Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

10 Steps to Build a Kids’ Motivation

Tools for Learning ApprovedThe desire to become motivated comes early in life. Kids naturally want to compete, where they stand with others, and desire real goals even if they are only short term. Few Pre-K students are reluctant learners; The real problem of motivation for academic learning usually comes much later.

Using theses 10 steps to build a kids motivation will be a gradual, ongoing process requiring some insight and patience on your part. They must know what worthwhile effort is and must be assisted to discriminate between good and poor effort. Kids must come to realize that you approve of their best efforts even if they don’t always succeed. Appreciation motivates kids to do their best. They try harder when they know you are pleased with their hard work and achievement.

1. Expect the best from kids. Keep in mind their unique talents and needs. Tell them often: ” I knew you could do it!” “Always do your best!”

2. Set limits for acceptable behavior.  “After you finish your project/chores you can can watch your favorite show.”

3. Communicate confident expectations of success based on individual potential. “You played so nicely in school today, I’m sure your always be kind to your friends.”

4. Acknowledge kids’ feelings. Listen, really listen, to their fears, annoyances, and anger, as well as to their achievements and joys. Positive motivation requires that all emotional space not be occupied by any negative feelings. Allow your calmness to quiet any negative emotions.

5. Be specific when you priase children’s efforts. “Your handwriting is so neat and easy to read!” instead of ” Your writing looks good!”

6. Be consistent in your approval or disapproval. If kids are praised for something. the absence of comments the next time they repeat the same behavior may be misconstrued and taken as disapproval. If you ignore behavior that they have been reprimanded for before, it may be taken as permission to continue it.

7. Give many opportunities to make choices. Help kids to become independent with your support.

8. Give concrete rewards! Adults work for them:  money, promotions, and status. Kids, often, but not always, need such rewards. Too often, more is expected of kids than adults. Use your disctretion when choosing rewards. Tangible rewards alone though, often fail. They are most effective when coupled with intangible ones such as praise, a “high five”, or an enthusiatic pat on the back.

High Five

9. Set goals and celebrate kids’ achievements. This helps motivate them for their next goal.

10. Tell kids they are great!. Back up your words with actions. Show them you care about them everyday in everyway. Be there for them in the moment. Even if you are away at a conference or working late, let them know you will check on their progress in your absence.

Above all “Lighten Up!”   Kids always choose to be with a relaxed, less stressed parent or teacher, and value that model of behavior much more than a home-cooked meal, or a spotlessly clean home. Be good to yourself and your kids. Their motivation will flourish in your watchful eyes. Get them excited about the important things: eating healthy food, getting along with others, completing assigned work, and always putting forth their best effort always. That excitement will be the very thing that can turn into motivation that will last a lifetime for them!

Photo by Sean Dreilinger,,  – high five from an unknown cheering parent

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