Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fostering Internal Motivation

How can we motivate children to work harder in school, in a sport or in practicing an instrument? Will the promise of a reward for practicing the piano help our child practice more? Or will the threat of punishment be more effective? When we try to motivate our children to work harder, we can often end up feeling frustrated by the results.

Many parents use "behavior modification" programs, such as rewards, sticker charts or token systems to teach children skills, get children to take on responsibilities, or curb an unwanted behavior.

Unfortunately, over 30 years of long-term studies with adults and children by distinguished researchers conclusively show that these programs may appear to have positive short-term results but are consistently ineffective and often counter-productive long-term.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when the learning activity and the learning environment elicit natural motivation. We can not motivate our children but rather create, through our teaching, opportunities that can evoke self-governing principles.

The following elements help to create internal motivation:

  • Autonomy - the need to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - the desire to make progress in one's work
  • Purpose - the ability to positively impact ourselves and our world
When we try to motivate our children, it sometimes backfires as they dig in their heels and refuse to buckle under the pressure. By attempting to exert control over our children's behavior, we are reducing their autonomy - one of the key elements of internal motivation.

Psychologist Robert W. Hill of Appalachian State University found that when people are trying hard because of their own desire for excellence, this effort can lead to greater satisfaction and mental health. However, if the pressure to perform is coming from others, it's likely to lead to dissatisfaction and reduced well-being.

I read an article called "The Two Faces of Perfection", in which the author says,

"Kids need to get the message, 'You need to have high standards, but you don't need to be perfect.' If you have unreachable goals and you're constantly dissatisfied with yourself, you can be miserable. Unequivocally, you don't want a parent who is constantly criticizing, so the child develops a self-scrutiny that always finds fault with their own performance."

While we all want our children to try hard and make good choices, in order to accomplish this we need to allow them to practice making those choices. Some of the choices they make will not be so good and that will give them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

By giving our children the chance to develop their self-motivation, we encourage them to grow and find their own internal strengths.

No comments:

Post a Comment