Just like we all have things in common, we also have things that make us different from each other. These differences help make our lives more interesting and contribute to our unique perspectives. Those familiar with children may tell you individual quirks manifest themselves early and, through a combination of nature and nurture, they come to form the basis of each person’s personality.
Children are motivated by different things. Some might be motivated by their goals and results. Others might be motivated by their interests or what they like. Whatever the reason, you can use this to our advantage to motivate kids to learn.
By making sure that children are curious and interested in learning new things, you can motivate them to become smarter and faster learners.
If you know your child well, you can create a plan of action. For example, a child in early education with curiosity towards science, technology, engineering or math may be reachable with some of these methods. For other children—or for STEM children proving to be more difficult to reach—an understanding of motivation and a choice list of possible motivation methods are in order.
What Motivates Children?
In the simplest of terms, motivation is the cause behind a person’s actions. It doesn’t matter if that person is very young, very old or anywhere in between—they’re going to act based on motivations that can be grouped into two different categories.
The first category of motivations is extrinsic motivations. These motivations spur people to action because of a result of those actions that’s separate from oneself, such as reading a book from front to back to earn ice cream.
The second type of motivation is called intrinsic motivations. These motivations inspire actions because those actions or outcomes are found to be inherently enjoyable, like reading a book for enjoyment.
In studies on motivation, engagement spurred on by intrinsic motivation is of a higher quality and yields better results than actions taken because of some extrinsic motivation. One study asked college students to read an article, write down how they felt about it, then recall those emotions after a week. Students who thought the article in question was an engaging read remembered their feelings easier than the ones who didn’t like the article.
Although intrinsic motivation produces more quality work, it doesn’t mean you can’t motivate your child to a task they aren’t interested in, like homework. Extrinsic motivation can be a powerful motivator as well. There are four types of extrinsic motivation. They range from least internally reliable, coincidentally known as externally regulated, to integrated motivation, which is the extrinsic motivation category relying most on internal regulation.
When your child is internally motivated, it means they have chosen to do a task not because it is interesting, but because it is important to them. They have internalized their motivation and are driven to learn and grow. This type of extrinsic motivation leads to high quality work, just like intrinsic motivation.
Why Motivate Your Children to Learn?
Learning is a lifelong journey that opens up the world for children and helps them discover all that is out there. When we learn, we can do things we never thought possible. Learning helps children grow and get knowledge, strength, and skills they need to be successful in life.
Learning how to learn—how to find joy in discovery instead of constantly feeling dejected or overwhelmed thanks to the constant flow of new information you must take in and match against what you thought you already knew—this will set a child up for a lifetime of positive growth and change.
There are many benefits to lifelong learning. One of these benefits is that it can help children be curious and motivated to do well in school. You can help your child be successful by establishing good learning habits early in life. By encouraging children through intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you will give them the push they need to do well on their own.
When it comes to what’ll motivate your child, examples may cover a wide range of topics, like what motivates your child academically. What motivates your child to learn can be applied in a number of situations, though.
How to Motivate Your Child
Praise Their Process Instead of Their Result
If a child achieves a perfect score or wins first place, they’ve achieved something great. However, if praise is centered around that achievement, the young person may develop a focus on winning to earn the rewards associated with the number one spot.
This mindset is called performance orientation. Overtime, reinforcing this mindset in your child can greatly diminish the joy of learning. While it is important for your children to feel proud of their accomplishments, it may cause your child to gravitate towards easy tasks and avoid making mistakes by stepping out of their comfort zone. This could make it difficult for them to learn new, complex topics.
Try focusing instead on the effort a child puts in instead of the outcome they achieve. This can help instill an appreciation for hard work and a belief that the hard work can lead to the desired outcome. This helps children appreciate that time spent learning, even if the desired outcome isn’t achieved. By placing more value on the effort than the outcome, children are more likely to see learning failure as a part of learning and more readily take on challenging topics.
Set Goals and Celebrate Accomplishments
Grades, gold medals, trophies—these are examples of external motivations provided by an outside source. However, what if you let a child set and accomplish their own goals? By letting your child take control of their own learning, they are more likely to remain motivated and keep themselves on the right track.
You can encourage your child towards their own ambition by helping them set realistic goals and praising them for reaching their milestones. This helps develop a lifelong habit that will help your child remain curious and accomplish their goals.
Put Learners in Charge
Kids are more motivated if they’re able to exert some amount of control over the pursuit of tasks they deem meaningful, and this freedom can help them grow critical thinking skills by learning to assess situations and develop a plan of action for short term and long term goals.
Start by letting them choose a project and structure their experience with enough wiggle room to provide opportunities for self-determination while also employing a safety net that protects against failure-based frustrations.
Make Learning Social
Just because a young person is learning doesn’t mean they need to do so alone. Recently, research has shown that social interaction with adults and children during learning sessions can provide tutoring in secondary lessons like language arts.
With the rise of the digital age, research has stated that age-appropriate educational apps can help kids learn. However, scientists have found that peer to peer interactions with teachers, students, and parents are an essential part of helping a child learn.
Children will spontaneously play if they’re given the chance to do so. It doesn’t matter if they’re at a playground or a picnic—when their imaginations inspire them, they’re able to pick-up-and-play at a moment’s notice.
This is exactly the kind of motivation that inspires enriching learning experiences. It’s intrinsic, can form social bonds, can inspire children to partake in new experiences. More importantly, it presents an opportunity to learn from others and demands active engagement in the activity. Take time to encourage play, as it’s good practice for learning.
A Baby’s Intuition
Encouraging curiosity and learning can begin as early as infancy. The Goldilocks Effect is a phenomenon that describes a baby’s propensity for being drawn to experiences that are new, but not too confusing. If they know what they’re getting into, they may forego that interaction in favor of finding a new one.
If they’re not at all familiar with any part of something, they’re likely to turn away from that, too. Pay attention to a baby’s interests and include those interests when interacting with them. Use this knowledge to introduce them to new experiences.
An Adolescent’s Journey
Unlike a baby’s inclination to play it safe, adolescents are drawn to new, exciting experiences that push boundaries and may introduce threatening risks. Taking the right risks can maximize opportunities for learning, growth and enrichment. The wrong ones can do irreparable damage to a child’s growing brain, body and future.
Guidance in this stage of learning looks a little different, but freedom and intrinsic motivation are still important factors to consider. Add an emphasis on open, empathetic and supportive communications that provide a safe haven for the complicated questions of life.
Presentation is Key
Mindset can completely change an experience, and impressionable minds—like those of children—will gain the most from entering into a learning opportunity with a good mindset. Don’t refer to activities as jobs, don’t present a break from an activity as a reward, and create an environment of learning rather than working.
Negative reinforcement like punishments, nagging and threats apply external motivations and hinder possible enjoyment. The same can be said for abuse of rewards and praise, too. Autonomy is essential for the aforementioned integrated motivation.
Help Them Grasp Meaning
To fully realize integrated motivation and internalize a motivation to learn, a child needs to understand the worth of doing something they may not feel intrinsically inclined to do. Setting and maintaining goals can help with this. The cause and effect surrounding the concept of practice is a great example.
Having meaningful conversations with kids can help them understand the process of thinking and making decisions. It can help train them for decision making down the road. Taking time to explain the whys of certain tasks in a straightforward manner can help internalize desire and create a sound framework for interacting with the world.
Inspire With Action
No matter what you say, kids are inclined to do as you do. Performing concepts like honesty, kindness and respect help give guidelines for what these things look like in practice. This can also be done to encourage learning. Then, children can apply these lessons in real life.
Building Good Learning Habits
Motivation isn’t an easy concept to grasp, instill or perpetuate, but it’s an essential piece of the learning puzzle. Your child will develop their own motivation language, so provide positive influence to steer them in productive, nourishing directions. Courses at Juni Learning can help with both enrichment and motivation, and using these virtual courses as a tool for growth can help make a difference in your child’s future.