“My child simply isn’t motivated enough to excel at anything. I must do something about it”. Kareena often envied her friend Komal whose son did well in whatever he took up. Parents of non-achievers sometimes have a misplaced belief that until they don’t use arm twisting techniques, their kids will always lack self-motivation and remain as they are.
However, some children are achievers because they are naturally gifted while others achieve success because they love what they’re doing. When children like what they’re doing, they go faster and farther. Parents then don’t need to use bribes and threats to make them do what is required of them.
Here are a few useful tips to help develop self-motivation in children.
Explain how the real world works – Teach your child that nothing in life is achieved by being laid back. Explain that you yourself will not be paid if you don’t work. Show him the consequences of making poor choices by giving realistic examples related to his studies, peer groups and other life situations.
Make the child responsible – Along with his academics, every child need to be made responsible for certain basic things such as helping with household chores, grocery shopping and gardening. If he doesn’t like doing something, maybe he can exchange some jobs with a sibling, but he needs to be responsible for completion of the assigned task.
Create regular routines – Ensure proper routines around the house. Once a child is used to certain things happening at regular times, he’ll be more likely to systematically plan his activities according to fixed schedules. If he’s used to a specific level of orderliness around him, he’ll like to have it that way always. Encourage habits like keeping his room neat and cupboards tidy.
Allow some flexibility – Along with being organized, allow some flexibility. Help a child understand priorities. For example, homework needs to be done before school. If he gets up late and doesn’t have time to shower in the morning, he can have it when he gets back.
Use to-do lists and charts – Encourage children to make written lists of what needs to be done and in what sequence. This will help them achieve more in lesser time, in an organized fashion. Younger children enjoy creating colorful charts of activities and marking out activities completed.
Give clear instructions – Children lacking self-motivation often need to be guided step-by-step regarding how to go about things. Without keeping anything ambiguous, give clear instructions. Speaking with eye contact is more likely to get results rather than just shooting off commands over your shoulder.
Encourage time management – Children sometimes need help in completing school assignments and projects because they didn’t begin in time. This may take up your time and delay tasks you had planned for yourself. Make it clear to them that they need to help you with your tasks as well. Finding themselves saddled with additional jobs will make them realise the importance of time management.
Understand your place – Parents tend to think that they are responsible for everything that happens to their children. They feel the need to control every aspect of children’s lives. But this is simply not possible. Everyone is responsible for the choices they make. You cannot force a child to care about something you care about. He needs to feel the issue important enough himself. He may comply with your wishes simply to satisfy you, but this doesn’t keep him motivated for a similar action in future.
Keep your reactions in check – Sometimes your own anxiety about your child’s lack of motivation makes you stressed out. Try not to nag, scream at and push your child too much. This may make the child rebel and dig his heels in further. So your reactions to his inaction are equally important.
Rule out learning disabilities – If in spite of all efforts, your child still appears distracted and doesn’t have any real hobbies and interests, you need to seek expert help. This will help rule out genuine learning disabilities or behavioural disorders.
In conclusion, try to ensure that your attempt to motivate your child does not turn into a power struggle. Your role should be to inspire rather than force. The child should not simply fall in line to get you off his back. He should be made aware of the relationship between actions and outcomes and the thirst for success should come from within.