Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
Everyone's heard that practice makes perfect – and the principle even applies to gratitude. Learn six benefits that can arise from practicing gratitude regularly as a family.
What You Need to Know
Their have been many studies on child motivation, and there are two types:
- Intrinsic desires, or self motivation to do something purely because of the pleasure that comes from the activity itself – makes for greater happiness and success, especially in academic life. Self-motivated kids generally achieve more, perceive themselves to be more competent and are less anxious.
- Extrinsic reasons elicit pleasure not from a process or activity itself, but for an outcome or reward associated with it (such as completing homework hoping for an “A” in a class). Extrinsically motivated kids are more prone to depression because being motivated by rewards cab lead to a form of unhappiness fueled by fear of failure or disappointment. Short term success might be dramatic, but long term success suffers among this group.
How You Can Help
- Though rewards convince kids to comply with rules and requests, ultimately parents want kids to become motivated without external goading. Research suggests that using extrinsic motivations can introduce children to activities that they come to find intrinsic enjoyment in, ultimately rendering the extrinsic reward unnecessary – but these are ideal situations. There is always the danger that a child will forever associate a given activity with the external reward that they consider the only sound motivation for going about it. Whenever possible, pair extrinsic motivators with intrinsic pleasures your child should associate with the behavior you aim to promote in the long run. Once your child develops a routine associated with the behavior, remove external motivators to shift emphasis to the internal benefits that remain. After a while, your child is bound to notice that sharing with friends increases the likelihood that friends will also share with him, or that cleaning up toys as soon as he's finished playing with them is much easier to handle than letting them lay around and pile up among others for days until cleaning becomes unbearable and takes hours.
- On the other hand, orienting kids toward external rewards for activities they already intrinsically enjoy can cause them to lose touch with their own feelings and internal motivations. Research shows that when children are doing something intrinsically enjoyable, such as reading to another child, and some one comes along and starts offering rewards for doing the activity, they come to like the activity less, and the chance that they will engage in the activity again when given the chance decreases.
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