Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Kids Get Motivated From the Inside-Out

Have you noticed with young children how they are always wanting to help, eager to be part of the action, and fearlessly try to do things that you may think are beyond their developmental abilities at the moment?

"Intrinsic motivation" is something we are all BORN with. It is a motivating force that naturally occurs from within, not something externally directed by someone else. And it's something we as parents can actually foster in our kids!

How can parents encourage a child's “intrinsic” motivation?
Can you imagine your child being self-motivated, without pressure from you?  It's really possible, and as a parent you hold the key by creating an environment that supports your child's curiosity, interest and self-determination.

It comes down to knowing what really inspires your child; to understanding that kids (and actually all of us) are driven by 4 major needs ... the need for connection, contribution, control, and continual growth. 
  • Connection -- the feeling of being heard and valued; that "I matter" (creates confidence and resiliency)
  • Contribution -- the feeling of being significant and part of something bigger (creates a sense of belonging)
  • Control -- the feeling of autonomy and having a choice (creates independence and self-reliance)
  • Continual growth -- having opportunities to pursue interests, express creativity, master skills, and achieve goals (creates self-esteem and well-being)

Keeping in mind these 4 drives, here are a few things we can do as parents to begin developing and supporting intrinsic motivation in our kids!

10 Powerful Ways to Foster Your Child's Intrinsic Motivation:

  1. Encourage simple experiences that satisfy their natural desires and creativity: playing, dancing, exploring nature, or discovering new things. Give them enough free time and space; allow room for boredom :-). Avoid over scheduling.
  2. Be open and curious with your child. Sometimes that means just being quiet and listening. 
  3. Allow your child the freedom to make choices. Let go of your need to direct, interfere, bribe, or otherwise control what they choose.
  4. Instead of projecting your own ideas of what you want for them, pay attention to what your child is naturally interested in. Ask yourself if there is some way you can support them or facilitate this interest?
  5. Let go of expectations, judging, or being attached to a specific outcome with what they are doing.  It causes tension, makes them question their abilities, and can stop them from taking action. 
  6. When you believe your child is off track, remember that all behavior is a form of communication. Get curious and ask a good question, then step back. What is it you are wanting? “What do you think might happen if you choose that?” or “What did you feel when that happened?”  Communicating from your core values will help them develop their own inner guidance. 
  7. Set limits that make sense! Instead of an automatic NO, look for the yes. If it is really a no, see through their eyes and validate what they are wanting. Communicate a no in a calm and respectful way.  
  8. If possible, keep them out of "fight, flight or freeze" (survival mode). They can't think straight and can't think for themselves when they feel pushed or forced. Being calm, confident and connected with your child will usually keep them open to creative solution, even at a young age.
  9. Open up to ways your child can contribute to your family, your neighborhood, and the greater community. Give them opportunities to participate in their own inspired way. 
  10. Hold your child’s highest vision at all times -- see them as resourceful, capable and creative! See their greatness, and remember to see yours, too.

It's never too late to create an environment that supports your child being curious, thoughtful, and intrinsically motivated. Start using a few of these tips, and notice if your child becomes a bit more confident, a bit more creative, and maybe even a bit more helpful around the house!! I'm telling you that the results you see in your child will be worth the effort.

Be empowered,