There is a double-edged sword to growing up in these times. While many children in Singapore are blanketed in material comfort, they have to confront academic pressure from a young age.

Parents often have aspirations for their offspring, and children whose parents have high expectations do tend to perform better in school. After all, these children may have greater access to enrichment classes and closer supervision in their schoolwork.

Despite parents’ best efforts, there will be times when children falter in certain subjects, especially as they advance to the upper primary levels and then to secondary school. How can you inspire intrinsic motivation and resilience in children—rather than falling back on nagging for junior do more revision—so they can do their best with a positive attitude?

Here are some expert tips to consider:

1. Be a role model

Don’t shy away from admitting when you’ve stumbled or failed in something—use such an occasion as a teaching opportunity instead by sharing how you think you can do better or make up for a mistake.

“When parents remain calm and flexible in managing life’s challenges, they’re teaching their children positive ways to handle stress,” said Dr Lois Teo, Principal Psychologist at KKH in this article for Families for Life.

2. Get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations

If you have a pre-teen or young teenager on your hand, making time for frank conversations is critical. But if your child is receptive to sitting down for a chat about difficulties they are having in school, congratulations, it shows you have a healthy relationship.

Gather your thoughts ahead of time so you can stay calm when talking. Actively listen to what your child has to say, regardless of whether you agree. Also, avoid being judgemental or critical so your child feels safe to share his or her honest opinions.

3. Allow them autonomy

Try involving your child in setting up his or her own schedule for study, rest and play. Also, ask them what they feel are important guidelines when optimising their study time. For example, they might suggest putting all electronic devices out of sight during homework time. When your child is the one devising the framework for self-improvement, he or she is more likely to accept and follow the rules.

4. Focus on your child’s strengths to build competence

Your child is more likely to be motivated to do more for a subject that they have relative confidence in, so it makes sense to help them improve their competency in that area. Rather than pointing out what they are doing wrong or their weaknesses, you can flip your perspective and figure out how best they learn and function so they can feel energised in the process.

For instance, if your sociable child is struggling in mathematics, consider setting up study dates with his or her good friend. Or if your child is creative, you could represent a mathematics problem using creative illustrations or even toys around the house.