Ask Stacy: How Do I Motivate a 10-Year-Old?

Illustration of Ask Stacy

Take a team approach to outline expected behaviors in the classroom.

This advice column aims to help Live Happy readers overcome stumbling blocks on their road to happiness. Send your questions to


I’m a single parent with a 10-year-old son who just started 4th grade in a new school. My son doesn’t seem motivated to write neatly or do homework, and he often fools around in class. What can I do?


Dear Brandy,

There are a lot of challenges that come along with having a 10-year-old child. During this phase of life they are learning to interact with their peers, adapting to rules both academically and socially, and trying to learn to deal with expectations from school and home. This is often the age when testing the boundaries with teachers, parents and other authorities begins. It sounds like all of these things are related to what you are describing with your son.

First of all, whenever there are issues going on with a child, I recommend that he or she get evaluated by a pediatrician just to make sure that everything is going well physically.

I believe in a team approach when it comes to issues at school. I recommend you talk with your son’s teacher so that you can come up with a plan that all of you agree on. This plan might include a behavior contract that outlines expected appropriate behaviors, rewards for good behaviors, removal of privileges for inappropriate behaviors, etc. You can also discuss what are appropriate expectations for someone his age.

You should sit down and try to problem solve with your son. Ask him if he can explain to you what has been causing his behavior, and attempt to work together in a calm way to solve each of the issues that you mentioned. Often, kids have great advice on how to make their own lives better!

As for you personally, being a single mother is both a challenging and rewarding job. Please make sure that you are taking good care of your own physical and emotional well-being while you are busy taking care of your son.

Stacy Kaiser is a successful licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert, author and Live Happy editor at large. She has a B.A. in psychology from California State University, Northridge, and her M.A. in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. For more, go to Illustration copyright pimchawee/shutterstock.



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