Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivation in children

Do you use reward charts, bribes, threats and punishment in order to have your children do what you want them to do?  Are you always encouraging your child if they do x then they will get y? We’ve all been guilty of it, especially if we are at our wits end and nothing is working to get our child to do what we just need them to do!   And here’s the thing! There is nothing wrong with it when used sparingly and consciously.  However, as a long-term strategy for children co-operation, it can cause its own set of repercussions.

Extrinsic motivation relies on the child always being told what to do and being motivated by things outside of themselves. Do we want our children to treat others nicely because they fear punishment or because they want to be nice and feel good about themselves?  Do we want children to eat all their veggies because of the promised treat at the end of their meal or because we want them to learn what is good for their body?  What happens when rewards, punishments and bribes are not there to be offered? How does a child then make a decision to obtain a positive outcome?

We won’t always be around for our children, and they grow away from us as soon as they are placed in the care of others. This happens naturally at school and I believe the more intrinsically motivated we teach them to be, the better off they will be when we are not around in making the right choices.

I have seen massive improved results when I changed my parenting to align with motivating my children intrinsically.  And I was literally blown away when my then 4-year-old declined a 3rd of his favourite biscuits because 2 was too much and his body has had enough. I was speechless when my 7-year-old recently declined cake at a party as his tummy was full!  Again, listening to his body and me trusting he knows what is best for him. 

What I have seen over the years of being a parent is an increase of this method, which really is all about motivating a child by extrinsic factors. And using this method long term can have serious affects on our children and on us as the parent.  If you are at all concerned about the rising levels of anxiety, negative self-talk and self-harm and suicide, then you really need to check in on how often this method is used in your family unit!!  Be the parent who makes the right choices for your family.

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