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Motivational measures

Is your child self-motivated? Or do you feel you’re in a constant cycle of cajoling, coercing or simply nagging in order to try to get them to get things done?

Aged nine, most children are still discovering what they’re naturally talented at, and indeed which areas they struggle with. There’s a bit of a danger of focusing too much on areas where they’re most comfortable at this age, but of course we all want our children to succeed in a variety of disciplines.

So how do you motivate a child who loves to play football to pick up a book and read instead? Or conversely how do you encourage your little bookworm to get more active?

What’s this all about?

Children (like adults) often get a strong sense about what they are and are not good at. Obviously experiencing success is highly motivating – so to some extent it’s a natural reaction to be more motivated about taking part in activities which you’re already good at.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that per se – however if your child is only motivated in certain areas, then the other areas where perhaps they are less adept may suffer. This can lead to something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; whereupon a child believes that they’re no good at something to such an extent that they continue to struggle in these areas.

How should you handle it?

Obviously, your child will need your encouragement and support in order to improve; however the key here is to try to teach them to self-motivate, rather than simply having them rely on you to keep them on track.

Unhappily, this (of course) is much easier said than done!

I think perhaps the best approach is to talk to your children about their problem subjects. Try to find out why they struggle to motivate themselves. If they say it’s because they’re not good at it – highlight some other skills which they struggled to master at first; but now they’re really good at. Talk about how good it feels to improve at something.

You may also be faced with the ‘I’m never going to use that’ argument. In this instance highlight why a particular skill is useful, and indeed how they might use it in later life. For example, if maths is a struggle – highlight how much it’s used day to day – in virtually any job you’re going to need maths! Same goes for reading and writing.

Likewise, while kicking a football around might not be particularly useful if you don’t want to be a footballer – the skills you learn by playing team sports are invaluable; there are very few jobs out there which don’t require you to work as a team.

Hopefully, once your child sees why it’s important to have a good balance of skills (and indeed understands why it’s worth the effort to improve upon weaker skill sets); they will be more motivated to improve for themselves. Although they’ll obviously still very much need your love and support to get them through the tougher times!

I’ll leave you with a Chuck Norris quote that I’m often guilty of spouting:

If you want to accomplish anything in life, you can't just sit back and hope it will happen. You've got to make it happen.

That’s what self-motivation is all about!


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