A lack of motivation for learning in children is one of the most common teacher and parent complaints that I hear. But what is it that we are really talking about and looking for in our children when it comes to motivation?

 

Most of the time, when parents talk about a "lack of motivation," what I hear them describing is more like a kind of joyful disobedience. It seems that we as parents have the expectation that our children should do something immediately upon our request. What's more, they should stay on task as long as it takes to accomplish, and refrain from complaining. 

 

Put simply - these "perfect" children do not exist. Until about the age of 10, a child's only and most powerful motivation is to learn and master things that belong to the world of adults as they see it. They want to do what we do, and the more enthusiastic we are about something, the more they want to try it. Everything and anything falls under this rule, from physical exercise to reading to playing musical instruments to doing household chores. Any attempt to force a child to do something that they don't witness us doing ourselves is futile. Eventually, as our children grow up, they learn to be compliant and do certain things “just because” they have to, but they also invent an array of tricks to avoid or simulate doing the things they hate. We all did it, and continue doing it in our adult lives. And they watch us doing it.

 

Setting a personal example is not just one method of parenting, it is the only effective method. We have nothing to offer our children other than our values, habits, interests, and our motivation! If we want our children to change, we must first change ourselves. We have to make ourselves enjoy math, piano, basketball, reading  - whatever we want our children to adapt into their daily lives. 

 

Tags: early start in math, starting early in math, psychology of math, how you can help

Julia Turchaninova

Written by Julia Turchaninova

Dr. Turchaninova has a B.S. and M.S. in Physics, and Ph.D. in education from Moscow State Pedagogical University. She brings with her 40 years of teaching and research experience at the high school, college and university levels.

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