The REAL reason Why Parents are not allowed in Motivational Camps

The REAL reason Why Parents are not allowed in Motivational Camps


Have you ever wondered why parents are not allowed in the camps until the last day after the children are hyped up? You know what I mean. It would be the time where children are yelling how much they love to study and swearing they will not be motivated from then forth. This is when parents will smile proudly to themselves and go “I’m glad I send them to this course.” – only to find them reverting to what they were before the camp.

It is not uncommon to hear motivational and study skills camps not allowing parents to be with their child – even after the parents are the ones who invested all that money. The most common reasons given would be:

Parents are a distraction.

The children would not be themselves if parents are around.

But do you know, your presence may increase the success rate of your child’s motivation level by 200x?


Wait! I thought you said no one can motivate others…

When we talk about motivating others, people always have the impression that we should be saying motivating words to our children and harping on successes in the future. This behaviour, unfortunately, is the set behaviour that everyone seems to adopt to motivate others. Many parents simply adopt this behaviour to adopt their children and find that it simply backfires.

You may have come across stories where once-defiant children seem to change under the hands of a teacher. Many believe that they use motivational words or harp on success. This is not true. It is the constant attitude of care and concern displayed by the teacher towards the students that cause these changes. The children feel it and wanted to change themselves. In short, they were motivated to change. 


RELATED: Motivation, study habits – not IQ – determine growth in Math Achievement



The First Vital Step all Motivational Camps Take

During the camp, motivational camps would usually start off by questioning the children of their self-worth and identity. This is the first step where children are supposed to release the emotions and anger they have suppressed over the years of being reduced to an academic pawn for high-stakes national exams. Once all these tension is released within the first day, the child should now feel “free of emotional baggages” and will be able to absorb the study skills that comes. Yet, after all the so-called ’emotional release’, the children are back to square one with their parents – who have no idea of all existing their emotional baggages!

Some parents may gasp here. “Academic pawn? How dare you! I will never subject my child to that! I’m doing all these of their future!” Sure...Tell that to all the children who shared heart-breaking stories with me of the words parents have used on them ‘for their future’.

Parents, you have no idea how important you are in the eyes of your child.

What is interesting to me here is that these camps should be aware of the massive effect parents have on their parents. Which begets this question –

why are motivational camps keeping parents out of their child’s motivational transformational change?



The Top Secret Study Skills

When study skills accompany motivational camps, these skills are secret. They can help to accelerate learning for any subject when used appropriately. However, when most children are left to these ‘secrets’, they do not end up applying them – even when they know it should work!

Why is this so?

Children who are generally motivated will be the ones who will apply some of these secret formulas. How about those who are not as motivated? Many times, not-so-motivated children are unsure how to apply these skills. Some may be easily overwhelmed. Many forget after not trying. Many just don’t know how to as they need lots of practises with ones close to them to help them apply these skills to their learning.

They need their parents to help them out!

They need their parents to practise with them!

Their parents need to learn these accelerated learning skills themselves!

Yet common sense tells us this is where the problem lies. No study skills company is going to teach the parents with their children how to study better!

RELATED: Smartify Study Tip #4 – Study Orientation

Why Children-Parent Bonding + Study Skills Classes are Necessary

When I first started teaching study skills to children without their parents, their responses perturbed me. One parent remarked to the child (after she demonstrated memorisation a challenging 30-items sequence), “Oh, so you are actually smart after all.” For some reason, that remark didn’t sit well with me. Was the parent trying to goad her child? Or did she not simply understand how her words can hurt her daughter so easily?

That’s when I toyed with the idea of including parents in the workshops. When I first started asked for feedback among educators of the idea of conducting student-parent bonding + study skills classes with some educators, many laughed.

“The parents are only dying to outsource their child’s learning to others! That’s why the tuition industry is making so much money!” 

Undaunted, I gathered a few parents and proceeded to conduct a 2-days course with them. By the first half of the day, the parents were watching their children in a different light.

One parent was shocked to find out his daughter entertained thoughts of suicide at the age of 11. 

One parent didn’t realised the word ‘OK’ towards her daughter’s good results was hurtful (I’m serious!).

One parent didn’t realised that she had stopped praising her elder child but was favouring the younger one a lot more.

By watching how much their children struggled with their self-esteem, they realised that their children generally put up a strong front but were struggling deep inside. Their thoughts, fears, emotional baggages  and words were deeply ingrained in their children far deeper they thought. When the children connected with their parents, that was when they really felt an emotional release of suppressed baggages and were all ready to learn.

Many parents were hit with a realisation that they themselves required an overhaul of attitude towards their children. As they learnt to learn once more with the study skills, they realised that ..perhaps to motivate someone is not just all talk and yelling but just by being there.

Disclaimer: Not all parents and children will change for the better. As it usually takes 2 hands to clap, it is very dependent on the effort made by both child and parent.

Source: (1), (2), (3)




6 reasons Why Motivational Camps for Children do not Help – backed by Science

6 reasons Why Motivational Camps for Children do not Help – backed by Science

motivation smartification smartifyI came across this term  “Motivation Porn” recently. Though it sounds really salacious here, it really refers to people reading heaps and heaps of motivation posts  and stories to do something but just never got round to doing it. We know whatever we are attempting will be good for us in the end… then why do we not get down to it?

Heaping “Motivation Porn” on our Children

You may have heard of parents sending their children to last minute study or motivational bootcamps in a bid to spark something in their children to ‘wake up their idea’ and hopefully start studying to score As or something just in time for their exams. These courses do not some cheap as the prices range from 4K to 24K. During the courses, it will seem as our children seem to change almost instantly…it’s like as if…they are motivated!

With these, the parents usually sigh with relief as their child seems to be making progress with their motivation level.  He/She is studying! He/She says they are making effort! There is hope! My child is now self-disciplined!

Yet fast forward a few weeks later… the child seems to be back at Square 1. It’s as if they have never attended the course. What has happened to all that hype? The ‘zing’? Whatever has happened to all that cash parents have invested in these boot camps? Why is it not working??

While we have heard of success stories, we know that the number of children returning to their original state far outweighs the successful ones.


Simply because people cannot motivate other people.

RELATED: Motivation, Study Habits – not IQ – determine Growth in Math Achievement

Let’s Define Motivation

First of all, let us define this term.  Williams and Burden (1997, 120) define motivation as multidimensional in general as follows:

motivation smartify smartification


Reasons Why Motivation Camps do not Help 

Many times, most of these children who attend motivational camps were already struggling with the overwhelming amount of information in their subjects to understand and digest. During the time they attend the camps, they are kept away from the books to be hyped up and are told constantly that they can do it. After the hype dies down and they return to reality, they try to break down their subjects and digest whatever information is necessary. However, they often find themselves stuck once more as they are not able to do so efficiently. Thus, they are unable to understand the knowledge content required before as well as the upcoming topics. This leaves a feeling of helplessness as motivation decreases.


Lower Dopamine Levels

Although dopamine is often associated with pleasure, it also encourage us to act and motivate us to achieve or avoid something bad. In short, it motivates us to move hard before we claim our rewards. Studies have shown that ‘slackers’ have lower dopamine levels and was present in the anterior insula, an area of the brain that is involved in emotion and risk perception. Thus, ‘slackers’ will always take the easy way out whenever possible.  ‘Go-getters’, on the other hand,  have higher dopamine levels in the striatum and prefrontal cortex — two areas known to impact motivation and reward.


RELATED: Why Play is Extremely Important For Your Child


Willpower is a Finite Resource

We are like batteries. Our energy levels keep us going until we run out.  A child’s battery level is usually much lower than an adult. At any given day, they will have willpower to motivate themselves to do something. Yet as the day pass, the willpower gradually diminishes and they are unable to carry out what they need to do – even though they know it is the right thing to do.


Your Genes may be Affecting them

A study was conducted across sets of twins aged from nine years old to 16, and living in the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Russia, and the US. The twins were asked to rate their ability in a range of different school subjects, including how they think they’re performing now, and how they think they’ll perform in the future. They were asked to rate how much they enjoyed doing things like reading, writing, and spelling. Interestingly, they found that genes rather than environment contribute to family resemblance in academic motivation.


Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

If your child has always believe that intelligence is already determined at birth, they will always believe that, deep down, they will not succeed no matter how hard they try. That’s because they have a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence doesn’t grow and while they are hyped up during the camp, they will slink into their mindset that they are not able to stay motivated and move on. 


Suboptimal Motivation

Does your child really know why they are studying? When your child attends motivational camps, they are generally aware it is to perk them up to be ready for the big national exams. They know that poor results will not lead them to good schools. This awareness drives fear into them instead and when children are expected to be motivated to study for such high stakes examination, sub-optimal motivation kicks in. In short, they are studying because they have to and not that they want to. Motivation generated by values and a sense of purpose – “optimal” motivation – is sustainable over a longer period and produces better results.


Do you agree with the above? Share your thoughts with me.


Sources (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7)


Why Doesn’t My Child Want to Study – Part 2 of 2

Why Doesn’t My Child Want to Study – Part 2 of 2

In the last article, I talked about why children and students don’t want to study. I also mentioned that it mostly has to do with feelings.

Just like how adults want to feel these 3 feelings at work:

1) A sense of achievement
2) Feeling good about yourself (through praise or self efficacy)
3) Knowing that you are trusted and appreciated

Children, both primary and secondary, want to feel these feelings to, in order to start focusing and working hard.

But before all that…

No one likes a pretender. Someone who is pretentious and superficial just throws us off.

As adults, we know this, yet we keep doing it. We pretend and behave in a certain way to get what we want. We do this because we’re not patient enough.

Psychologically and innately, we know this isn’t good for the child: it’s terrible modelling of adult behaviour!

But I can’t handle my anger!

Trust me. It’s not because you’re angry. There is other deeper feelings involved.

You lash out in anger because there’s anxiety, insecurity, and the uncertain future.

Admit it. You’re really angry at your children simply because you are worried that your child won’t make it in the future. It’s already tough now in the present and you foresee that it will get tougher in the future.

And that’s normal! Most parents feel that way!

But the last thing to do is lash out at your kids.

And you know this.

It gives a bad impression about parenting, and your child will mimic that parenting style with their own children: your grandchildren.

So what can I do?

There are 3 key ideas to what I am going to tell you: love, nurture and sincerity.

You are going to need to be honest about how you feel. I promise you that it will feel awkward if you have never done this, but I always believe in communicating your feelings, without the anger.

It can go something like,

“Son, let’s talk. I want you to understand that this is going to be awkward for me, for us, to speak from the heart but I did some reading and I think this will be better in the long run.”

The parent here is doing a few things. First, the father admitted his feelings. Second, the father showed that he actually studies and reads for information for some form of improvement. And third, he explains that he is worried about the future.

“I want us to communicate from now on and be honest about how we feel. I know that I have some expectations for you, and you may or may not completely understand it because I’ve been angry at your marks. It’s just that my work has been hard and I’m just worried for your future. Whatever I’ve done for you, is so that it’s easier for you to study.”

Here, the parent sets the tone and expectations. He apologises for what he’s done and explains why he had done it. He then explains what he has done thus far and why.

“I know sometimes you put in effort to study to do well, and sometimes I don’t pay enough attention when you do. But I’m going to do better. I’m going to be involved in your studying and understand what you go through. We’re a family so we should always try to help each other out. Now, it’s your turn to speak. It’s alright. Just say what’s on your mind.”

Acknowledging from a perspective that your child has truly been putting in effort to study and that yes, sometimes you don’t acknowledge that enough, makes your child feel the promise for change. He/she will start to have hope that you will be involved and understand how difficult studying really is and that you will support your child mentally and emotionally.

Then, you offer your child the opportunity to talk and make sure it is a mentally and emotionally safe environment for your child to express how he/she feels.

You mean I have to apologise?

You are going to have a hard time apologising. Especially to your own child. But you must remember something that is very crucial:

You are the adult.

You need to model to your child the best way an adult would behave, think and speak. If your child has never seen you apologise, how would your child ever know how it’s like to apologise?

I understand what I am asking is not easy.

But trust me when I say that once you are able to muster up the courage to speak from the heart, things will start to change for the better.

Start today. Take one day at a time. Muster up the courage. And continue the effort.

And see the change.

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Why Doesn’t My Child Want To Study – Part 1 of 2

Why Doesn’t My Child Want To Study – Part 1 of 2

by Khairy Farhan

If you’re a parent, and you’ve asked yourself this question many times over, then you’re reading the right article.

There are many reasons to the question, and you’ve heard the same answers from other parents, relatives and friends. Some of the common ones include:

1) They prefer to play games.
2) They prefer to waste their time on social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
3) They prefer to watch television and watch videos on YouTube.

But have you thought of the question: why?


RELATED: The Reason why Students are not Motivated is…

Why do they like to play do all things for hours on end?

What do they get out of it?

It’s simple: it’s about how these things make them feel. And there are three basic feelings that they get.

1) They get a sense of achievement.
2) They feel good about themselves.
3) They feel trusted and appreciated.

Now let’s think about you and your workplace.

Some of you may have bosses you’ve enjoyed working for and some of you may have bosses you’ve loathed and despised.

And I can bet that the bosses that you enjoyed working for have made you feel positive about yourself in the following three ways:


RELATED: Parenting and Self-Questioning

1) You get a sense of achievement.
2) You feel good about yourself.
3) You feel trusted and appreciated.

See what I’m getting at?

Start thinking of ways where you can start making your children and family members feeling those three positive feelings.

In the next article, I will share 3 simple ways how you can start changing your environment at home so that you can start supporting your child’s academic endeavors.

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The Reason Why Students are not Motivated is…

The Reason Why Students are not Motivated is…


by Khairy Farhan

To them, there is no purpose – and we’re to blame. 

In my experience and after much conflict in my own reflection to better the effectiveness of my teaching, I have found that one of the root causes of the lack of motivation in students to be self-directed and independent learners is the lack or absence of an authentic purpose in learners.

In other words, they do not understand, do not know or were not told about the reason why they are studying. In cases where they are provided with a reason, the reasons are very typical and, in my opinion, do not belong in the 21st century. These reasons given to students from both teachers and parents tend to be very shallow, superficial and does not provide the student with sufficient authenticity in order for them to feel engaged.

Some of the reasons given include:

1) “Study hard so that you can go to the best class/school”
My reply to this is very simple: the best classes or schools have both failures and top students. The class nor the school play almost no factor in your success or failure. Statistically speaking, there is a chance of 1 failure in Hwa Chong/Raffles Institution and a chance of 1 top student in Si Ling Secondary.

One may argue that the social environment is in itself a factor, but I am presenting a possibility because there exists an exception. Ironically, this is what most parents will say to their children: “You say that girl/boy get top student. You must study hard to become top student!”

RELATED: Science shows the Best Way to Communicate with a Teenager (aged 12-19) who is not Listening to You

2) “Study hard so you can secure a degree/secure a good future”
This message to students must be stopped and changed. One should secure a degree for the depth of knowledge that will help shape one’s perspective and wisdom of the world around them as well as hone one’s skills in that particular field of study.

A good future may not be determined through a degree since there are many graduates without jobs, and even ministers have mentioned  how just having a degree may not help you get a job. This shows that there is something more important than just the “piece of paper”.

In fact, I tell my students to go for a polytechnic education first and specialise in skills that they are curious and passionate about. Then, if they feel like pursuing more knowledge in that field, they should go on to take a degree so that they have more in depth knowledge about the industry/subject.

Making the Change

I think parents and teachers have a large role to play in shaping the perspective of our children and students. We can start by thinking of ways of cultivating authentic and meaningful purposes for studying. Some ideas that I can offer include:


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1) “I know studying is difficult. But if you can overcome this, then you can overcome other difficult things you will face in life.”

2) “Find ways to make your own studying enjoyable. If it works for you, then you can share it with other friends and help them understand it better. Having more knowledge means having to help others.”

3) “There are many things that you can learn and find out about the world because of the Internet. But without the basics, I’m worried that you won’t be able to do that.”

What are other reasons have you heard, received or given to your children or students?

Do you have other ideas on how to create or cultivate authentic purpose in your learners?

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