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Let's Talk Motivation

image of a stack of school supplies with Back to School written on notebook

What comes to mind when you think of motivation? Perhaps you think, "my child is motivated; he wants to do well is his schoolwork; he wants to get good grades." The only trouble with that thinking is that motivation is more than a willingness to perform.

A child who is truly motivated has a passion and eagerness for learning. For him, learning must take place or he is not satisfied. When highly motivated, your child will enjoy the process of learning as much as he does the ultimate achievement.

Children usually begin their early years in learning with a high degree of motivation, but as they get older, other things begin to compete for their attention. So your question may be, how do I keep this early motivation from slipping away? Or perhaps you wonder, how can I restore motivation when my child does not seem to care anymore?

The primary stimulation for a child to develop and maintain enthusiasm for learning should come from the home. Just the mere act of home schooling will not guarantee success. I get numerous calls from home educators wondering what they are doing wrong. Their child seems bored and apathetic toward learning.

A family that has a high degree of success with motivation is characteristically one with an active lifestyle. Together, they participate in church, community, and recreational activities. The word together is very important there. This is not a family that goes in different directions, in which the mother acts as a taxicab driver. In that type of lifestyle, children feel detached and can eventually become self-serving. On the other hand, when a family becomes sedentary, staleness sets in quickly.

Motivation thrives in a home where the parents listen attentively to their children's problems. Such a home involves every family member in solving those problems. To generate this type of atmosphere, a family may set aside time for family powwows. This provides a framework for solving problems as a unit. When all members of the family feel open with one another, this type of sharing and problem solving may constantly go on.

Having high expectations for your child is, indeed, a motivational tactic. However, when those expectations are unreasonable, your child will soon become discouraged.

To motivate your child to achieve high expectations, you need a "you can do it" attitude. Sarcasm and criticism defeat your purpose by making your child afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

You will motivate your child as you demonstrate that work is fun, necessary, and highly rewarding. Work should be assigned because it needs to be done, not because it produces discipline. And yet, doing and completing a hard task can produce joy. That is what you want your child to experience.

When a child finishes a job, he gets the good feeling that comes from hard work and he is motivated to do more. However, if what he has done is criticized or ignored, he learns to dread work. Without commendation, children often think that their finished product will never be good enough.

Although the home atmosphere is the primary influence, the secondary influence in motivation involves the type of teaching that occurs. To motivate well educationally you must use good management techniques, have expectations that fit the student's capacities, and employ methods that call for interactive learning.

Good management is as important to learning as textbooks and educational materials are. Much of what is necessary for good teaching is done before you meet with your student. You will be most effective when you are prepared with a good schedule and well-thought-out objectives. You need to be in control of the learning situation. Your child will feel free to control himself in a well-managed setting.

The educational goals you set for your child need to be clearly defined and achievable. If your objectives are ambiguous or beyond your child's ability to reach, discouragement can set in. Signs of frustration on the part of the teacher also will discourage the learner and destroy the atmosphere or motivational learning.

A major component in creating a motivational learning environment is interactive teaching. It is just what it implies--active participation from both the teacher and the student. It is the opposite of lecturing.

Besides providing motivation, interactive teaching also gives you the opportunity to evaluate what your child is learning. Because you are regularly asking questions, you know whether or not your child is understanding the lessons. The questions you ask require him to think and to come up with an answer. The answer given then leads to your next question. This leads naturally into a discussion.

When interactive learning is taking place, there is probing on both sides. The process starts with your asking your child questions, but soon he will be asking you questions as well. This is what you're after. When this happens, you know he is thinking, expanding his knowledge, and coming to his own conclusions. That eagerness for learning represents true motivation.

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