Published on January 2, 2012 | by Heather Leshovsky0
Building Kids With Character: Motivation
No student, athlete, or employee can become great at what they do without this quality! Motivation is the invisible drive that keeps a person excited about putting continued effort into what they do. Gaining a better understanding of what motivation is will help you encourage more of it in your child!
There are two basic kinds of motivation:
Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is a desire to do something that comes from inside an individual. This person decides to do an activity for the pleasure and satisfaction that they derive personally from engaging in the activity. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside an individual… This is doing something because of someone else’s coercion or desire. Intrinsically motivated kids are the ones who tend to invest more effort, show higher levels of concentration, and perform better. Here are three things I believe every parent can do to help their child’s intrinsic motivation levels grow:
Let your child be his or her own person:
Part of being self-motivated is knowing what your own personal style and interests are, and feeling free to express them. Make sure that you give your child daily opportunities to reflect their own personality and taste (not necessarily yours!). For example, when your child is shopping for new clothes or accessories, of course they must be within your standards – but let them pick out what they like the best… even if it is a color or pattern you do not care for! And when there is a choice for your child in regards to an activity, step back and be careful not to influence that choice with your persepctive, but give them the uninhibited freedom to discover and carry out their own desire. Part of letting your child be their own person is realizing that they may have different preference than you do, and being ok with that. When making decisions with your child, try asking yourself “Is this a question of something that is right versus wrong, or a question of personal taste?” If it is an issue of right vs. wrong, you need to be the parent and make the choice. If it is an issue of personal taste, you need to let your child express him or herself. A child who always bases their “personal preferences” on what they think will make their parents happy is more likely to become a person who always needs an outside influence to motivate them.
Motivation… No student, athlete, or employee can become great at what they do without this quality!
Listen to your child’s dreams!
Make a point to really listen to your child and try to hear what their desires are. As a student, what do they most love to learn? As an athlete, what do they like to watch or participate in? Who do they look up to or admire? What kind of experiences make them really happy? These are all clues that you need to look for and listen to in order to find out what your child’s dreams are!
Teach your child how to set goals and how to reach them:
As your child finds and begins to express their own dreams and desires, encourage them by teaching how to set goals and achieve them. My example from a gymnastics coaches’ perspective: If your child loves to do handstands and wants to be better at them, explain the importance of strong arms, and let them think of an exercise that can make them stronger, such as push-ups. Next, let your child set their own goal for how many push-ups they want to do this week. If your child decides to do five push-ups every day for a week, encourage them by helping to write down the goal and reminding them about it. As your child accomplishes the goal, praise them for their effort. A simple process like this will not only teach your child how to set their own goals, but it will help them to feel the personal satisfaction of knowing they can achieve whatever they set out to do and create more motivation to continue on. You can use this approach of goal-setting for any activity your child is interested in. An important word of caution to parents in regards to achieving goals: While there is nothing wrong with giving your child a tangible “prize” such as candy or toys when they achieve something, be sure that you do not make it a regular practice. Too many tangible prizes can prevent a child from recognizing the inner satisfaction or reward of a job well done, and cause them to become only extrinsically motivated. Sometimes the best encouragement is simply letting your athlete know you are proud of them for what they have done.
Spend the next couple weeks looking for what your child’s personal desires and goals are, and helping them understand how to set goals and experience the rewards of knowing they have completed them! In the next part of this series, we will talk about how to build the quality of perseverance!By Heather Leshovsky