Find out why reward incentives don’t work and what to choose instead.
Choosing motivation – internal and external
We rarely think about intrinsic motivation. These are our sincere desires, and to explain our condition, one word is enough – “I want.” Children enjoy listening to their favorite band’s music, making something with their own hands, or reading adventure novels because they enjoy doing it.
Extrinsic motivation can be different – from pocket money to grades at school. It boils down to the phrase: “Do this, and you will get this.”
Psychologist Alfie Cohn, in his book Punishment by Reward, warns not only parents but also teachers against various rewards. Some parents promise to take their child to the zoo for good studies, others buy gadgets or even pay money. The problem is that it doesn’t work like that; the student is doing just as badly, and also, he is offended that he did not receive what he was promised!
Teachers try to motivate in seemingly more noble ways; they introduce various titles (best student of the month), give indulgences to the good. Most often, it happens like this; the same child becomes the best student of the month, and a narrow circle of students, whose composition never changes, receives relief. Others feel like failures.
Read also: How Low Self-Esteem Affects Our Lives
Why extrinsic motivation doesn’t work
When we say, “Do this, and you will get this,” the child at first takes the promise with enthusiasm. Along with this, the instinct of self-preservation works for him.
The child begins to look not for a creative way to solve the problem, but for the most reliable and shortest one.
He asks himself; “Why take the risk and take the test yourself? It is better to write off from an excellent student, so it is more reliable. ” It turns out that there is a substitution of goals; not study for the sake of knowledge, but study for the sake of receiving an award.
What influences interest in learning
Cohn identifies three factors that affect motivation:
- Small children are ready to learn and do not demand anything for it. They have a highly developed intrinsic motivation: they learn simply because they are interested in it.
- Those children who have retained intrinsic motivation learn effectively. And the rest are considered incapable, but this is not so. Some schoolchildren receive solid deuces, but at the same time, they prove themselves in other areas. For example, they know by heart dozens of songs of their favorite artist (and in algebra, they cannot remember the multiplication table). Or they avidly read science fiction (whereas they don’t touch classical literature). They are just interested. This is the essence of intrinsic motivation.
- Rewards destroy intrinsic motivation. Psychologists Carol Ames and Carol Dweck have found that if parents or teachers emphasize some reward, then children’s interest invariably decreases.
Where to begin
Getting back to motivation to study is a long process, and success largely depends on the parents. Adults need to think about the three “S”: content, cooperation, and freedom of choice.
- Content. When a child does not comply with our request, we look for ways to influence his behavior. Start with something else: think about how reasonable your request is. Nothing terrible will probably happen if, in physics, the child receives not only fours and fives. And children ignore the request “not to make noise” not because they are naughty, but because of their age’s psychological characteristics.
- Cooperation. Unfortunately, many parents are not familiar with this word in the context of communication with a child. But the older your children are, the more often you should involve them in cooperation. Discuss, explain, make plans together. Try to talk to your child like an adult. Do not take hostility to the desire of a 15-year-old boy to become an astronaut. Calmly explain why you think this is unrealistic. Perhaps, in your words, the son will find internal motivation for growth.
- Freedom of choice. The child should feel like a part of the process; then, he will be more responsible for solving problems. When he misbehaves, ask him why. You may argue that you already know what the matter is, but try it anyway. Perhaps the answer will surprise you!
Looking for intrinsic motivation
It is not easy to correct the child’s inner state, but still work in this direction can bear fruit.
- Learn to accept your child. For example, you may not like your daughter’s new image, but you have to accept it. In other words, it’s not about indulgence; it’s about understanding.
- Have a heart-to-heart talk. If you and your child are close enough, talk to get started. Ask what he is interested in and what problems arise in his studies. Find a way out of the situation together.
- Help your child decide on the work of life. Often there is no intrinsic motivation because the child does not understand why he even needs these formulas, endless rules, and theorems. It is important to decide what the child wants to do after school. Long conversations with parents, counseling on career guidance, and books for teenagers will help understand this.
- Build the educational process on the hobbies of the child. In studies, you need to combine the child’s sincere interests (intrinsic motivation) with school subjects. This process is individual and requires a lot of attention from the parents. For example, you can learn English using your favorite movie (even entire programs dedicated to cult movies). And a teenager who adores computer games will certainly be carried away by programming and the sciences associated with it.
To draw out this intrinsic motivation from the child is the task of the tasks. But for sensitive, thinking, sincerely interested parents, this will not be a problem.
Based on the book “Punishment by Reward”.
Adapted and translated by Wiki Avenue Staff
Sources: Life hacker