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How to effectively motivate your child



Help kids help themselves get things done

Help kids help themselves get things done


So much of parenting consists of trying to get your child to do what’s best for them. But are we, as parents, always clear on what’s best for our kids? No, we are not.

Sometimes we push and push and only after recovering from a crisis or a meltdown do we acquire the perspective to see we were wasting time and energy attempting to get our offspring to do something we actually want for ourselves, or something that is actually not right for them at all. Years may pass before a child will say, “I never actually wanted to do that. I was miserable doing that.”

Parenting for Brain wants to help you avoid these missteps. They begin by defining motivation:

Intrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity for its inherent enjoyment rather than for a separable outcome.

Extrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity, not for its inherent enjoyment but instead for a separable outcome.

A parent’s goal should be to help a child fill their life with as much intrinsic motivation as possible. Whatever a child engages in with intrinsic motivation, they will remember and internalize it.

Extrinsic motivation, simply put, is “carrot and stick,” for example, “You do your homework and I will give you ice cream.” The hope being that your child will associate doing homework with something they like, and eventually just do the homework, and activities like homework, without a promise of some reward. You want them to be autonomous. But, according to Parenting for Brain, “Rewards, praises, and punishment will not inspire someone to become intrinsically interested in the activity. It does the opposite.”

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But that’s not to dismiss extrinsic motivation. Parenting for Brain makes quite a few suggestions for getting a child interested in something they are not intrinsically interested in. These suggestions include:

  • Pique their curiosity in a new skill by showing them the different uses of it.

  • Let children choose among activities without pressure.

  • Celebrate success milestones together (but do not over-praise or praise conditionally).

  • Be supportive, provide constructive feedback, not criticism, that can enhance a sense of competence.

  • When children are stuck at a problem, help them view it as a “challenge they can conquer”, not a “difficulty they need to overcome”

Ultimately, getting involved is key. And as hard as it can be to refrain from giving out rewards (or punishments), you can offer praise, positive feedback or improvement suggestions. According to Parenting for Brain, all of these can effectively motivate your child for the future.



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