In my estimation this is a very wise thought by Charles Fay, PhD from the Love and Logic Institute. Seeing kids like this as manipulative and willful misses an awful lot of what is going on. In addition to the emotions that Charles addresses below, there are also a lot of lagging skills and unsolved problems that are often keeping the child trapped in the "unmotivated" state:
In approximately 99% of cases, the child's lack of motivation results from far more than simple laziness or a conscious desire to act out. The roots of apathy go far deeper, into feelings of frustration, anger, hopelessness, lack of control, or loss. The majority of these feelings lay at the subconscious level, where they wreak havoc on a child's ability to engage in higher-level thinking tasks, such as sustained attention to detail, problem-solving, memory, perseverance, and self-control.
This is why punishing children for getting bad grades usually backfires. Since they are already feeling bad about life, how is making them feel worse about it going to get them motivated to succeed?
…rather than making it worse with anger, lectures, threats and punishments. At the core of what we teach is the importance of loving kids for who they are…rather than who we want them to be. Yes! The healing process begins when we end the power struggle by saying, "We will love you no matter how well or poorly you do in school. Your grades are your grades…not ours. That's why we are no longer going to fight with you about them. Just let us know how we can help."
What are your thoughts on what's going on with these kids?