Lack of Self-Motivation in Children

By Amy Phoenix
How do you motivate yourself?
How do you motivate yourself?

Have you ever had a time in your life when you simply didn't feel motivated to do what needed to be done? If so, you can probably relate to the child who lacks self-motivation. Children who are not motivated may lack interest in what needs to be done, experience feelings of pessimism or feel resistant to cooperation with adults. Thankfully, there are several ways to help children become more self-motivated.

Discouragement and Pessimism

Kids who lack self motivation may be discouraged, finds Author and Psychology Professor Kenneth Barish, who writes at Psychology Today. Barish suggests that children who feel this way may display defiance, blame or anxiety on the surface. He reminds parents and teachers to return to the basic principle that if a child does not feel good, it is difficult for him to do good. One way to help a child increase self-motivation is to assist him in creating some ideals for himself. Ask him what he would like to accomplish.

Lack of Interest and Skills

Children who are dealing with attention or learning disorders may also not be motivated, reports Barish. The struggle for such a child may be like learning to swim with a broken arm -- doable but difficult. Instead of focusing on the disorder, it may be more effective to engage in helping the child become interested in the subject or activity and receive the unique assistance he needs to succeed. Consider asking the child how he feels he can solve the problem and see what solutions you can come up with together.

Learn to Relax

Kids feed off of the energy of their parents and teachers. If you push the child who is not motivated, you may receive short-term results, or it may backfire. Many kids who lack motivation will feel even more resistant when pushed. Instead, choose to relax and see this experience as a perfect opportunity to learn new ways to work with your child. Maybe this is an opportunity to learn more about your child's uniqueness, how to problem-solve or find new interests that your child feels good about.

Switch From Source to Coach

Sometimes parents (and kids) feel like they are the source of their child's everything -- including motivation. Child Psychologist Steven Richfield suggests switching from source to coach. See yourself as someone who can ask helpful questions so your child can find his own answers. One question Richfield offers to help a child motivate himself is “Have you tried giving yourself directions before you asked them to be given to you?” Another way to put that could be "What do you think the answer is, or, if you knew, what would the answer be?"

Try Positive Parenting

Kids who feel controlled don't feel motivated. Debbie Piccus, a parent educator who writes at Empowering Parents, suggests a shift from nagging to inspiring. Kids who are inspired to do their best are more likely to achieve goals or at least enjoy the process. Similarly, Child Psychologist Laura Markham shares that children who are parented in a positive, punishment-free way are more likely to want to please their parents and eventually mature to be self-motivated. Markham says the strength of such a parent-child relationship is that compassion motivates more than anger.

About the Author

Amy Phoenix began writing professionally in 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including Mothering. Phoenix is a certified parent educator, trained meditation facilitator, and enjoys writing about natural health, parenting, spirituality, and organization.