Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Motivate Your Children

By Dr. Ellen Diana, Ph.D., Psychologist & Co-Author of the Charge Up Your Life Book Series

Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, challenges the view that humans are primarily motivated by external rewards, like money, praise, or gifts. He posits, instead, that there are three secrets to human achievement and happiness: the need to take charge of their own lives; the opportunity to create new things; and the chance to have a stake in improving their world. Consider the stories of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and eBay’s Meg Whitman, just to name a few. All three applied their creativity to revolutionize the way we live through technology, social networking, and business. They had vision, creativity, and drive.

Drive has important information for parents who want to raise independent thinkers who are intrinsically motivated to utilize their innate, creative vision. First, Pink suggests giving kids an allowance as well as household chores, but not linking the two. He reasons that, in a shared living environment, every member is intrinsically motivated to pitch in and help, while giving kids an allowance is designed to teach money management skills. Once parents link an allowance to chores, they’ll have great difficulty motivating their children to work without an external reward.

Another idea is from psychologist, Carol Dweck, who recommends praising a child’s effort and not necessarily their intelligence. When parents praise children for their intelligence, they may avoid challenges, for fear of looking stupid. But praising a child for effort is more apt to yield continuous motivation since it’s always possible to try hard.

Finally, Pink notes that education systems, in their desire to maximize on performance, actually diminish motivation due to the excessive emphasis on external rewards such as grades or prizes. It isn’t necessary to motivate a two-year-old to be curious but, somehow, once kids reach school age, working for external rewards and conforming to arbitrary standards take over, while an emphasis on curiosity, creativity, and vision are minimized. By teaching children the value of what they are learning, as well as the importance and usefulness of this knowledge, intrinsic motivation is increased and the need for external rewards is decreased.

These are only a few of the many interesting ideas from Drive which parents can use to understand motivation. By developing a toolbox of family-oriented strategies, parents can help their children live their happiest lives and be the best they can be.

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About the Author:
Ellen Diana is a licensed psychologist, co-author of the Charge up Your Life Book Series and certified school psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals on psychology and education, and co-authored five self-help books in the Charge Up Your Life series. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

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