As parents, one of the most frequently asked questions is: “How do I motivate my child?” To do that effectively, we first need to understand the concept of motivation.
Motivation is derived from the Latin term motivus, which means “a moving cause.” It is a force within a person that drives him or her to take action. If a child is not taking action, be it to study or to practice playing the piano, he is simply not motivated. When a child reads a book or plays the piano by himself, we say he is “self-motivated.” In fact, motivation always comes from within. Children are naturally driven by curiosity, inquisitiveness and the desire to learn new things.
Rewards do not work all the time
Some parents attempt to ‘motivate’ their children by offering rewards such as promises of gifts or privileges; e.g. “If your do well, I will buy you an X-Box.” or “If you finish your homework early, you get another extra hour of computer time.” While the promise of reward might spur a child to take action, it runs the risk of replacing a child’s innate desire to learn and grow with the desire to do something for the sake of getting the external rewards. What happens after he gets the X-Box? What if the X-Box ceases to excite him? What else must his parent promise next?
To be precise, our task as coaches is not to motivate our children, but rather, to help them discover their own driving force for action.
Concentrate your how your child feels
One common driving force and motivation is the desire to feel good. Children feel good when they are doing what they like, when they feel that they are able to do something well, and when they know that what they do contributes to what is important to them. Our role then is to uncover their interests, cultivate them into passion through repeated encouragement and exposure, guiding them through a journey of development at their own pace, and celebrating their achievements, no matter how big or small they are.
Take playing the piano for example. Not every child aspires to be a musician, but every child can enjoy music and learn to play an instrument well. Interest could be cultivated through exposing them to different types of music, singing along with them, taking them to experience live concerts, and creating opportunities for them to interact with musicians.
Proper timing and pacing
Make sure that they are learning at an appropriate pace, within a fun and engaging environment. Let them start with pieces that they like and can handle, and then build confidence from there and gradually introduce more challenging pieces. Acknowledge their effort in practicing and celebrate their achievements whenever they master a new piece. Once they get a ‘kick’ out of learning and are motivated by their desires to learn, grow and feel good, you will never need to tell them to practice!
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