to me, I will likely have some concerns. Consequently, these concerns will transform into worries and those worries anxieties. I will tell myself: “If something goes wrong, I have no plan B” or “I am not so sure what I am doing, I guess it’s a matter of time this will come down crashing.”

In my work as a life coach for kids with young adults, I take them through these five areas, and I encourage them to work them out with their parents. I normally ask them to rate themselves between 0 and 10 in each of those areas. Then I ask them to specify what is in each of them, and how they can make it go up by one or two points. 

Most teenagers will start by overestimating their “score”. For instance, they will say “I am 7 or 8 in setting up a goal” but when you ask them what they want to achieve you might realize they don’t know how to define their goals. They are only telling you what their teachers told them. This is not wrong, but it is not their own goal. If they don’t own their goals, they will still have no motivation to study to achieve them.

Anyways, I ramble a bit. Back to my main point.

Now, I want to give you some more detail on each of those areas. 

Setting Up A Goal:

What is important about this? It must be their own goal—not what their parents say or what their teachers want. It is about taking ownership of the goal and reaping personal rewards. When they start kids coaching process, I would suggest you set up a goal for the next month or maximum for the upcoming school term. Go beyond that and it will become too vague for them. Your role as a parent is to challenge them a bit but mostly to ensure they define those goals in a positive way. This is where study inspiration will come from. We wrote about goal settings in another article, click here to read more about it.

Creating a Plan:

They must develop a plan of action. This means answering the questions, “What do they need to do? When do they need to do it? How many hours? How will they organize themselves?”

It is fair to say that this will be the most difficult part of life coaching for children process. Young people tend to have not-such-great planning skills. However, I always encourage them to think on a week by week basis. It is likely that they will need around 4 weeks to learn how to do it properly and get into the habit.

Just a quick note. Remember this when we talk about the fourth ingredient: ‘experiencing success’.

Getting The Right Support:
Getting the right motivational support
experiencing success

 They must define what support they already have and what they might need. Most children will have a couple of subjects of strength and a couple that are not so good. Talk to them about what they need for study inspiration. I am not only talking about tutoring. Of course, this is an option, but I am talking about extra lessons in school, online tutorials, or even doing some work with friends who can help them. While parents can help, it is important the teenager defines what help they need or want from you. For instance, I am reasonably good at maths, but for obvious reasons, English grammar is not one of my strengths.

Experiencing Success:

The fourth ingredient is about ‘experiencing success’ or, in different words: ‘plan to win’. Make sure they can succeed in the first few weeks. Help them have a plan and a goal they can achieve. By having small wins, their confidence will increase, and they will want to do more. Also, the ‘no motivation to study’ excuse they often give will be a thing of the past. However, if they aim too high and don’t achieve it, they will become disappointed and probably won’t be looking forward to doing it again.

An important part of this kids coaching ingredient is constant re-evaluation. I suggest a casual chat every week. Maybe take them for a coffee and say, let’s see how it is going, what you need, what we can help you with. Most importantly, what we have learned this week—what we need to keep doing, what we can improve. As they become better at setting goals and planning, this will be much easier.


I don’t believe in material rewards (treats, presents, money). It’s ok to do them every now and then. However, the most important reward they will achieve is their sense of pride. When you work through life coaching for children processes with them, praise them for the effort they put in, for their commitment, resilience, concentration, rather than the outcome alone. I always suggest a 20/80 ratio, meaning that your praise has to be 20% about the result they achieved and 80% about the effort and skills they used. 

Here is an example: “I saw your grades in maths improved. Well done, I am really proud of all the work you are doing and how you are learning to organize yourself. This is showing that your hard work and dedication is your best quality. Keep going.”

By the way, there is another article coming soon about giving praise. I suggest you see “10 seconds praise” and “effort vs outcome.”

And this is it for me today. I hope you like our article on motivational techniques for children. As you know, there are other articles on this site on kids coaching, how to improve study inspiration, and more to come to help you do it. Browse through my list of articles or feel free to contact me if you want me to address any specific topic PERSONALLY.


Further reading
10 ways to motivate you children