5 Tips to Motivate a Child That is Unmotivated

Last Updated on June 30, 2021 by Michele Tripple

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Have you ever wondered how to motivate a child that is unmotivated? Look no further! These 5 simple tips will help you and your child’s efforts.

5 Tips to Motivate a Child That is Unmotivated

I know we have all been there before and felt the dreaded lack of motivation. It can strike at any moment, without warning. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, as mothers, we cannot afford to be unmotivated to perform our daily tasks and responsibilities. After all, if we don’t do the chores and run errands, who will? Exactly. No one. We will be eating noodles with ketchup for dinner indefinitely unless we find the willpower to go to the store.

Children, however, seem to have an easier time being unmotivated. They don’t view their lack of motivation as hindering much and therefore do little to change it. Has this ever happened to your child? Well, I want to share a few tips on how to help your child become motivated. And guess what? These don’t involve tons of rewards and bribing, because who’s got the time or money for that? I know I don’t!

Here are some tips on how to motivate a child that is unmotivated:

The Don’ts of Motivation

First of all, it is important to understand the major no-nos of motivating a child that is unmotivated. Avoid becoming controlling and overbearing in your efforts to motivate- this will cause your child to want to rebel even more. Motivating out of anger, frustration, or annoyance will not produce lasting changes, but it might produce lingering rebellion.

Secondly, using rewards and bribery might be effective short-term, but these ultimately fail to create an intrinsic desire within your child to excel in school, sports, or hobbies. Parents, beware! It is far too easy to get trapped in this lifestyle, the slippery slope of bribes and rewards is a hard cliff to climb out of.

Finally, avoid praising your child for their innate ability, or things they have little to no control over. Praise them for working hard, doing their homework even though they were tired, or for auditioning for the school play, even if they didn’t make it. Praising their innate abilities can cause children to feel pressure to maintain a certain level of performance. This pressure leads to anxiety, frustration, guilt, and even resentment.

So, how should parents go about motivating a child who is unmotivated? Let’s find out.

Praise Effort

As mentioned above- praising effort has been scientifically proven to increase self-esteem and intrinsic motivation within children. Imagine a child sheepishly coming home from school with a B- on their report card. A controlling parent might be tempted to scold the child for not trying harder, but a wise parent would sit down with their child and praise them for the things they did do well at.

Focus on the artistry of the drawing they spent 3 hours working on, or the flow of the English paper they stayed up late finishing. When children feel that their efforts are being noticed and validated, they will be more motivated to give an honest effort, even if they don’t necessarily “succeed.”

Allow Natural Consequences

Some parents feel that they are at their wit’s end and can literally do nothing more to help spark a fire within their children. If you feel that way, you are not alone! Parenting is often frustrating. Some days I have to grab a gallon of ice cream and sit down while my toddler runs wild.

And guess what?

When we let go of control just a little, we see that children often receive natural consequences for their actions. If Tommy doesn’t feel like doing his research project, he is going to be embarrassed when the teacher calls on him to present it in front of the whole class.

Allowing your children to learn from their own mistakes, when there is no imminent danger involved, is an excellent way to get them to become self-motivated. As a parent, you can also introduce natural consequences for your child’s actions.

If they don’t want to clean their room, then they can’t have friends over. Likewise, if they’d rather play video games than help make dinner, then they can go hungry!

Don’t be afraid to let your child suffer the natural consequences. Parents shouldn’t shelter their child from everything! Some things do need to be learned the hard way.

Aim for Intrinsic Motivation

What is intrinsic motivation? It is an inborn desire to do good things and be productive and proactive. If someone is intrinsically motivated, they do not require constant reminders or bribes, they simply will do what is needed all on their own.

This is a stark contrast to extrinsic motivation. A person who is extrinsically motivated will only act after several reminders, or when there is some type of tangible reward for their behavior.

Of course, at this juncture it is important for each of us to ask ourselves this question, “Am I intrinsically motivated? Or, am I extrinsically motivated?” Be honest with yourself! We can’t expect our children to become intrinsically motivated if we aren’t ourselves! Begin with yourself if necessary, and lead by example.

Let Love Be Your Motivator

After doing copious amounts of research, I think it is safe to say I am almost an expert in motivation! Haha, if only life were that easy! However, I do believe that I have one unique insight that much of the research neglects. Love is the key to motivating your child!

Imagine you are at work or school. Your boss comes in very irritated and starts telling you all of the things that you are doing wrong and need to work to improve. What would your initial reaction be? I can tell you, mine would not be the happiest of reactions. I would feel belittled and discouraged, and it would have the opposite effect on me.

Do you think our kids are any different?

Children can tell when you, as a parent, are acting out of love or out of irritation. When we make love our reason for helping our children, they will be more prone to listen to what we have to say. Before dishing out suggestions, consider thanking them for what they are already doing well. By doing so, you instantly create an atmosphere of love and respect, and your children will open their hearts and minds more readily to you.

Were these suggestions on how to motivate a child that is unmotivated useful to you? If so, please share on Pinterest!

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