So, what motivates a child?
Most parents use the “carrot and stick” approach, i.e. rules, consequences, rewards, or behavior charts.
You many find quick but temporary success in the beginning, but after a while it stops working.
So want to know the real truth about motivations… they are not created equal when it comes to our kids.
The main reason that underlines a child’s behavior is motivation…
There are two main types of motivation for kids:
- Intrinsic motivation – doing an activity for its inherent enjoyment.
- Extrinsic motivation – doing an activity for a separable outcome.
In my research on this topic I found 4 effective ways to motivate our kids that is backed-by-research.
Now before I walk you through these 4 science-backed steps check this out…
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4 Science-Backed Steps
1. STOP TRYING TO MOTIVATE (THE TRADITIONAL WAY)
It’s likely that your attempts to motivate your child to learn are doing the exact opposite — DEMOTIVATING your child.
Recall that when a child is intrinsically motivated they are enjoying an activity on its own.
If they don’t enjoy an activity… no amount of pushing, bribing, or threatening can change their position. Any attempt to change this will only create a power struggle.
The truth is the traditional ways to deal with a child’s lack of motivation are counterproductive… rewarding, praising, nagging, scolding, and punishing.
Therefore, the best approach is to STOP employing these external factors as a way to motivate your kids.
2. LET THEM DECIDE AND HELP THEM DECIDE
Autonomy is important in producing intrinsic motivation or integrated motivation.
According to a journal written in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, children have to make their own decisions to feel a sense of autonomy, a vital intrinsic motivator.
The fact is most parents are scared that if they let their children make their own decisions the will certainly make the wrong ones and fail.
As we all know failing in life is an inevitable part of the human experience. When we allow them to make wrong decisions we give them the opportunity to learn to make good decisions.
Give your kids the opportunity to practice decision-making with your guidance… then let them face the natural consequence if they fail.
Realize that your kids are not meant to relive your life.
For example, just because you regret not playing the saxophone when you were a kid doesn’t mean your kid needs to fulfill that dream you had.
Our kids have their own lives and their own big dreams to pursue.
3. FIND AN OPTIMAL CHALLENGE
If you want help kids to experience feelings of accomplishment, then the best way is to inspire intrinsic motivation.
Here is the dichotomy with intrinsic motivation… If you give a child an activity that is too easy, they will feel bored quickly. if you give them an activity that is too hard, a child will feel discouragement.
The optimal challenge for a child is one that is slightly more difficult than what they have already mastered but is still attainable through some hard work.
Proficiency and skill can improve through practice and hard work with children. This enables them to develop a growth mindset, which is very important, when they believe that talent is not fixed, but pliable.
Our job as parents is to help and encourage them to practice and let them know that the process of practicing and working through problems is what matters.
Then when they finally grasp a new skill, that sense of competency will generate definite energy and become an important internal motivator, putting them on their path to success.
4. GET INVOLVED
According to a scientific study submitted to the National Library of Medicine a sense of belonging and relatedness can encourage internalization. The personal and emotional bonds children form with others are great motivators.
A great way to promote relatedness is for parents to participate in the activity. When the whole family participate this will show how much they value it.
For instance, you can have a designated family game night which will allow you time to bond. You can also get involved in their learning activities, or you can coach their sporting events they are involved in or volunteer in their class at school.
My Final Thoughts On What Motivates Your Child
We want to make sure we are motivating our kids with the best methods and processes possible.
With that said positive reinforcement is not always bad. Sometimes, we just want to give our young kids something to celebrate accomplishments.
The crucial thing is not using positive reinforcement as a contingency… if you do this, then you get this.
Any extrinsic rewards should be unexpected, not routinely given and offered only after the activity finishes.
Lastly other great ways for parents to motivate their kids are to offer praise, provide positive feedback, or improvement suggestions in place of physical rewards. All of these can motivate your child in the right manner to get lasting results.
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