Motivating Your Child to Study for a Bar Bat Mitzvah

MitzvahMaven: Eugenia Greenberg, child psychologist for 30 years, mother of three and (not that we're bragging but) grandmother of a Fulbright scholar!

“I think the best way to motivate your child to study for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is use the Suzuki method of teaching children to play the violin, where the child and parent both learn and work together throughout the whole process. This way, it’s not a lonely experience for the child and you can reinforce his learning.

“You don’t get your child to study. You do it with her. Make it a family project. Because the family is involved completely in what is happening. It doesn’t have to be a parent; it could be a sibling First of all, it’s a nice thing for the child to do with another member of the family. It generates closeness. It’s something that you can share and laugh and talk about years later. If children don’t have to do it by themselves and there’s someone there to do it with and encourage them, it doesn’t become a chore. It becomes something you can enjoy. And then it becomes something you can be proud of.

“You can take what he’s learned and make it into a performance. Which the whole family listens to. You can make all kinds of games out of it. Make it pleasant.

“The greatest factor in learning is motivation. If you do something and get all this positive reinforcement, you want to do it more and you want to do it better.

“What not to do: nag your child, force him, make it into something that has to be done, rather than something he wants to do.

“Self-motivate them. That’s really important. You do it by complimenting them on what they’ve already learned and how well they did it. Reinforcement all the way through.

“There are all kind of reinforcements. The best is experiencing success, which begets more success. Then, with some children, you can make a chart. If she’s learned X amount, she gets a privilege or something tangible. If she learns a big chunk, you make the rewards even greater. I’m not entirely opposed to material rewards – it works very well with some kids -- but the rewards you get from accomplishing something are far greater than material rewards. Because they are lasting. And they imbue you with very good values for your future.

“Another thing is to talk about what the worst thing that could happen would be. It wouldn’t be so horrible if they misread something. All you want to do is make them TRY to do the best they can. If they make a mistake, they make a mistake! Even accomplished pianists who practice 8 hours a day or more sometime hit the wrong notes.