Creative Child

7 Ways to Self-Motivate Your Child

by Deborah Song

When it comes to motivating your child, less can be more. Dangle a piece of candy, a trip to Disneyland or a shiny trophy in front of them, and any child can be motivated to do whatever you want them to in the short term. The real question, however, is how do you self-motivate a child to build the kind of character that makes them persevere in life?

The short answer: It’s really up to the child. Research shows that motivation is largely genetic. When it comes to motivation, studies show nature plays a larger role than nurture. This doesn’t mean parents should throw in the towel and do nothing to motivate their kids. But what it does mean is that parents can’t will a child to be self-motivated. It’s up to each child to dig deep within and discover his motivation. Our job? Provide the opportunities, tools and empathy for their journey. And in many cases, it also means that parents need to do less. Much less. Here are 7 things parents can do – and not do – to motivate kids from within.

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1. Don’t provide a reward. There’s tons of research that show rewards can actually reduce motivation. Researchers at Stanford University found that when children who already enjoyed drawing with markers were paid to do so, they quit using them when they were no longer paid. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but upon some consideration the logic makes sense: rewards can reinforce the belief that a task can’t be worth doing for itself. It projects all the pleasure in the future and takes it away from the present. When this happens, rewards begin to mirror punishments where the incentive becomes a way of pressuring people into performing activities they can’t be trusted to like on their own.

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