Why you can’t motivate kids…

How to inspire children to love learning

Practice the piano.

Do your homework!

Clean up your room!

Follow directions without reminders.

How much of your time as an educator or parent is spent trying to motivate your students or children?

What if someone told you that trying to motivate someone doesn’t work?

What if there is a better way to lead, energize and engage children?

In her groundbreaking book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does, Susan Fowler examines many of the traditional ideas about motivating adults and children alike.  Her conclusion?  We are expending our energy and time on methods that not only don’t get results, they actually decrease motivation and create a sense of entitlement.  Children who are pushed to learn and perform through rewards and punishment become adults who expect a similar kind of work environment and lack an intrinsic ability to explore, discover, grow and achieve through intrinsic motivation.

Everyone is motivated.  However, not everyone is motivated to do or experience the same thing or even in the same way. What determines how motivated we are about a particular activity?  Our thoughts and feelings about the subject determine our overall sense of well being or ease.  This is turn determines our intentions or goals which leads to a particular behavior.

A student may enter a classroom excited about interacting with friends and eager to learn something new and engaging.  This may lead them to work hard even when material is difficult, study and perform well on a test or project.  Another student may enter the classroom lonely or shy and discouraged through past experiences at school.  This may lead them to put forth little effort when the material is difficult or irrelevant to their experience.  They may give up quickly or perform  halfheartedly.  I have a good friend who has repeatedly told me how poorly he performed in school because he had great difficulty reading and he just didn’t find school interesting.  On the other hand, as a teenager he subscribed to a car magazine which he not only read front to cover, but memorized all the facts about the cars.  Was he not motivated to learn?

What if instead of offering a quick fix of a reward for performance, we took the time to explore the why behind a child’s motivation?  What if we asked questions like:

What most interests or engages you? What do you most enjoy learning about?

What inspires you to take action?

What are your strengths and where do you add the greatest value?

How do you measure success?

Finding the right ticket to motivate and engage a child takes time and attention.  But the reward can be a life long love of learning.

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack? Where is his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.


Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

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