Child Motivation

Plutarch, the Greek biographer and essayist was educated in Athens and is believed to have traveled to Egypt and Italy and to have lectured in Rome on moral philosophy. He frequently visited Athens and was a priest in the temple at Delphi. Many of the treatises he wrote are probably based on his lecture notes. To his students, Plutarch was regarded as a genial guide, philosopher, and spiritual director. Plutarch is famous for his saying, “the mind is not a VESSEL to be filled but a FIRE to be kindled.” This line sets some cardinal lines for a life time learning plan. The failure of our contemporary education system is its forcing the students towards becoming storage devices rather than becoming genuine genius.

Here are some clips for you. The first clip is some the second annual Kings Baby Race. The announcer announces, “Alright babies, on your knees, get set, go.”[i] And the race starts. Fathers are on the starting end and pushing their crawling babies towards the end point and on the end line are mothers, attracting their toddlers towards the finishing lines by offering toys, blowing trumpets and all that.

Here is another clip. Hector, the legendary character and heir of Trojan king is addressing his army before going to the famous Trojan War called the war of Troy, fought under the walls of the mighty walls of the castle of Troy. He is motivating his forces to save the land and their women. He says, “All my life, I’ve lived by a code. And the code is simple: Honor the gods, love your woman……and defend your country. Troy is mother to us all. Fight for her!”[ii]

Here is yet another clip of the same war of one of the leading worriers of the other side named Achilles. His motivation was to demonstrate war skills, be a killing machine and do war just to be remembered through centuries. “Myrmidons! My brothers of the sword! I would rather fight beside you than any army of thousands! Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions! Do you know what’s there, waiting, beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!”[iii]

All the above described clips show that our actions are guided for pulling or pushing, dormant or apparent motives. So here we are to describe motivation which is a theory for behavior explanation. Motivation is actually the name of a set of the reasons for people’s ACTIONS, DESIRES, and NEEDS: What causes a person to want to repeat a behavior and vice versa.

child motivation

Our thoughts influence our behavior; our behaviors drive our performances and our performances impact back our thoughts and the cycle thus keeps going.  Our attitudes, beliefs, intentions, efforts and withdrawal all are different influencing dimensions of our thoughts, behavior and performance.

Here is a brief crux of different theories of motivation.


  • The self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges.
  • To analyze one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge.
  • Driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual.

Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • Attribute their educational results to factors under their own control.
  • Believe they have the skills to be effective agents in reaching their desired goals, also known as self-efficacy beliefs.
  • Interested in mastering a topic, not just in achieving good grades.


  • Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual.
  • Common extrinsic motivations are rewards (for example money or grades) for showing the desired behavior, and the threat of punishment following misbehavior.
  • Competition is an extrinsic motivator because it encourages the performer to win.


  • A method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior maintenance or abandoning of a behavior.
  • POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT is the addition of reward upon showing the desired behavior.
  • NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT is the removing of a punishment upon achieving the desired change in behavior.


  • Push motivations are those where people push themselves towards their goals or to achieve something, such as the desire for escape, rest and relaxation, prestige, health and fitness, adventure, and social interaction.
  • Pull motivation can be seen as the desire to achieve a goal so badly that it seems that the goal is pulling us toward it. That is why pull motivation is stronger than push motivation. It is easier to be drawn to something rather than to push yourself for something you desire.


  • A drive or desire can be described as a deficiency or need such as hunger, which motivates a person to seek food whereas more subtle drives might be the desire for praise and approval, which motivates a person to behave in a manner pleasing to others.
  • These drives are intrinsic and thought to originate within the individual.


  • As time passes the strength of the drive increases if it is not satisfied. Upon satisfying a drive the drive’s strength is reduced.


  • Content theories/ Needs theories try to identify what our “needs” are and how they can be related to motivation.



  • Human beings have wants and desires which influence their behavior. Only unsatisfied needs influence behavior, satisfied needs do not.
  • Needs are arranged in order of importance to human life, from the basic to the complex.
  • The person advances to the next level of needs only after the lower level need is at least minimally satisfied.



  • Motivators (e.g. challenging work, recognition, responsibility) give positive satisfaction.
  • Hygiene factors (e.g. status,  job security , salary, benefits) that do not motivate if present, but, if absent, result in demotivation.


  • SDT identifies three innate needs that, if satisfied, allow optimal function and growth: competence, relatedness, and autonomy.
  • These three psychological needs motivate the self to initiate specific behavior.



  • Personality is intimately tied to performance and achievement motivation.
  • They would prefer a work environment in which they are able to assume responsibility for solving problems.
  • They would take calculated risk and establish moderate, attainable goals.
  • They want to hear continuous recognition, as well as feedback, in order for them to know how well they are doing.
  • How an individual reacts to different situations by examining it. This is the mental process of reaction; the process of thoughts to respond.


  • The importance of setting a goal in motivating an individual.
  • An ideal goal should present a situation where the time between the initiation of behavior and the end state is close. This explains why some children are more motivated to learn how to ride a bike than to master algebra.
  • A goal should be moderate, not too hard or too easy to complete. In both cases, most people are not optimally motivated, as many want a challenge. At the same time people want to feel that there is a substantial probability that they will succeed.


  • Expectancy theory is about the mental processes regarding choice, or choosing. It explains the processes that an individual undergoes to make choices.
  • The choices made are in the expectation of getting some specific reward ultimately.


Children can achieve just about anything if they are motivated enough, yet they will learn very little if motivation is missing. Motivation makes learning effortless, fun and valuable. Helping your child find what motivates them to explore, reach and grow is one of the most valuable things you will ever do for them.

 If you want your child to be a stellar student, don’t limit learning to the walls of his classroom. Although the skills he’s learning there are crucial to his intellectual and social growth, your child needs your help to open up the world of ideas.

Fill your child’s world with reading. Take turns reading with your older child, or establish a family reading time when everyone reads her own book. Demonstrate how important reading is to you by filling your home with printed materials: novels, newspapers, even posters and place mats with words on them.

Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices.

He can pick out a side dish to go with dinner and select his own extracurricular activities. Ask for his input on family decisions, and show that you value it.

Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and encourage her to explore subjects that fascinate her. If she’s a horse nut, offer her stories about riding or challenge her to find five facts about horses in the encyclopedia.

Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. Supplies that encourage open-ended play, such as blocks, will develop your child’s creative expression and problem-solving skills as he builds. He’ll need lots of unstructured play time to explore them.

Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm. Discuss the different ways you find new information, whether you’re looking for gardening tips on the Internet or taking a night class in American literature.

Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. Have him teach you what he learned in school today — putting the lesson into his own words will help him retain what he learned.

Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work. If her task seems too daunting, she’ll spend more time worrying than learning. Check in with her regularly to make sure she’s not feeling overloaded.

Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Completing a book report calls for a special treat; finishing a book allows your child an hour of video games. You’ll offer positive reinforcement that will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself.

Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents. Even if she didn’t ace her math test, she may have written a good poem in English class. In addition to a workbook for math practice, give her a writing journal.

Turn everyday events into learning opportunities. Encourage him to explore the world around him, asking questions and making connections

Make it fun. Light and laughter aids my type of learning.

Make education part of your conversation about life. We had a fascinating and funny conversation about apes and evolution on one of our long road journeys! There are opportunities to teach your child in every moment of every day. Look for interesting ways to teach and soon they will be prompting you for more.

Create things with them. Allowing children to express their creativity from their hearts puts them in charge and gives them great confidence. Give your child free access to the tools they need to express them and remember that being creative together can be as simple as collecting sticks and rocks on a walk and carefully arranging them in a way that pleases them.

Start passion projects. What are their interests? What do they like to do the most? Help them learn all they can about something they are interested in and help them create things to become a specialist.

Get involved. They’ll be way more excited about learning if you join them in games and activities.

Encourage your child to be hands on in everything they do. Give them a ruler and let them measure and compare. Help them build 3D towers. Teach them how to Google and research for answers.

Let them experiment. Set up a corner with lots of different materials and let them see what they can discover and create.

Focus on intrinsic motivation, not external rewards like stickers and treats. Have your child tell you how they feel when completing a task and focus on the good feelings.

Facilitate their learning by guiding your child to new ways of thinking or doing.

Ask questions that encourage thought and problem solving.

Don’t give direct answers, allow your child to reach for them.  “What do you think? Where can we find the answer? Let’s test it.”

Foster curiosity. “I wonder why?” is a powerful thing to ask in conversations and opens up all sorts of learning possibilities.

Value education yourself. Become a lifelong learner and show your children how you follow your interests and why you like the thing you do.

Involve them in your own education. “I’m not sure how to put this desk together, would you like to help me work it out?”

Demonstrate good learning. “I’m not sure about that. I’d like to know the meaning or answer to that, I’m going to check it in Dictionary, books/Google it.

Give immediate and specific praise. “That paragraph really helped me to understand how you felt.” “I love the colour you chose, it goes so well with the orange shirt.”

Give constructive feedback. “I think to make this better, or to improve on this, you could possibly do X, what do you think?” For right or wrong answers you can say, “You’ve tried really hard and I can see how you were thinking, but the correct answer is Y because X.”

Let them make their own learning decisions. Encourage them to make decision for themselves, to own their lives a little and to contribute their thoughts to family activities, rules and experiences. Empowerment is the powerhouse of motivation.



  • Encyclopedia Wikipedia
  • Microsoft encyclopedia Encarta, 2005.
Syed Ziaullah

Syed Ziaullah

Syed Ziaullah

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