Finding what intrinsically motivates your child and enjoying the process : Combining Heart and Learning Part 1

Written by Alison Wilson for Discourser.Online

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘If you love it, you will do good at it?’. Or, “I bet you could make money off that’. The former is intrinsic motivation (internal)and the latter is extrinsic motivation (external). I have and it sounds fair providing you have talent in that area. I would love to professionally sing but unfortunately, my voice would never pay the mortgage. But, it is wonderful to sing along with my four year old and feel her joy resonate through the house. This is a broad stroke idea of what intrinsic motivation is, and I am so pleased that we can discuss this topic. It is a way we can tune into what our kids really love doing and take the hard work out of asking them ‘to do things’ and not turn potential talent or joy into a ‘chore’.

Some ways you can incorporate this is your daily life with your kids, is to provide them with choices and explain the outcome. 

For example, spending time outdoors and letting them choose the game to play that will make them feel good. Give them options and let them choose (within reason, of course)!

Practitioners often suggest combining therapeutic activities that can be mixed with games like some light stretches or simple yoga for kids that have already had an introduction. Kids generally love a bit of variation so this can be fun and they may want to try to recreate the experience themselves. Mindfulness, can benefit everyone, so let them have time to ‘breathe’ and enjoy where they are at and listen to their heart. Eline Snel is a leader in this area and her popular book Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) and comes with a 60-minute audio CD of guided exercises read by Myla Kabat-Zinn, the books aims to equip families with ‘Simple mindfulness practices to help your child (ages 5-12) deal with anxiety, improve concentration, and handle difficult emotions’ .You can find some reviews here

Dr Magdelina Arcia M.D and Psychotherapist travels throughout Europe and the United States teaching eight weeks programs these courses ‘Mindfulness for Parents and their Children Workshops. Based on the program by psychologists, Eline Snel and Sylvia Comas. I caught up with her recently in Seville, Spain and was impressed to hear she has been a Mindfulness teacher for close to 15 years and a Psychiatrist for close to 30 years. You can find more about potential workshops here:

Something, I do with my daughter, that she loves, has control over and makes her feel good is selecting her own clothes. She dresses her self, she has her own sense of design and identity. This has fostered a healthy sense of esteem and creativity for her, it is an in fact a great motivator,-as it something she looks forward too. Dressing for pre-school doesn’t ever feel like a drag. I always feel grateful when I regularly hear parents complaining about running late as their kids wouldn’t put on their shoes or help to prepare themselves. When asked and given a choice most kids respond. Their imaginations and senses are so much more heightened and intact than ours.

Cooking is something else that we love as a family, from start to finish, selecting the produce, discussing colour, texture and taste. My four year old knows which foods contain too much sugar and will not help her to concentrate, provide energy or ‘grow bigger’. The sense of accomplishment children feel and visibly present after creating something is priceless. It seems to taste better too!

Another thing, I have learnt the hard way recently, as an adult is not to answer for my child. This is something I really have to catch myself on. She is navigating her supple little brain around three languages and adults, myself included often try to rush this process. What is a few more seconds waiting for her to answer and finish the sentence how she wants?  I am always amazed by the outcome, so let’s take a breath and encourage them to enjoy what makes them happy. Even if this is occasionally wearing a ruffle skirt as a hat.