Leeanne I., Australia
Has anyone heard of school teachers saying children should use their own ‘internal motivation’ rather than pushing them to do something? We were discussing reward for completing tasks. Poor Mum is confused, I am telling her she needs to guide her children, manage their activities and their long term relationships. The school teacher is telling Mum to let her children explore multiple activities, quit if they don’t like it and try something else.
Gabrielle K., Iowa
I had a Montessori school student, and it was almost harder convincing the mom to trust the method than it was the student, because she was so against making her child do anything that was uncomfortable.
Maureen K., California
I bet by “activities” the teacher isn’t talking about math, science and English. Of course those are pursuits that we all consider non optional for our children. Piano lessons, well, many people think of those as optional extras. I consider music education to be a core subject for my daughter, non-optional. Simply Music provides a great framework for a music education. And if a parent buys into this, then she needs to support the child’s LTR with music lessons.
Susan M., Canada
Although I’m not surprised that there are public school teachers who believe in this internal motivation, there is a lot of research that supports a scaffolding approach – supporting kids as they learn. Especially in executive functioning / being organized etc. Each child might need a different level of support, but I think kids feel lost/give up without supports they need. The tough part is understanding what they need and it would be hard for a public school teacher to know what that is for each child… so easier for them to push for kids to have internal motivation.
Leeanne I., Australia
The Mum doesn’t understand how to get them motivated to do things when they don’t want to do it. I always thought reward systems were great. I got pocket money for doing my chores. Adults are rewarded by getting paid for work.
Jennifer Y., Canada
Sounds like mom could use strategies. One of my own children is either HIGHLY internally motivated or intensely resistant to doing things. A few years ago, I read some psychology books recommended by a friend that I found helpful. One of the main things that was helpful to me was acknowledging where the child is at (validate their feelings) but then still require something (still be the one in control because at that age they don’t know what is best, and requiring her to do things will in the long run develop internal motivation). Being compassionate (addressing and recognizing their feelings) and requiring something are not mutually exclusive, they seem to conflict but can coexist. I think it has helped us on the road to internal motivation and guiding our daughter through activities she resists because it changed how we were even phrasing reward charts, discipline, all the other stuff. It gave us a framework through which to view everything else we did.
Mark M., New York
Think of Neil’s story. He was clearly self-directed in music. And it led him to create SM. If his parents had felt so strongly about being disciplined about LTR in some other area of life, he may never ended up creating SM. Discipline/LTR is hugely important when there is a specific thing that is sufficiently worth cultivating. Sometimes a person will choose that for themselves. Sometimes a parent may choose that for a child. But outside of that, the freedom to explore, to discover, to self-discover, it should be self-evident why that’s worthwhile for human beings. Each informs the other. A life of exploration.
It seems worthwhile to me also to relate this whole discussion to the common sets of parenting types. Authoritarian/totalitarian — demanding and unresponsive, rigorous to the extreme, all discipline. Not great. Indulgent/permissive — undemanding and unresponsive, flaky to the extreme, no discipline whatsoever. Not great. Neglectful — undemanding and unresponsive, hurtful to the extreme, obviously not at all good in any way. Authoritative/propagative — demanding and responsive, balancing discipline with a sensitivity to who the kid actually is and what the kid goes through and what qualities the kid has, etc. That’s always understood as the sweet spot for parenting, and it seems to me emblematic of lots of other things, too, including what we’re talking about here.
Ian B., California
Internal motivation may be cultivated over time for children. Some seem to “get it” sooner than others. Parents must realize that there is a need for TWO different forms of parental guidance:
1) an environment that allows and encourages that internal motivation; and
2) lovingly, creatively, and insistently ‘nudging’ children in the direction they know is best for them EVEN WHEN the children are not interested.
Patti P., Hawaii
I have found it important to hold the parent accountable for practice. I tell them basically until the child has their driver’s license and can get themselves to practice. Parents normally think the kids should be responsible for getting practice done far before most kids are going to do it.
Mark M., New York
This makes me realize that it’s important to distinguish two things. Exploration vs. commitment is one thing. And then, if commitment is chosen, supporting it vs. not is another. I was focused mainly on how both exploration and commitment have value. Within commitment, though, I absolutely support the idea that parents must be involved in supporting kids in the LTR, taking responsibility for it rather than leaving it to kids. To be wishy washy about commitment and turn it into exploration means that all you have left is exploration, no commitment, and that subverts the very point I was making that both exploration and commitment are valuable. When it comes to the bigger picture, there’s room for everything. In the finer picture of a particular pursuit, and the need for commitment to it, I always look to the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid,” who said:
‘Walk on road, hm? Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get the squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” [makes squish gesture] just like grape. Understand?’
Original discussion started March 6, 2018