8 Ways to Motivate Your Kids
When it comes to motivating kids, many parents opt to reward positive behaviors and give consequences for negative behaviors.
This type of motivation is called extrinsic motivation. Your child is externally motivated to do what you want him to do. He wants to please you, earn a reward, or avoid trouble.
But this is less effective than intrinsic motivation, when your child is motivated from within. Intrinsically motivated children are driven by a sense of personal responsibility, a desire to learn, or the satisfaction of a job well done. They don’t have a “What’s in it for me?” attitude when expected to complete a task.
Intrinsic motivation teaches kids values, builds character, and lasts far longer than extrinsic motivation. When behavior becomes dependent on rewards, the behavior stops when the rewards stop. When motivation comes from within, however, it can last for a lifetime.
Here are 8 simple strategies you can use to nurture intrinsic motivation in your children.
- Make a dream board.
A dream board, or vision board, helps your child visualize his goals and dreams. Grab a sheet of poster board and help your child cut or print out images that represent what he wants to achieve in life. Then paste these images onto the poster board.
Hang the dream board somewhere prominent to remind your child of his goals and give him a sense of purpose.
- Support their passions.
Help your child explore various activities and interests to find his passion(s). Once he discovers something he loves to do, support and encourage your child. Provide resources to help him pursue these interests.
- Praise effort and improvement.
Children (and adults) often become discouraged during the lengthy pursuit of a goal. For this reason, it’s helpful to praise your child’s effort, improvement, and small steps toward a big goal.
This will break the goal into smaller, more manageable pieces and help your child stay motivated.
- Set a good example.
Be a positive role model for your child, demonstrating that you don’t give up on your own goals. Openly tell your child about your mistakes, setbacks, and failures, and explain that you’re going to keep trying. Talk to your child about what you learn from your mistakes and how you stay motivated.
- Encourage independent thinking.
If you want your child to be intrinsically motivated, allow him to make choices independently. For example:
- Let your child set his own goals.
- Allow your child to pursue the activities that most interest him.
- Give your child the power to decide on solutions to problems and setbacks. (You can help brainstorm, of course!)
The more you allow your child to forge his own path, the more motivated he’ll be to stay on it.
- Hold the rewards.
Multiple studies have shown that children who are rewarded for positive behaviors lose interest in the activity when the rewards are taken away, even if it’s an activity they previously enjoyed.
A study by Mark Lepper, chairman of Stanford University’s psychology department, involved a group of children who spent much of their free time at school drawing with markers. In the study, one group of children was told in advance that they would now be rewarded for coloring with magic markers.
When the study was completed, and rewards were no longer offered, the children spent only half as much time drawing with markers as they had spent prior to the study.
Instead of offering rewards, help your child reflect on what he has learned or how he has grown as a result of achieving his goals.
- Encourage positivity.
Help your child stay positive in the face of mistakes and failure. Explain to him that mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow, and demonstrate this same attitude when you make mistakes of your own.
As your child learns that failure is simply part of the process, he’ll be motivated to persist despite occasional bumps in the road.
- Provide opportunities to succeed.
Intrinsic motivation often stems from the satisfaction of succeeding or performing well. Give your child opportunities to experience this feeling so he’ll be motivated to pursue it in the future. Support him, guide him, and let him pursue his talents and abilities.
By following these 8 tips, you’ll help your child develop the intrinsic motivation that is vital to long-term confidence and success.