What Motivates Your Child?

Do you constantly struggle to figure out what motivates your child to work to the best of their abilities?

Figuring out what motivates your child is a common problem that every parent faces at one time or another. I know for me, I often felt my kids should just be self-motivated to do their best on their homework. But, then I remember, they were kids. And then I remembered how it was when I was growing up. I often rushed through my homework to just get it done. I’m betting you are a lot like me and didn’t always do your best either.

The Effects of Praise on Children’s Intrinsic Motivation: A Review and Synthesis

A study from Reed College and Stanford University concludes when praise is perceived as sincere, it is particularly beneficial to motivation when it encourages performance attributions to controllable causes, promotes autonomy, and conveys attainable standards and expectations.

Although praise may play a significant role in shaping children’s motivation, we do not believe it to be the only, or even the most important, influence. At least in American society, however, praise does seem to address an important human desire to seek the approval of others. As Norman Vincent Peale is said to have stated, “Most of us … would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

What Motives Your Child? Does Motivation Impact Learning?

Let’s face it. Sometimes we still don’t always do our best. The important thing is that we do give it our best shot. This is all a part of our mindset. When we have a positive mindset, all things seem possible. When we have a negative mindset, everything seems daunting. So, how do we create a positive, growth mindset with our kids?

It is a big help if you as a parent pat your children on the back, letting them know that they are doing a good job. Let them know that you appreciate them ‘hanging in there’ even when an assignment or task is difficult. Find that ‘one’ good thing you can say that will inspire rather than complain about the five things they may not have done so well.

You know as well as I do… when you are at work, you always do a better job when you are praised for a good job. It carries over to your next project. It is the same with your child, so praise them for doing their work and for their persistence.

Sometimes something more is needed. An incentive is simply something that motivates one to action. If an incentive is what it takes to get your child motivated to do their homework, then, by all means, try it. Remember, though, once your child is working on his/her own, phase out the incentive and keep them motivated by your praise.

Does a Positive Mindset Motivate Your Child?

Studies show that having a positive mindset makes the biggest difference in motivation. Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford professor, discovered that having a growth mindset made a huge difference in motivation and achievement. She writes about the decades of studies in her book Mindset.

One way to help your child see that they can learn with greater ease is to ‘prove’ it to them. Watch the video exercise below and they will see that they can learn faster when they have a strategy in place.

How Technology Can Motivate Kids

Screens, computers, phones, and technology lure us in. They grab our attention left and right. They entertain us. They connect us. They are sometimes our worst enemies while at the same time our best friend. Technology is empowering. We don’t always think of it when we are using a device or a tool, but someone spent the effort to design, to build, and to engineer the hardware and software you use day in and day out. Nowadays, it is easier than ever for kids, and adults, to build their own hardware and software.

If your kids show interest in robotics, computers, photography, and technology, encourage them and help foster that creativity. Some tools are still a little expensive to invest into, but they are getting cheaper all the time. You may have heard of the Arduino or Raspberry Pi. These are miniature computers that allow you to program them to do all sorts of things. The Arduino and Raspberry Pi may be a little too technical for kids to start right off the bat with, but there are starter robot building kits that make it easy for kids (and adults!) to program. When a child (or adult!) sees how they can actually build something with a little bit of effort, it inspires them of the possibilities of what they can do.

How Games Can Motivate Kids

Game playing helps keep your kids motivated to learn. More learning happens when you are engaged and having fun. If we are engaged, we care about it. If we care about it, we will make an effort to remember and make it part of who we are.

Rick Wormeli, national education consultant, states, “Games and simulations are highly effective classroom practices for any age. They are intrinsically motivating, and they help teachers introduce, analyze, reinforce, and apply content and skills…”

According to Rebekah Stathakis, author of A Good Start: 147 Warm-Up Activities for Spanish Class there are 5 specific reasons to use games in the classroom. I would argue, those reasons are the same reasons to play games at home with the family.

  1. Kids of all ages learn through the process of playing the game.
  2. Games provide a context for engaging practice.
  3. Kids learn a variety of important skills through games: critical thinking, teamwork, and good sportsmanship to name a few.
  4. Kids learn to make connections with content and build positive memories of learning.
  5. Kids attention are engaged in a relaxed learning environment.

Additionally, when you play with your family, you are letting your kids know they are important and that learning is important to you too. And, you are having a good time with your family, so it is a win-win situation.

In my 40+ years of teaching struggling students, I have found that games are one of the best ways to engage students. I use games to teach as well as reinforce skills. Additionally, when my students are playing, they are motivated to learn. The learning sticks.

I may be a little partial to the games that I have developed through my years of study and teaching struggling learners (The Sentence Zone, The Comprehension Zone, and The Math Zone), especially in the sense of trying to build specific educational skills, but there are some great games nowadays that are not only challenging cognitively, but engaging and fun.

The Sentence Zone Game

Get points for building sentences! Little ones learn you just need a red card (verb) and a blue card (noun) to build a sentence, where older kids can build complex sentences. Every word is color coded according to the parts of speech. You can easily teach the six basic sentence types in a tangible way.

Marcia B. states, “There are so many ways you be creative with this grammar game and learn while having fun. It’s a simple game but I’m impressed with how well it worked with my family.”

The Comprehension Zone Game

Race to mars while learning about historical figures and the planets. Learn to read and listen for meaning (main idea, details, and sequence of events). Improves reading and listening comprehension as well as 18 areas of perception.

Kimberly O. states, “The Comprehension Zone: Rocket Rap had amazing results for one of our children. For our child who has always struggled with comprehension, for these results, I would happily pay double. We’ve tried things similar to this in the past, we’ve been focused on this problem for years, but Rocket Rap has been the first activity that has been successful.”

The Math Zone Card Game

Get points for doing math calculation practice! This game helps kids get a grasp on number sense and how different operators (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) transform numbers.

Suzanne C. states, “A child’s math skills are also greatly enhanced by using math during everyday activities. Parents can provide these experiences.”

Blokus

Improves executive function, planning, and strategizing skills. It also as improves math skills, fractions, and spatial awareness skills.

D. Moore states, “I originally bought this game for my classroom to help my students develop thinking skills. When it first arrived, I took the game home to figure out how to play it before introducing it to my students–and I was hooked! My own children are ages 10 and 11 and they love the game (we are buying a game for home), but I teach students up to age 18 and they enjoy the game just as much. Educationally, it helps younger students develop a better understanding of spatial relations and planning ahead. For older students (and adults) it helps to develop various strategy skills.”

SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception

Improves visual processing speed as well as 9 areas of perception.

F. Lynch states, “The educational value of this toy is in how it trains you to see relationships and common elements — as well as uncommon elements. Remember, three completely unique cards constitutes a set just as well as a trio with a common theme. Players are encouraged to think very quickly. We love this game. I hope you try it!”

Catan Junior

Improves executive function, planning, and strategizing skills as well as 16 areas of perception.

X. McKell states, “Catan Junior is a version of the classic “eurogame” Settlers of Catan aimed for younger players. It does a superb job of simplifying the game while retaining the important elements and correct feel and avoiding “dumbing down” the gameplay.”

Settlers of Catan

Improves executive function, planning, and strategizing skills as well as 16 areas of perception.

E. Reinhardt states, “Settlers of Catan is an absolutely fantastic family strategy game. I won’t belabor my discussion of the game, except to say that my wife (only a ‘casual board gamer’, not as hardcore like me) and two boys (ages 8 and 10) have been playing it for over a year, many dozens of times, with continued enjoyment.”

What Motivates Your Child? Language, The Arts, Science, Music?

In an age where there seems like there is so much opportunity and things to do, sometimes its hard to know where to start. Start small by introducing your kids to things that you love. What are the things that you enjoyed when you were growing up? What were the things that other kids were doing that you always wanted to do?

Foster an environment at home where pursuing the act of creation is encouraged. These types of activities do not speak, “Oh, this is another educational activity…”, but more of a creative nature. It spurs the idea, “What do I want to create in this world?” These types of activities encourage kids to learn, to create and to explore. Sometimes it helps to have a bit of structure or a goal in mind when starting an art project or learning music. But, it is also important to remember to have fun and to go off on a tangent with music and the arts. The act of creating helps build skills that are not only applicable to academia but to life.

Let your kids know it’s okay that what they are making may not be as ‘good’ as they would like it to be. One of my favorite pieces about the creative process is from Ira Glass. His point is that everyone goes through stages of creation where we aren’t quite able to create what it is that we envision and that’s okay. Keep working at it and one day you will surprise yourself.

For more ways you can help your kids, visit www.bonnieterrylearning.com.