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How To Raise Internally Motivated Children

While rewards and punishments work well in the short term to get desired behaviors from our children. We want our children to be internally motivated and do things with willingness. But the question arises, how to raise internally motivated children?

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A recent report showed that nearly 1 in 4 workers would take a pay cut in favor of a better work-life balance. Motivations like flexible hours lead to better performance compared to higher salaries.  This got me thinking.

How can less salary but more flexible hours contribute to better performance at work? Aren’t extrinsic motivators like titles and higher salaries more alluring.

Well, they aren’t. Because the more an individual feels valued as a part of a company culture that allows him control of his life the more he is intrinsically motivated to perform and give his best.

Now let’s use this same logic with little children.

The more our children feel like they have agency in their life, (a power to control the course of their day to day with their own actions), the more happier and settled they are.

The more they are robbed of opportunities to exert this independence the more unhappy they are.

Unhappy children are not easy to cooperate or discipline.

What am I getting at?

How much true independence, choice and power to assert does your child have?

Are you interrupting his every movement and expecting a young child to sit still and behave perfectly all the time? 

Are you stopping key processes that actually aid further brain development – like making a mess when they eat or play?

What does this result in?

Let me guess,

Whining, crying, screaming, hitting and biting?

Does this sound like a happy child?

Will it be easier to gain cooperation from a happy child or an unhappy one?

Happy Children are more cooperative and willing to participate in day to day routine.

internally motivated children-intrinsic motivation

Now I know many of you are going to ask about safety? and limits? 

And no, you don’t need extrinsic motivators like toys, stickers, sweet treats, all kinds of rewards or punishment to motivate a child to live alongside individuals he loves as a part of a family unit with rules that apply for all. 

There is always an intrinsic motivation to “do as you do” when they feel valued and heard.

To know more about how positive parenting and how it works in raising emotionally intelligent and motivated children I recommend the Positive Parenting online course by Genmindful The course will help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your triggers, how to manage them and how to discipline without yelling, shaming or nagging. At the same time, the course helps you connect with your child in playful ways. Make sure to check the course if you struggle with parenting with calm.


When children feel they have the freedom to explore and be themselves they are automatically motivated to do more as a part of the family.  

Here is how you can raise internally motivated children. 

These are few things we do in our family that help with our son.

Set age appropriate expectations from them

I have an entire blog post on age-appropriate expectations. Do read that one to understand more about setting the right expectations, but the gist of it, when you set correct expectations you create a calmer home with fewer frustrations.

Give them responsibility

Make them feel like an important contributor to the family. Once you know what is age-appropriate involve them in home chores and family routines as suited. This makes the child feel confident in his being. Here is a list of age-appropriate chores for kids.

Be excited for them and their interests 

Dig deep into topics of your child’s interest, they love the attention you give their interests and want to learn even more.

Make sure they know all learning is a process and there is no right or wrong in exploration. Really, let’s stop asking for perfection from children and look beyond the end result. Here are examples of encouraging phrases you can use with children to boost self-esteem.

Put their work on display or show pride with meaningful praises 

Display art work or craft projects made by the child. When you praise the child’s efforts be specific, so the child knows that you notice good qualities. For example, instead of saying, “Good Job” every time your child helps, say, “You are such a good helper”. The latter shows you notice good behavior, the child then wants to do more.

Do not compare your child to another

As parents, our job is to parent our own authentic child. To understand him and be there for him. Each child is different and beautiful in his/her own way. It is our job to see the beauty in our children and meet them where they struggle to guide rather than compare one child with another.

Emphasize that life is an enjoyable process

Sometimes as we are running the rat race in our lives we forget to pass on an important message to our children. That there is more to life than fast=paced goal oriented living. Living is a process and you can find joy wherever you are.

In fact I look at motherhood as a blessing, because it taught me to slow down and really enjoy the simpler things in life. It is our children who bring this unique opportunity to get back in touch with our own inner selves. Do not miss out on this.

And as you enjoy your day to day, your child is looking at you, and learning the same. Enjoy the process don’t fret too much about mistakes.

Focus on how curiosity leads to magical explorations

Help them see the magic in the mundane. Use colorful language to describe the mundane. For e.g. In our home, we have a funny mantra that we say each morning that brings out the giggles and sets the mood for our day.

When we share this child-like innocent view of the world with our children they are internally motivated to keep moving on and trying their best instead of sulking and cribbing about problems and challenges

To sum it up for you,

The entire aim here is to appreciate the child’s effort. Not judge and label when the child struggles. Help the child seek solutions to the problems rather than focus on end results.

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