One of the most common frustrations I hear parents speak about is the lack of motivation in their children. It is frustrating, confusing and very disheartening. You know your child is capable – but they just don’t seem to try.
One thing that is helpful is to understand the different types of motivation and understanding which fits your child best. You have two basic forms of motivation – Extrinsic and Intrinsic.
Understanding Extrinsic Motivation?
Extrinsic Motivation is one of the oldest and most common forms of motivation in the world. Simply stated, when we experience extrinsic motivation we expect to be rewarded.
A more formal definition refers to motivation that’s derived from outside a person. The motivating factors come externally in the form of rewards such as money or, in the case of a student, rewards come in the form of grades. It can also be in the form of specific praise – which follows along the lines of one of the Five Love Languages of Children – Words of Affirmation. It’s the reward that provides satisfaction from completing the task and not the pleasure of doing it.
A person who is motivated extrinsically will work on a task even though he may hate what he’s doing because of the anticipated reward. Extrinsic motivation has been called crude and rudimentary but it’s probably one of the most effective types of motivation used today. It’s criticized because it focuses on the reward and not the action. But, studies have revealed that if you withhold the reward the action stops.
Rewards are not always great, and it is important as parents to use rewards cautiously. Rewards can be as minor as a gold star or your name on the honor roll. Students who are extrinsically motivated might work tirelessly on an assignment in exchange for a good grade.
But doing the work just for the sheer pleasure is not acceptable to that person. The student may find the assignment extremely boring but the anticipation of receiving an exemplary grade is enough to keep the student motivated until the task is complete.
Punishments and rewards are used to control the motivation of students with the teachers clearly in control. When this method is used, critics allege that it doesn’t allow students to think for themselves and develop self-determination and inhibits independent thinking.
This can foster conflict and resentment between the students and teachers.
Critics of extrinsic motivation say this method is easy but doesn’t work for the betterment of all concerned. When a person is working solely for a monetary reward, their desire to do a good job in diminished. It’s also said that it lowers the persons self esteem and self image; which is something parents strive to build during childhood.
As adults, we see this type of motivation daily. Supermarkets buy our loyalty with point cards, specials and discounts instead of simply offering exemplary service and low prices. It’s the same with airlines that offer air miles and companies that use bonuses and commissions as motivation to fly or work with them.
Fear of being fined or penalized is a form of extrinsic motivation. We’re told to not smoke or we must wear seat belts and we obey these demands for fear of receiving a fine. The reward comes for doing what we’re told and not because they’ve instilled in us the desire to do these things because they’re good for us.
Extrinsic motivation is based on obligation of doing what we get paid for and not for the love of doing. But, regardless of its offensive qualities we must tolerate it everywhere, every day.
Understanding Intrinsic Motivation?
Intrinsic motivation comes from inside a person rather than from an external source. He or she is motivated by the sheer pleasure of a task or the sense of satisfaction of working on a task and its eventual completion. It doesn’t matter if there is no monetary or other physical reward. It comes down to a matter of pride in their work.
If a person is intrinsically motivated he works on a problem or job simply because it’s enjoyable. He works to seek a solution but enjoys the trip not necessarily the destination. The work is not done for payment or reward. They generally have a much bigger picture type view.
Some students are intrinsically motivated and enjoy the research and homework for the love of learning and not for the grade they’ll receive. Such motivation usually results in excellent grades.
In everyday life, a good example is a person who works a crossword puzzle, a word jumble or a jigsaw puzzle. They enjoy the challenge of learning and achieving knowing that when the puzzle is complete there will be no reward other than self-satisfaction, which is enough.
There are cases where intrinsically motivated people do seek rewards in order to make a living or finish a class but external rewards are not enough to keep them interested. It takes a challenge for a person to pursue money or good grades because reward alone is not satisfying. It’s apparent that intrinsic motivation is very desirable, but few fall into this category. Most students, teachers and others need external rewards to keep them motivated.
Factors that promote intrinsic motivation are basically challenge, control, curiosity, fantasy, cooperation, competition and recognition. Challenge allows a person to work toward a meaningful goal. Control allows one to control what happens to them. Curiosity stimulates the desire to learn about something.
Fantasy turns learning into a game by using mental images rather than things actually present. Competition lets a person feel satisfaction by comparing their performance to others. Cooperation and recognition bring satisfaction and appreciation from others to the motivator.
Extensive research has shown that intrinsic motivation is merely described as what people will do just for the love of doing it. They’re not working on the task or job to receive any form of external inducement.
Motivation can be as diverse as people themselves. Causes and effects of motivation are also multi-faceted. What motivates you may be totally opposite to what motivates others.
What motivates your child?