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Blog Fostering Intrinsic Motivation with Positive Parenting | Positive Parenting Coach MegAnne Ford

What is Motivation?


Let's talk about how difficult it is to do something you don't want to do.


I sometimes do things I don't want to do.

Who cares- right? We all do.

The truth is that every day, we do things we don't want to do.

I'm curious: why do we do them? 

It pretty much boils down to motivation- either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is doing something because you feel compelled to. You just like it or feel that you want to do it.

You are internally pushed towards accomplishing this goal. Typically, intrinsic motivation takes longer and is more difficult to foster, but in the long run more self-sustaining and rewarding.

This tends to require a lot of variety and patience to hit a strategy that works for each person individually. 

Extrinsic motivation is doing something because you are seeking a tangible reward. You work hard at the goal in small steps because you are inching towards a bonus, trophy, or reward! Extrinsic motivation tends to have a shorter shelf life of happiness.

Often, the focus will shift to the reward and not the task, sometimes even creating less motivation to get the job done. Think about a reward chart for behavior. Once the chart disappears, the behavior also tends to, or the reward needs to become greater.

The next time you want your child to do something they don't want to do- I urge you to think about their motivation before making the request. When you can identify what their motivation is. You can create an opportunity to foster intrinsic motivation instead of reaching for a bribe, threat, or reward.


An Example of Fostering Intrinsic Motivation with Homework! 

Your child has homework to do after school. After asking and asking and asking, then yelling and probably threatening them to do their homework.

What do you do next? Maybe say something like, "YOU WILL DO YOUR HOMEWORK, NOW, OR NO MORE IPAD, EVER."

Seems legit- you know that your child will do a 180 and go upstairs and finish their homework, then they'll be quiet for a bonus 30 while playing on the iPad. The first time. But what's going to happen tomorrow when it comes time to do homework? 

Yes, the answer is they will most likely try to barter for iPad time afterward. Which is great, just as long as the iPad doesn't break. Or they are still entertained by the iPad.

What happens when that reward doesn't work? Or worse- they start lying about their homework completion so that they can play on the iPad. (I know that's what I would do) What have we really taught them at this moment? 

If you do "X," you will receive "Y." Hmmm...

What if there was a way to help foster their desire just to do their homework because it was time to do it, fostering intrinsic motivation?

Let's use the same example!

When the red button topic of homework- or any other battle comes up instead of quickly reaching for a reward, try some of these strategies.

1. When you __________, then you can ____________

"When you finish your homework, bud, then you can play on the iPad."

This, on the surface, seems like the same thing, but it's not, trust me! This should always be offered using a calm tone of voice and offered BEFORE the battle of homework starts.

This is not to be used after 5 minutes of screaming at them to start their homework.

We are creating the intrinsic motivation to complete an undesired task so that we can do a typically desirable task. You are presenting a timeline of events so that your child can start to plug in and talk about his choices. You are helping them to see into the future- there is an end to the task of homework. 


2. Offer understanding and encouragement

"Hey, I know this is tough- but you are very strong and smart, and I know you can do it!" 

This strategy creates a conversation about how they're feeling about the task while offering a cheer squad. 

I would even venture to add, "You can always ask for help, and I will do my best."

Again, this is said before the task is started, maybe revisited while the task is going on to keep the momentum going.

This takes a difficult topic and allows for some help in making it easier.

Offering help through a tough situation creates empathy and trust between you and your child. The next time the topic is brought up, you will have a foundation of success on which to build.  

"Remember last time you were able to do it! Let's do it again!"


3. Only employ natural consequences when absolutely needed

This is the hardest to master. This is where you realize that you have no control over the behavior, and you can only control yours.

You may turn off the household internet until homework is completed- eliminating distractions while working on building awareness around limits for your child.

You may even allow your child to face the consequences of a low grade or missed play time at school, needing to make up the missed work.

Here, you are controlling the environment to help create the desired outcome, encouraging intrinsic motivation and an abundant mindset!



If you want to continue on this journey of discovery, The Understanding Us Series would be a great way!

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