On Motivation

To my great annoyance, my post disappeared after I retyped it a second time on the ipad. Anyway, as I was saying, I’ve been fervently perusing parenting books recently, especially those pertaining language learning, motivation and other behavioral related books. Perhaps I’ve been gripped by the frenzy of preparing Calvin for imminent formal education. Or maybe these are subject matters that have always interested me.

The one I’m reading now is about motivating children to love learning. The author talks about three factors that will help: competence, autonomy and relationship.


Humans enjoy feeling competent. You feel competent when you complete a challenge not when you finish an easy task. Children need to be encouraged to challenge themselves to help with feelings of competency. Help preschoolers gain competence by

– using rich language in everyday dialog

– listen attentively when they recount their experiences or a story

– write down make-believe stories

– explain vocabulary that he/ she hears

– teaching songs, rhymes, word play

– reading and asking questions, pointing out pictures, predicting story

– sorting, learning shapes, estimating, comparing, , measuring in everyday activities

– teaching children to feel competent by giving positive feedback, but also balance with costructive criticism that encourages improvement

– agree when he tells you a task is difficult and then give suggestions on how to tackle problem, help break down tasks



– Giving the freedom to choose among acceptable alternatives

– Do not nag or force them to do things. Use empowering language where they make the decision in the end. E.g. “You may want to try etc…”

– Discuss consequences with them but no negotiations after that.

– Use factual statements instead of commands E.g. I use the thesaurus to avoid repeating the same words.



– Acceptance: Your child knows you love him unconditionally

– Connection: Interested and involved in his life and understands his needs

–> Use ’emotional coaching’: instead of denying his negative feelings, acknowledge them but still set limits on behaviour (no hitting etc)

– Support: Respect him for who he is. Support his autonomy

– Teaching children value of trying hard in school, learning is important




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