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The 8 Characteristics of Motivated Kids (page 2)

The 8 Characteristics of Motivated Kids

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Updated on Aug 27, 2013

Autonomy

In this case, the chance to work independently is a dream come true. A trip to a library study carrel is a treat, as is the chance to solve a problem alone in an office.

Status

It’s important to know where you stand, and to feel that you have maintained a strong, positive reputation. Criticism can feel crushing.

Inquisitiveness

The need to know is a deep and powerful drive. When you’re curious about something, it’s a gift to be allowed to explore it without being restrained.

Aggression

This sounds negative, but don’t be fooled. People with strong positive aggression are good competitors, as well as passionate fighters for justice. They want their views to be heard and respected.

Power

Again, beware bad connotations. As a motivating force, “power” is a drive for influence, responsibility, and authority.  It’s an especially natural and important part of adolescence…when it’s managed right.

Recognition

Many people adore being seen and appreciated for their gifts and accomplishments, and will respond to public encouragement.

Affiliation

These folks adore feeling connected to institutions and groups bigger than themselves. Lavoie himself, for example, owns a world-class collection of sport team tees and hats, and loves wearing them at any opportunity. He is deeply motivated by affiliation.

If you’re like most people, you’ll notice that while most drives apply in some way, one or two will really stand out. Kids, says, Lavoie, are just the same. So when you’re figuring out how to help a child feel motivated, try working with these drives. Lavoie, the affiliation-lover, offers the example of a year when he made class logo tee shirts for each of his students. “Some students,” he remembers, “wore the shirts until the garment nearly dissolved off their bodies”—fellow affiliation-lovers. “Others never wore them again”—lovers of power, inquisitiveness, or other drives, perhaps. Rather than give up the tees entirely, Lavoie says he could have just handled them differently: he could have allowed the students themselves, for example, to select colors and logo (power, status); given extra shirts as rewards for progress (recognition); or set aside one day a week for wearing them together (gregariousness).

What’s most important, he explains, is to remember that we adults can make all the difference in motivating kids. Special needs students need extra sensitivity, but the strategies that work for them, says Lavoie, “work for everybody.” To his surprise, workshop participants around the country have told Lavoie that his work has had dramatic effects on their teaching and parenting. “Somebody actually described it as 'Radical.’ Well, I think it does work, and it really is a departure from the same old-same old. And in the end, I think it’s about really good human relations. That’s always a good thing.”

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