New Year’s Resolution: Motivate Your Child and Make It Stick

Developing a child’s motivation is an important task of any parent. Not only is it essential for your child’s academic performance, but it’s also one of the most important factors for their lifelong success. As such, it should be sparked and nurtured from an early age through the application of appropriate methods. Thus, you need to recognise your child’s potential and interests and help them develop a long-term motivation that will persevere even in the face of difficulties and failures.

The parent-child relationship

Parents have the most prominent role during child’s early development, more specifically, until their little angels become rebellious teenagers. Of course, even during this turbulent period, parents are still important figures in a teen’s life. However, teenagers typically start differentiating themselves from and rebelling against their parents, seeking support from their friends. Children, on the other hand, are highly reliant on their relationships with their parents and need to feel loved, appreciated and accepted. You should nurture an open and honest relationship with your child, provide them with enough support and encourage them to share their problems with you.

Another important feature of childhood is that children, especially young children, often learn through modelling their parents’ behaviours. Thus, you need to make sure that you’re a positive role model for your child. From fulfilling your dreary duties conscientiously to pursuing your own passions, everything you do or say may have a major impact on your child. In addition, you should help your child acquire a sense of responsibility. Not only will this make them complete even the boring tasks, it will also help them become independent, responsible adults.

Praise: a double-edged sword

Praising your children is a natural and desirable aspect of their upbringing. However, you need to be careful about how you praise your child. Of course, praise is always a better solution than criticising and punishing, but it can still have certain negative effects. For example, you shouldn’t praise every single thing your child does, especially if it’s trivial. This can send a message that you have low expectations of them which can be truly discouraging. Furthermore, you should encourage specific behaviours through descriptive praise. Instead of saying “well done” you should say “You did a great job preparing for your test”.

Another important consideration to keep in mind when praising your child is that you need to praise the effort rather than the result. Generic praises, especially those like “you’re the smartest kid in the class” can really have a detrimental effect. When your child “fails” at something (and they will – we all do), they will believe that they aren’t actually smart enough. On the other hand, when you focus on specific behaviours, skills and efforts, even when they fail, they will know that perhaps they haven’t put in enough effort.

When it comes to criticism, there will be occasions when you’ll need to discourage certain behaviours through criticism. Once again, you need to criticise their actions and behaviours, instead of their intelligence. Saying “this is not acceptable because…” instead of “you’re a bad boy/girl” will be more effective. In addition, you should explain why certain behaviours aren’t appropriate and express your feelings rather than just scold and punish them.

Internal vs. external motivation

This carefully given praise is actually a type of positive reinforcement that will help you develop intrinsic, or internal, motivation in your child. This type of motivation comes from within and in that case, performing any task is almost always a pleasure. Extrinsic, or external, motivation is conditioned by external factors. For example, your child has external motivation if they study because you promised to buy them a toy. Internal motivation is a long-term type of motivation that will increase your child’s chances of success. External motivation may be effective, but it’s a temporary solution.

The goal of every parent should be to develop intrinsic motivation in their children. You can achieve this in several different ways. You should encourage your children to take up exciting extra curricular activities that they might be interested in. This way, they will truly enjoy doing these activities, which will significantly improve their motivation. You should also make their learning fun through the use of games and different learning apps.

Furthermore, your child needs to feel and know that they are making progress in order to stay motivated. You can help them achieve this by coming up with realistic and specific goals that they can attain. Once they’ve completed their goals for a week or month, they’ll be able to see how much they’ve accomplished, which will motivate them to keep working on themselves.

Raising responsible, motivated children with healthy self-esteem is certainly not an easy task. However, by enabling your child to focus on their interests and encouraging them through positive reinforcement, you’ll be able to spark their long-term, internal motivation.

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