What is your child’s motivation? Motivation can be internal, for example from doing the task itself, or external, the motivation coming from a reward or benefit.

This may be vary depending on the task.  For example, your child may love maths but hate writing, so they are internally motivated to do their mathematics work, but not internally motivated to do their writing tasks. We call this intrinsic motivation.

Motivation from external factors such as a reward is known as extrinsic motivation.

Whether a child is internally or externally motivated can also be related to personality.

Internal Motivation

Self starters, those children who start work with very little protest, are more likely to be intrinsically motivated. This is me, so I understand this well.

Intrinsically motivated people are those who are more likely to be motivated by the task itself. They may start tasks easily, but they may choose the tasks that are more interesting to them and spend a lot of time on those. They may also procrastinate when a task is hard, boring or overwhelming. No amount of reward or penalty will work in this case, as they are not motivated by external things.

So how can we motivate an internally motivated child?

  • There are ways you can help your child to deal with trickier tasks. For example, help them break the task down so they only have a small amount to do before moving on to the next thing. The thought of only having to do a single step at a time can be easier to manage, and give a sense of success.
  • A task may feel abstract, so it can help to link it to a real life scenario, so they can see its purpose. When you show them how it can relate to their own life, it creates a connection they can see and makes the learning more tangible and easier to understand, which in turn can increase motivation and also help them remember what they have learned.
  • Encourage them to watch a video or read an article on the subject. Learning the background about a subject may help them gain a different perspective. Look in our directory to see if you can find something that relates or resonates with your child.

External Motivation

An extrinsically motivated child may be motivated by rewards. It can be very tempting to reward your son or daughter for completing their schoolwork or even doing their chores. Scientists who have studied motivation, such as Dan Ariely, advise caution when using rewards as it can reduce intrinsic motivation, and the work becomes a transaction.

So how can we motivate an externally motivated child?

  • It is better to adopt a system that is used in some schools – that of rewarding behaviours, such as having good organisation or working diligently. This encourages the child to work more efficiently, and they can see the fruits of their efforts as they are rewarded with more screen time, a favourite TV program, activity or free time.
  • Keep the expected behaviours specific and objective – such as having all their pens, pencils and books for a task or working quietly on their own for ten minutes, or attempting to answer all the questions in an assignment.
  • Don’t penalise them for asking for assistance if it is required.

How is your child motivated? Let us know in the comments!

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