How to help kids who lack effort

Madeline Levine, PhD psychologist & author shares advice for parents whose kids lack efforts and suggests ways to keep them motivated
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How to help kids who lack effort

Parents often come, because they’re worried that their kids aren’t putting in enough effort. It’s probably the most common question that I have is, “What can I do to help my kid put in more effort?” Kids have different levels of effort that they put into different things. I think you need to understand why your child is not putting in effort. It may be a sign of a learning disability. It may be a sign of a poor teacher. It may be a sign of a wrong class placement. It may be a sign of a developing interest in girls as opposed to algebra. There’s many reasons why parents feel kids aren’t putting in effort. And I think what’s really behind that question often is, “If my kid just worked harder, they’d be a better student.” Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t. It’s very hard for parents to accept the fact that sometimes kids don’t want to put in effort. But we know ourselves – that there are days… I mean there are days I wake up when I’m not putting up as much effort as I do on other days. And to insist that kids are always going full throttle is to wear them out. And very few kids are lazy, by the way. In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve met a kid who’s lazy. I’ve met kids who are not doing what interests them. I’ve met kids who are not being taught in the way they can understand. But I’ve never met a kid who when you find their spark is still lazy.

Madeline Levine, PhD psychologist & author shares advice for parents whose kids lack efforts and suggests ways to keep them motivated


Expert Bio

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Madeline Levine, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Madeline Levine, PhD, is a psychologist with close to 30 years of experience as a clinician, consultant and educator. Her New York Times bestseller, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems.  Her book, Teach Your Children Well, outlines how our current narrow definition of success unnecessarily stresses academically talented kids and marginalizes many more whose talents and interests are less amenable to measurement. The development of skills needed to be successful in the 21st century- creativity, collaboration, innovation – are not easily developed in our competitive, fast-paced, high pressure world. Teach Your Children Well gives practical, research- based solutions to help parents return their families to healthier and saner versions of themselves.

Dr. Levine is also a co-founder of Challenge Success, a project born at the Stanford School of Education. Challenge Success believes that our increasingly competitive world has led to tremendous anxiety about our children’s’ futures and has resulted in a high pressure, myopic focus on grades, test scores and performance. This kind of pressure and narrow focus isn’t helping our kids become the resilient, capable, meaningful contributors we need in the 21st century. So every day, Challenge Success provides families and schools with the practical research-based tools they need to raise healthy, motivated kids, capable of reaching their full potential. We know that success is measured over the course of a lifetime, not at the end of the grading period.

Dr. Levine began her career as an elementary and junior high school teacher in the South Bronx of New York before moving to California and earning her degrees in psychology. She has had a large clinical practice with an emphasis on child and adolescent problems and parenting issues. Currently however, she spends most of her time crisscrossing the country speaking to parents, educators, students, and business leaders. Dr. Levine has taught Child Development classes to graduate students at the University of California Medical Center/ San Francisco. For many years, Dr. Levine has been a consultant to various schools, from preschool through High School, public as well as private, throughout the country. She has been featured on television programs from the Early Show to the Lehrer report, on NPR stations such as Diane Rheems in Washington and positively reviewed in publications from Scientific American to the Washington Post. She is sought out both nationally and internationally as an expert and keynote speaker. 

Dr. Levine and her husband of 35 years, Lee Schwartz, MD are the incredibly proud (and slightly relieved) parents of three newly minted and thriving sons.

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