Thursday, December 01, 2011

Motivation is also temporary; you have to nurture it expertly

If you have understood why confidence is temporary from the earlier discussion, this will not surprise you.

Whatever the task, be it singing, solving a mathematical problem, or writing an essay, when the challenge of the task is just higher than the 'capacity' of the child, the child is highly motivated. When it is too high, the child becomes anxious and will not feel 'motivated' to do the task. He will avoid the task. When the challenge is too low, the child is 'bored'. In other words, the child to be motivated, should have a challenge which is just 'above' his capacity at that time.

But as you would have guessed, no sooner, the child performs the challenging task, one or two times, the challenge from the task is gone. The motivation is also gone. Now boredom sets in, because there is no challenge any more. This is why the child will play with a toy and throw it after a day. Motivation for the child rises and drops all the time, depending on what he is doing.  To expect a child to remain motivated all the time, is a wrong expectation.

Instead, if you understand why motivation rises up and down, you will be able to help your child. When the child does not want to study a subject, either he is bored ( because there is no challenge) or because he is too anxious ( because the challenge is too high). Your first step therefore is to understand why he is not studying.

You have to ask him some questions in a proper way. If you make a mistake, he will clamp ( not speak). Also note, that if he is anxious, he will generally 'avoid' talking to you because the child does not want to accept that he is finding it difficult to do the task. One idea is to talk to his friend. Or ask someone ( with whom he has a different relation) to find, such as his grandfather/uncle.

After your investigation, if you understand that the 'challenge' is too high for the child, you have to help the child. Please help the child without hurting his self-respect. For instance do not tell him ' How easy is this?" Or "Anita can do it so easily. Why can't you'? Instead empathise with his anxiety, by saying something like ' I understand how some things are difficult to do'. If you want your child to come back for help next time, you have to ensure that you respect him. While helping, you have to just 'fill' the gap and help him surmount the challenge; not overcome the challenge yourself.

On the other hand, if the challenge is too low for him, then your remedy has to be different. You have to give him a similar task with 'increased challenge' to keep him motivated. If a task is well-defined like in music, dancing or sports (the A&P talents), this is easier, because any musician will tell you the 'next challenge'. But if you are performing a cognitive task, you have to find a subject expert to help your child find another challenge in his subject. That is why 'special teachers' are necessary to keep the flame burning in your child.

Or you have to find a good school that 'recognises' this need of a child and 'fulfills' it. A traditional school teaching all children in one classroom will generally not be useful; a Montessori school is ideal. As a Montessori school typically has mixed age-group of children ( 6 to 9 or 10 to 12) in one class, your child can 'pick' up increasing challenges from the older children, if he learns fast. And when the challenge is too high, your child requires 'individual' attention. Once again, Montessori school is helpful, because every child is 'coached' individually in Montessori school.

If you however do not have a good school around your neighborhood, then go ahead and find a  specialist in 'child development' to guide your child. It is worth the effort.  

Here is a puzzle that you can solve now:
Why does a musician generally grow in a family of musicians? Or why does a sportsman grow in the family of sportsmen? 

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