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Thursday 27 June 2019

How to Motivate Your Child

As a teacher, motivation is a question that I'm often asked about from parents. They usually want to know how they can motivate their children to do school work. The truth is that no matter how hard a parent pushes their child, their child will not be motivated to do that thing that their parent want them to do.

Below is a question that I was asked about from a reader concerning motivating children:

I have a question regarding motivating children who are just not self-motivated towards deen activities or even dunya-related stuff like studies etc. They do everything but we as parents have to push and push and push...and also when they do it, they don't do things with a cheerful and good attitude. Rather they do it resentfully and with can we change this?

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from inside a person - the person does it because they want to. Extrinsic motivation on the other hand is external to the person - the person does it because something outside of themselves makes them do it.

An example of intrinsic motivation is when your child wants to read Hello Kitty books because she just loves cats. An example of extrinsic motivation is when your child does his homework because he will get a sticker or because he will get into trouble with the teacher.

Which motivation do you think is better and longer lasting? The intrinsic of course. Parents and schools have been using extrinsic motivation to get children to do things. But the thing with extrinsic motivation is that it is short lived. It does not last in the long term. The motivation will eventually die. Children will no longer want the sticker or care about the punishment. Therefore, it's far more important to activate children's intrinsic motivation.

To unlock children's intrinsic motivation, or anyone's intrinsic motivation in fact, you need to understand the four factors that contribute to motivation: it has to be an autonomous choice, be relevant, allow for competence and provide connectedness. This is based on research.

What this means is that for motivation to be intrinsic, the thing that you want your child to do has to be their choice, it has to be meaningful to them,  it has to allow your child to be relatively successful at it, and doing so has to create a sense of connection with others.

Going back to the homework example, parents pushing and pushing is the external motivation. Your child does it unwillingly because when he does it maybe you'll stop nagging him. That's his reward. But it is short lived because you're going to have to push again, the next time, maybe even harder.

The better way would be to try to unlock at least two of the factors that contribute to intrinsic motivation, if not all four. How can you make doing homework be your child's choice? It could be as simple as saying, "It's late. You can choose to do your homework now or help me with tidying up the house." Or could you live with allowing your child to not do their homework and learn from the consequences of not doing it? Most children will learn from the consequences of their actions and the next time around, will be motivated to avoid that consequence.

Oftentimes, children don't see doing homework as meaningful to them. Maybe you could help your child see that doing this homework will help your child to understand the concept better so they'll do better in tests. Better exam results will lead to better university choices which leads to better job options. Or if your child wants to be a pilot then help them see how doing homework will help them be a pilot.

Maybe the homework is difficult and your child finds it hard to do. This will affect your child's sense of competence so they don't want to do it. If this is the case then can you break down the tasks or help tutor them so that they'd understand what to do. Everyone loves to do what they're good at and no one likes to do things that they're not good at. This is the same with homework. Help them to be good at it.

When children do homework, they often sit by themselves to do it. This creates a sense of isolation. There's no connection. This is one reason why children prefer group work. There is a connectedness with others when in a group. Maybe have all your children sit at the dinner table to do their homework or if there are no other children then sit with your child and do your own work.

These are just some ideas. What you need to do is to go through these four factors and see which ones you can fulfill. Do the same with the deen activities that you're trying to get your child to do. Make sure that they see it as their choice to do it, that it has meaning for them, that they are able to do it relatively well and there's a connection with others when doing it. InshaAllah, before you know it, they'll be loving it!

I have posted this same question to the authors of the book 'Positive Parenting in the Muslim Home' to answer. Read how they've answered this question. This just shows that there are different ways to approach a problem. You need to find a solution that you're comfortable with.

If you need someone to help you with any parenting problems that you may have then let me help you find some solutions. Try email counseling with me. Read more here.

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