How to motivate your child?

After a long day at the office, you’re cleaning the dishes in front of your son who is complaining as he huddles over his homework on the kitchen island. Since the return of beautiful spring days, your son’s motivation has melted like snow in the sun. Your patience is also wearing thin and you find yourself wondering how to get your son motivated again.

Motivation is what pushes us to take action and go beyond our own limitations. Your child will need it to reach his full potential. Nurturing his motivation so he can succeed on his own is a wonderful legacy to pass on to him.

A strategic way to help him is to break down his efforts into steps, and to introduce some immediate fun in between these steps. In small doses, the task at hand will not look as daunting and will be easier.

First, you should know that your child will feel motivated if the task he needs to complete makes sense for him, if it meets a specific need, and if he feels sufficiently confident to be able to succeed. Your role is to help him understand how his efforts will be rewarded, while encouraging him to face his fears of not living up to expectations. To do so, keep in mind that motivation is greatly stimulated by the search for fun and the desire to avoid pain. Fun here refers to the success anticipated after making an effort, and pain refers to the negative consequences that could result from his lack of effort.

You can motivate your child by making him aware of the positive effects of his sustained efforts. You can also remind him he’ll be faced with an opportunity to succeed and be proud of his work (whether for a math exam or for improving his soccer kicks), to overcome his fear of oral presentations, to develop his knowledge and skills that will come in handy in life, to demonstrate that perseverance and determination make a world of difference when you want to reach your goals.

But…

On the other hand, his lack of efforts could generate failures, regrets, a feeling of inadequacy that can undermine his self-confidence… which could also prevent him from achieving his goals (be admitted into a prestigious field of studies, be selected for an elite sports team, etc.).

There’s nothing like experiencing something for yourself to learn from it. In this vein, remind him of the successes he’s proud of, as well as situations where his laxity generated unpleasant feelings. These concrete examples will be persuasive and encouraging reminders for him. If he had given up after falling off his bike for the first time, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy riding his BMX today!

In this pleasure/pain dichotomy, the child will have to say no to the immediate pleasure of playing to concentrate on his homework and attaining the objective of succeeding in his studies! He’ll have to renounce an immediate satisfaction to focus on a long-term payoff, which is not a particularly attractive choice for a child.


He’ll also have to endure the immediate pain of solving a complex mathematical problem in order to avoid a potential pain (failing his exam). Accepting to suffer now to avoid a future pain is a little abstract and off-putting for a child.

A strategic way to help him is to break down his efforts into steps, and to introduce some immediate fun in between these steps. In small doses, the task at hand will not look as daunting and will be easier. The feeling of accomplishment generated during the first steps will also motivate him to keep going because it’s difficult for children to endure long delays between effort and reward.

Open up!

Don’t hesitate to share your own experiences as well. You’ll also find greatly inspiring stories on the internet from people who’ve accomplished a lot through sheer determination and hard work. By choosing stories from role models he admires (his favourite athletes for instance), you’ll be sure to grab his attention.

With your precious help, your child will learn that building an enriching life he can be proud of is not always easy, but his efforts will be worth it.

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