Sunday, January 6, 2019

Motivating Children: The Carrot or Stick?

Good morning and happy Friday - did the title give away that my friend Jessie wrote this article and not me? One of my favorite roles on this earth is Aunt Steph but I never regret my decision not to have kids and not to become a teacher as was my original plan in life. Without further ado...

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When it comes to motivating children, it can be a challenge.  There are two types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation is when a person is driven by external rewards such as food, or toys, and this is why you can find so many people searching for a list of toys for 7 year olds - because at this age, extrinsic motivation seems very effective in getting your child to do what you want them to do… but, this is essentially bribery, and the effects are rather short lived.

Plus, it creates an expectation of unrealistic reward, which might hinder your child’s progress as they get older.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is motivation that comes from within the child. For instance, if you were to encourage the child to be the best they can be - and they acted on the basis of wanting to be the best they can be, rather than an extrinsic reward, at the end of it… they are motivated from the inside out.

This can create much higher self-esteem, but it should be noted that some parents accidentally condition their children to feel so motivated to “succeed” that the child feels they have to succeed in order to be loved.

Therefore, it’s important not to use “love” as a motivator in any motivation style.

Let’s now take a look at some of the best ways to motivate your children to succeed, with specific reference to the notion of the “carrot or stick” approach.

You’ll have probably heard of the metaphor referring to the carrot or stick which describes the polar forces of motivation theory.

Think of a donkey that has a carrot dangled in front of him; he moves toward the carrot because he is moving toward the pleasure associated with the reward of that carrot.

At the same time, the man leading the donkey has a stick, and therefore as the donkey  doesn’t want to be hit by the stick (i.e. punished) he keeps moving away from the pain associated with the stick.

In psychology there are two broad types of people when it comes to motivation theory; those that prioritize moving toward pleasure and those that prioritize moving away from pain.

Of course, most children have a mixture of both, but there is usually one predominant force that motivates a particular person.  Reflect on what tends to work best with your child, and use this to “speak their language” in terms of creating the motivation to take action.

Then frame your requests in a way that resonates with their motivation type.  For instance, one child might be more motivated by the punishment associated with not tidying their room (such as not being allowed to play out with his friends) whilst another child might be motivated by the reward of their favourite food for tea if they tidy their  room.

In this sense, you could use both forces and say if they tidy their room they will get food they love for dinner, and if not they will get food they enjoy much less.  This way, you are using both forces.

By applying both forces, you will be able to manage most children effectively.

Are you motivated intrinsically or extrinsically? If you have kids, do they react better to moving toward pleasure or moving away from pain?

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