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How to Motivate Children: Science-Based Approaches for Parents

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Motivating young minds might seem like a tough task for new parents. However, kids come with this intrinsic curiosity to learn and know more about the world since they are infants. This innate sense of curiosity amongst them, that comes across as motivation later in life, can either be encouraged or suppressed by the experiences provided by adults during their childhood. 

As per researchers of psychology, parents and practitioners can harness a set of promising approaches that promote healthy motivation and facilitate learning during their early years of development.

Follow their Lead

Toddlers are innately curious about all things novel that meets their eye. They tend to find out more about the object that catches their attention and are new and on the other hand, they lose interest with overly familiar things. They also tend to lose interest in new things that are too complex to figure out. This effect is often termed as the “Goldilocks effect” that is, novel things are only interesting when there is a certain level of knowledge of the same.

Encourage that Curiosity

Let alone toddlers, even infants are curious about exploring objects, especially the ones that behave in surprising ways. You might have noticed them throwing things again and again or dropping objects down repeatedly until they’re bored. This is because they are curious to find out if there’s anything new that can happen by doing the job. Provide them with opportunities to explore, experiment and eventually, learn from them at their own pace.

Elicit their playful exploration

When an opportunity presents itself, children from all ages can hardly keep themselves from random engagement in playing. The key element that precisely fuels learning while at play is the motivation it brings along for novel experiences that can be learnt from others. Playing demands active engagement, offers reduced stress levels and strengthens social bonds. It is understandably difficult to find time to tag along with kids while they’re at play provided the hectic schedules, however, these few years of engagement are also essential for development.

Make Social Interactions A Priority

In the era of digital education and extended lockdowns, it is extremely difficult to ditch the temptation of taking to digital resolutions, especially for children. However, in an age where there are computer-based applications designed for children as young as 6 months old, as parents, we must take conscious steps to avoid such attractions as these may and will lead to hazardous consequences later in life. Encourage social interactions in children and watch them evolve as emotionally intelligent and confident beings.

Challenge them in the right proportions

Children are motivated enough to achieve goals that make them feel independent enough and more like adults. Remember the time when you wanted to do things your parents did? Yes, they exactly feel the same but of course, like you, they too want to do the tasks that are apparently interesting. Thus, challenge them to achieve goals that are neither too difficult for them nor are too easily attainable as they tend to lose interest very quickly when the job’s done at one go. Do not skip the feedback loop while engaging them in such activities.

Give Them Some Agency

Children, like adults, find it more engaging when they are self-determined. When they have the option to pursue tasks that add some meaning to them personally, they feel more interested in it and also tend to stay engaged. Some room or space for self-exploration in the way or choice of doing tasks gives them a certain sense of agency.

Don't Be Too Generous With Rewards

Rewards should do their job right. Rewarding children when they have done something beyond what they should normally do is what’s right. Giving gifts every now and then, especially when they’re stubborn or upset about something wrong, is not the right approach towards rewarding. Also, it is not always necessary to offer materialistic rewards.

Appreciate Their Efforts

It is obvious that your kid will not always succeed at everything they do. Thus, sometimes, it is necessary to appreciate their hard work and efforts for being great at the process even if the outcome isn’t in their favor. As a parent, your child needs you to understand that they’ve done good even if they couldn’t meet your expectations. 


Besides, motivating kids is one thing and creating an exhaustive pressure on them is another. As a parent, understand that every child has their own set of talents and that might not resonate with your expectations. Accept them as they are and motivate them to be great at what they want to be.