Foster Intrinsic Motivation!
Did you know that children who have been overly and falsely praised – for everything from “being nice” to reading – are less likely to keep doing what they’ve been praised for doing? Kids aren’t dumb. They know false praise when they hear it, and they know they’re going to receive it regardless of what they do. So why bother making an effort?
It makes sense. When you’re constantly being rewarded and positively reinforced, regardless of what you do or the effort you do or don’t put forth, intrinsic motivation – the good feeling that results from doing something for its own sake – shrivels up and dies. And a life without intrinsic motivation – the satisfaction that flows from within – means a life in which extrinsic rewards provide the only incentive for doing something. Why work hard at a project if there’s not a significant amount of money involved? Why run the race if you can’t be assured of a first-place ribbon? Why volunteer your time and energy if being helpful is the only payoff?
Kids easily become addicted to praise. The more they get, the more they need. But isn’t it better for them to become addicted to the good feeling that comes from doing things for their own sake? How do you help that happen? Here are a few examples:
- As an alternative to praising or rewarding your child for reading, you can snuggle together on the couch and read with him. You’re modeling positive behavior and helping him associate reading with good feelings.
- When you want your children to play together, offer a small selection of games, inside or outside, to choose from. Choice is a necessary ingredient in fostering intrinsic motivation.
- When you want your child to clean her room, make a game out of it by putting one of her favorite songs in the CD player and challenging her to pick up before the song ends! Don’t turn it into a race, but if you join in – emptying the dishwasher, for example – the sense of togetherness adds to the experience!