Motivation - an internal desire or need that energizes one's life and gives it direction - is important to success. Many believe that it is more important than natural abilities or aptitudes. At some point in your child's development, you will probably feel that your child lacks sufficient motivation. Most parents face this worry. Different "signs" may trigger this concern - your child seems turned off by everything, complains excessively about school or home life, drops out of activities, or acts particularly bored with routine and non-routine events. Your concern comes from a sincere interest in your child's future and well-being. That is why it is so important not to react in ways that might actually make the problem worse.
Simply put, encouragement, not criticism, inspires children. When a parent criticizes a child, even constructively, that child is often discouraged and less motivated to do what is expected. On the other hand, by noticing and encouraging good behavior, a parent will see more of that good behavior. For example, complimenting your child for completing her homework before going out to play will encourage the same behavior to be repeated. "Thank you for picking up your room" will produce better results than "How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your room?"
Criticism can sink into a harmful cycle when the parent criticizes in a humiliating, hurtful way. "You are being really stupid!" "What is the matter with you?" "Don't you ever learn?" The child internalizes the criticism, loses confidence, becomes angry and alienated, and becomes less motivated to behave. The parent criticizes, and the child reacts. Both parent and child begin to believe that the child is all of those negative things.
On the other hand, parents who look for their children's good behaviors are far less likely to find faults. The children feel good about themselves, their behaviors improve, the improvements are recognized, and their motivation increases. All motivational problems are not simply solved and can require professional help. But parents can make a huge impact by focusing on and supporting the good in their children.
Motivating elementary students
In addition to your encouragement, you can help your children do their best in elementary school or outside activities by:
- Showing love.
Provide support and encourage your children to develop their interests.
- Teaching responsibility.
Encourage your children to be responsible for chores, completing homework assignments, and taking on community activities; acknowledge good decisions that they have made.
- Being a role model.
Show that you value education and exhibit the values and behavior you hope your children will develop.
- Providing your children with a range of experiences.
Encourage a wide range of experiences - through sports, music, volunteer activities, and travel. These will allow your children to discover and develop their strengths, bolstering their self-confidence and motivation to do more.
- Talking to your children.
Talk to your children about their day, activities, schoolwork, friends, and interests. Listen to your children and discuss the topics that are important to them even if those topics are not important to you.
- Being aware of potential issues.
Know and understand the problems and pressures your children may face; seek help when you are concerned that the problem will not be resolved.