The most important step is to understand that children are entitled to feel “big” emotions just like adults, and should never be made to feel otherwise. Keep this in mind as you try the following techniques to assist a child in feeling more motivated:
1. Validate, Validate and Validate: The importance of validating a child’s emotional experience, especially when they are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, cannot be emphasized enough. Communicating validation will make the child feel heard and seen, which will help with building trust and confidence.
2. Get Engaged: Get in the habit of asking you child about what they learned in school and how their day was. By demonstrating your interest in your child’s life, you’re showing them that their life is exciting and interesting, which can help increase intrinsic motivation: doing things for the enjoyment of doing them. Do not forget to share details about your day as well: a conversation will always have better results as compared to an interrogation.
3. Use Reinforcements: Use social reinforcements rather than physical reinforcements. Children respond much better to hugs, high fives and praises. These extrinsic rewards will help the child increase their intrinsic motivation: even if at first they are focused on the extrinsic rewards, overtime they will develop a natural liking to the task they are trying to become more motivated at.
4. Communicate Empathy: Making the child feel heard and wanted, even when they are making mistakes, can do wonders for the child’s motivation and self-esteem. Verbalize it for them: feeling unmotivated is an unsettling feeling, but it is totally normal.
5. Reward Effort instead of Result: Praise kids for following through when things get difficult and for trying things that they’re not sure they can do successfully. If you reward effort, then the kids won’t worry about having a perfect end-product; they will instead focus on just doing their best. These can all help teach them the pleasure of continuously trying.
For more advice, or to discuss or practice these tips, schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist who will help you understand and make a plan regarding helping your child become motivated.
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