Previously I revisited Motivation Within #1 where I looked at intrinsic motivation.
In this post, dusted off and renewed from my archives, I want to include some very practical suggestions, ideas and strategies .
There are many approaches and methods. Some may work with very young children, but do not necessarily work with middle school children, and parents need new approaches when motivating young adolescents and teens.
Right upfront, I want you to know that I am not writing from a position of strength or success. I am no expert. My children are not perfect examples. We are growing, learning, repenting, forgiving, praying and starting again.
Today I wish to share some ideas I gathered from several sources:
- Fill your child’s world with reading.
- Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices. Ask for his comments on decisions, and show that you value it.
- Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and urge her to explore subjects that fascinate her.
- Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing.
- Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm. Discuss the different ways you find new information.
- Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. “Even if he doesn’t do well grade-wise compared to the other students, he might still be learning and improving.”
- Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work. If her task seems too daunting, she’ll spend more time worrying than learning.
- Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Completing a book report calls for a special treat; finishing a book allows your child an hour of video games. You’ll offer positive reinforcement that will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself.
- Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents.
- Turn everyday events into learning opportunities.
- Very young children learn about motivation by watching and listening to us.
- Thinking out loud can help kids know the “whys” behind things.
- Listening to your child and reflecting back to them what they’ve said will help them become aware of what motivates them.
Grade K – 3rd graders
- The need to be seen and heard is strong at this age.
- Motivation stemming from fear can explain some negative behaviors.
- Recognizing and encouraging your child’s natural bent and gifts can motivate them to succeed.
4th – 6th graders
- Success at something of personal interest and meaning is motivating.
- Listen to your child’s hopes and dreams without criticizing.
- Activities that touch the mind, heart and spirit motivate repeat experiences.
- Teach your child the power of their thoughts and words.
In an article Motivating Learning in Children, adapted from “Early Childhood Motivation“ from National Association of School Psychologists at nasponline.org, they suggest several strategies parents can use to help children remain more fully intrinsically motivated. (I have added how Charlotte Mason’s principles apply after each point)
Provide an environment that allows children to freely explore and to see the effect of their actions.
A Charlotte Mason education nourishes a child by great literature and great thoughts. Her pupils spent their afternoons in nature and enjoying free play.
- Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence. Make sure that they can finish without interruption. Resist the natural urge to “help”.
Charlotte Mason stressed habits and character. She wrote in Vol. 1, pg. 118 that, “Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming that habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend. It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.” On dawdling she was most insistent that it is a “habit to be supplanted by the contrary habit,” and “once the habit is formed, it is very easy to keep it up.” (pg. 119)
- Respond to children’s needs in a consistent, predictable manner, but allow them to be as independent as possible. All children need clearly defined limits. Playtime, however, need not be structured and organized. Let your kid be a kid!
Ms. Mason is famous for her advice where she said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children …” (Vol. 1, pg. 136) From birth, a baby thrives in a secure schedule. Young preschoolers are happiest with play, rest and good nutrition, simple days and a happy bedtime routine.
- Provide many opportunities for children and adults to explore together and interact directly. This lets you observe, model, and encourage your child.
Charlotte Mason advises parents to “personally know objects, or nature.” (Vol. 3, pg. 66) She advised that the parents enjoy discovery of nature together with their children. Parents should read great books and discuss these thoughts and ideas together with their children. Homeschool is the perfect environment for parents and children to learn and grow together.
- Provide situations that give children an acceptable challenge. Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished. This may take some trial and error at first.
Ms. Mason frowned on textbooks, abridged books, “twaddle” and simplified titbits of information. She advocated (in Vol. 6, pg. 140) that “We cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favour of this or that conclusion.”
Narrations are a challenging skill required in a Charlotte Mason education. In Vol. 3, pg. 191-192, she said, “From their earliest days they should get the habit of reading literature which they should take hold of for themselves, much or little, in their own way.”
- Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. You’ll never go wrong by asking the question, “What do YOU think?”
Charlotte Mason said that, “No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required of him as a matter of course.” (Vol 1, pg. 159)
- Do not use excessive rewards. They tend to undermine children’s ability to value themselves. Praise and rewards should be based upon children’s effort and persistence, rather than on the actual accomplishment.
Some closing thoughts on motivation:
- Be prepared – pray and plan before you start the day.
- Be firm and consistent – stick to the schedule and form good habits.
- Focus on short, clear goals – everyone must know what is required and how to get there.
- Use hands-on approach for young children – change tactics and methods for interest and variety of skills.
- Have fun learning together – cuddle while you read, smile and laugh while you learn, talk, discuss, listen to each other. Share with dad.
- Be flexible – stop when before things get ugly. Go on when things really sparkle!
- Focus on successes – remind them (and yourself) of what you have accomplished.
- Every day is a new beginning! Start afresh. Change approach or try again.
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- Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” (alfiekohn.org)