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How to Motivate Students using NLP

May 6th, 2013 by Tony Barlow

motivate students with NLPHow to motivate students using nlp to want to do well in school. This is something that a lot of parents, teachers and schools struggle with.

“He’s a bright child but he just doesn’t seem to care !”

“The more I nag her to do her schoolwork the worse it gets !”

“He has the ability but doesn’t put in the effort”

“Could do better if she applied herself”

This is the number 2 reason I have found why students struggle in school. The number 1 reason being that we don’t teach students how to learn. See The missing piece in our educational system).

If I teach a student learning strategies that work and they still don’t do well in school, I move on to working on their attitude, beliefs and motivation level towards school.


-Modeling motivated students

-Uncovering motivation criteria in students

-Linking goals and criteria to school


As you may have realized by now NLP is all about ‘Modeling Excellence’. When I first started using NLP to help students, all I did was teach the learning strategies modeled from top learners.

I soon realized that this wasn’t enough. Some students didn’t use what I’d taught them and continued to struggle. They had become so turned off to school and learning it was blocking their potential. (Sounds like me when I was at school)

Modeling Top Students – What makes them want to succeed?

#1 They have a reason/s that is personally important to them. Such as: They want to make their parents happy, they like to be the best in the class, they have some future goal in mind that school is linked to, they want to get the reward that the parents may have offered them, they don’t want to suffer the consequences of not doing well whatever they perceive them to be.

#2 They believe that they have the ability to do well. If a student has REASONS to motivate them but they have a deep rooted belief that they are dumb, not smart, not a math type person etc. This can block their motivation. If I can’t do it anyway, why try.


Learning to motivate students using NLP is quite easy if you follow these steps:

1) Find out what is personally important to the them. In NLP speak we call this a persons ‘Highly Valued Criteria’.

2) Connect what you want to motivate them towards to their criteria. Show them how their criteria will be satisfied.

What are ‘Highly Valued Criteria’

A persons highly valued criteria are a persons perception or beliefs about what is important. Everyone has different criteria so you can’t motivate everyone in the same way.

For example, one student might have the following beliefs about what’s important in life:



-Getting ahead of others

-Being the best

Another students list may be totally different:

-Helping others

-Being part of a group

-Having lots of friends

-Contributing to the community

How to uncover a persons criteria

This is my typical strategy when working with students. (Modeled from Dr. Don Blackerby)

1) Find out what already motivates the person.

2) Ask questions to uncover their criteria, look for an emotional response.

Example: Loves Video Games / Hates Math

This comes from part of a session with a 16 year old boy who was having difficulty motivating himself towards math.

Me:- “So lets forget math for the time being, what is it that your ARE motivated to do ? What is your favorite thing to do ?”

Student:- “Video games”

Me:- “Whats important to you about playing video games ?, What do you like about it ?”

Student:- “I just like to play, it’s fun”

Me:- “You said you play for 3-4 hours some days, you must really like it. I hate video games. What is it that makes you want to do it so much?”

Student:- “I like playing against others online”

Me:- “What do you like about that ?”

Student:- “I like being famous online and I like to WIN”

Instead of writing down the whole conversation here I’ll cut it short and tell you that this boys criteria in this context were:

-Recognition among his online gaming community (being famous)

-He loves to win (he had an emotional response here “I have to win, I want to win”) when you hit on a strong emotional response you know that you have an important criteria.

-He likes to play a game


There are a number of ways to do this: For younger children I will ask the parents to put a system in place at home with rewards and take-aways linked to the child’s criteria.

In the example above I asked this boy to create a game out of math. Think of a way that you could compete against your friends in the class, make it into a game and win at the game.

Take the math strategies I’ve taught you and make it into a game that you can win at so your friends will be wondering ‘wow’ what happened to this guy, he’s suddenly a math genius. (recognition).

This made the math class way more interesting for him, he came up with all kinds of ways to compete against his friends such as finishing the quizzes and exams faster than anyone else. Making small bets with his friends as to who would get the highest marks etc.


Long term goals are the best kind of reasons a student can have. If a student is passionate about something they are going towards, motivating them is easy.

-Some students already have goals for the future and they can see how doing well in school / college is going to get them there. (You’re good to go 🙂 )

-Some students have long term goals but don’t see how school is related to them. (You need to find a link )

-Lots of students don’t have any long term goals at all. (I may try to create some goals either short or longer term)

Especially for older students I will first convince them of the importance of having goals, and take them through a goal setting process that matches with their highly valued criteria.

I will then try to link what they are doing now in school to the goals that they want. If I can pull this off, the students motivation takes a huge boost.


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Thank you for reading this article on how to motivate students using NLP. I really appreciate you coming to my site, I hope you are enjoying and benefiting from the information here. This site is designed to be the ultimate free resource for students / parents of struggling students.

Recommended book on NLP related to this article: ( Dyslexia Dubai / Solutions with NLP.) Robert Dilts Phd. Co Developer of NLP. Dynamic Learning.

Please leave a comment below because I’d love to hear what you think!

Thanks again, and good luck!

5 Responses to “How to Motivate Students using NLP”

February 10, 2016 at 10:55 pm, Sandra Canchola said:

I am a teacher, M.A in counseling psychology, hypnotherapist and working on credential to counsel in school.

I am aware of NLP techniques but would love to apply more to my skills and tools to help motivate students.


February 11, 2016 at 6:10 am, Tony Barlow said:

Hi Sandra, I would be happy to share with you what I know about motivating students using NLP. If you would like to set up a Skype call let me know.


August 19, 2016 at 4:15 am, Nazli said:

hello, i am an EFL teacher and i want the learners practice speedreading with the help of NLP techniques. i would appreciate if you could end me some techniques.


October 13, 2016 at 1:24 am, Antoni said:

Hi, My Name Antoni,
I ever join in NLP practitioner training. I would like to give trainer for Middle and High school student, do you have other modules to share to that I will share to my student?


October 20, 2016 at 9:47 pm, Reza said:

hi tony
i want to start work with students to improve their grades specially in math but i dont know where should i start. if u have any comment for me i will be so gratefull


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