Welcome back to our blog series on intrinsic motivation! In our first blog, we talked about the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. But as is true for most things in life, understanding the concept and putting it into practice are two totally different things. With Liberty Leadership, an Acton Academy in Bel Air, we have the tips you need to help your child develop a stellar sense of intrinsic motivation.
Being intrinsically motivated isn’t something that’s only helpful at our private school — it’s a skill and tool that your child will take with them wherever they go. Find out how to build intrinsic motivation at home with your young ones, and learn more about our elementary and middle school.
Talk and Explain
It can be unbelievably easy to offer something to your child in exchange for their cooperation. Saying things like “if you put your shoes on right now, I’ll buy you a treat at the grocery store” are common lines that many (if not most) parents have used at one point or another.
Our private school works closely with children and families, so we can say with confidence that this is not an example of lazy parenting — this is a parent who is not wanting to deal with the fourth temper tantrum of the morning and needs to get on with their day. That’s because building intrinsic motivation is hard. Offering external rewards for everything is not best practice, but no parent is perfect.
It takes extraordinary amounts of patience, but the starting place for intrinsic motivation is to talk and explain. For everything you’re asking your child to do, have a reason ready for why that it is, and get in the habit of explaining your reasons briefly and summarily each time. Eventually, reasons will start to stick with kids, and they’ll understand the “why” portion — and from there, it can become ingrained into the foundation of who they are and why things work the way that they do.
Kids can’t be expected to do something, particularly if they don’t want to do it, without understanding the reason why. Have those ongoing conversations with your young one to help them develop their sense of motivation — we promise it will make an impact!
Kids truly are like sponges. Especially in their younger years, children soak up everything we do. When you spend time doing things that you’re passionate about, your kids will see this, and emulate what you do.
If you’re struggling to do things that you’re passionate about, it’s understandable — free time as a parent is more than tough to manage. But when you set an example of being intrinsically motivated, whether that’s playing an instrument or working on your car, your child witnesses this type of motivation in practice. Not to mention, spending time on the things you love feels good for you as well!
It’s important to remember that simply modeling isn’t always enough — you might need to explain to your child why you are doing what you’re doing, and why it’s important. Make it relevant by providing context, such as saying things like “I love playing piano because it makes me feel happy, and it helps me learn. It’s just like how you love to work on puzzles.”
One of the biggest parts of intrinsic motivation is accepting that you will not be successful nor rewarded at every turn, but that awards and fame are not the point. Kids need to learn from an early age that it’s OK to make mistakes, and that it’s simply part of being a human. How we respond to our setbacks is what makes or breaks us, and teaching your child to persevere through the tough times of something they love will help them in all aspects of life.
It could be something as simple as being flustered by a math problem or not advancing to the next level in their karate class. Teach your child how to self-regulate their emotions, such as encouraging them to take a break, breathe deeply, remind themselves of their strengths, and to think of the challenge ahead as an obstacle to work through instead of an unclimbable, impossible wall.
One of the best ways to teach intrinsic motivation is to support your child in their interests. When a child feels passionate about something or they enjoy an activity, it’s such a great opportunity for teaching moments. It’s much easier to encourage intrinsic motivation when your child has something in their life that’s a point of reference.
With that being said, intrinsic motivation doesn’t solely need to be tied to your child’s hobbies. There are plenty of other times where you can provide encouragement that naturally focuses on intrinsic motivation. For a quick reminder, here are some reminders of encouragement dos and don’ts:
Things to Say:
- I love how even when you were struggling with that one part of the dance routine, you never gave up! I’m proud of your perseverance.
- I like that you try to learn as much as you can about puppies, it shows me that you really care and are interested.
- Even though you got frustrated when trying to tie your shoes, you took a break and tried again when you were ready. I’m so proud of you listening to your body and that you came back to it!
- I know you’re not a fan of washing the dishes, but you did so without me even having to ask. I notice your intrinsic motivation and am really impressed by it.
Things to Avoid Saying:
- You want to win a trophy, right? Work harder and it will happen.
- I’m proud of you for scoring a goal in that game. Nice work.
- Your report card looks amazing. Keep up those straight As!
Notice for the second set of examples that all the praise focused on the outcome, rather than the process. While some of these statements are not bad on their own, it’s best to use them in tandem with other intrinsic phrases, which instead highlight the attitude, the work, and the determination. Use praise that’s specific to the individual’s strengths and character, not solely on the results of their work. Because as we all know, we can work really hard at something and not come out on top, and that shouldn’t discount all that we have done.
As an Acton Academy in Bel Air, Liberty Leadership teaches and encourages intrinsic motivation in everything that we do. When your child is receiving the same messages at home as they are at our private school, they will be set up for so much success and happiness. Feeling the pressures of external motivation can be helpful at times, but ultimately wanting to self-improve speaks volumes to a person’s character. Find out more about our educational methods, and contact Liberty Leadership to get started with enrollment for elementary and middle school today.