There can be many reasons that a child displays a lack of motivation. He may be afraid of failure, he may not enjoy the task at hand or feel it is irrelevant, his negative thinking may be an obstacle, or he may be overwhelmed by the process of setting goals. Below are some strategies that address these various issues, and help you to motivate your child to pursue his passions and goals.
1. Help your child find his passion.
If he seems to love music, get him the guitar he covets, and then encourage him to earn money for lessons. There is nothing as motivating as passion. And passion can’t be manufactured, it has to be found through exploration. So encourage your child to explore what interests him.
2. Teach problem solving.
Help children adapt to changes and obstacles in their path. Perhaps a child has decided he want to learn to play the guitar, but he can’t afford guitar lessons. Ask him if there is a way he can earn money to pay for guitar lessons. Perhaps he can work in the local music shop? Or perhaps there is another job which is less fulfilling but higher paying? He may be motivated to get a job so that he can pursue his passion. If you can link things such as doing well in school to pursuit of his passion, your child will become more motivated to do well. Your child will learn that sometimes he will have to do things he doesn’t particularly like in order to do what he wants later on.
3. Address a fear of failure.
If your child refuses to take risks, or explore new things, it may be because he has a pronounced fear of failure. Talk to the anxious child about his fear of failure. Some kids feel there is no room for failure because they feel that if they fail, they will lose respect, social status, or love. Achievement is being confused with the inherent value of a person. Let him know he is loved and valuable regardless of his achievements. Emphasize the value of exploration, rather than the end point.
4. Set goals.
Help your child to set goals to achieve what he wants. Encourage him to think of goals as guideposts. Teach your child how to break an overarching goal into smaller achievable goals to encourage his progress along the way.
5. Look out for negative thinking.
Negative thinking kills motivation and initiative. To spot negative thinking, listen for words such as always, never, no one and everyone. Some examples might be “No one will ever like me” (Why take the initiative to make friends then?) or “I always fail my math tests” (Why try then?). Discuss with your child why black and white statements like this are simply untrue. Teach them to reframe their thinking in a more accurate and positive light.
About The Author
Cindy Jett, LICSW is a psychotherapist and author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows, an acclaimed picture book that helps children adapt to change. See Cindy’s website for information on helping kids adapt to change and build resilience: Harry the Happy Caterpillar .