Motivating your child to care about school

Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives. Children who do not receive this sort of support and interaction are likely to have a much different attitude about learning later in life.

Children do many things simply because they want to do them. Selecting a toy or a shirt to wear is the result of "intrinsic motivation." The child makes his own choice and achieves satisfaction from both the act of choosing and from the opportunity to play with the toy or wear the shirt. Since the activity is generating the motivation, it is mostly self-sustaining for as long as the child wants to continue the activity.

Children also engage in some activities because adults tell them to do, or in an effort to please others. These activities are "extrinsically motivated." When a child is extrinsically motivated, they expect to be rewarded by the others and it has to be continually given to the child to remain motivated enough. It is more difficult for a child to sustain extrinsically motivated because they rely upon us.

Since, intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated - when he believes he is pleasing himself. Parents and teachers can build on this sense of confidence in a child by providing these kind of activities while still giving the child a range of options. This unstructured play is an essential element of the child's motivation, learning, and development.