We all understand that motivation has a multitude of factors influencing the final inner drive to achieve. One of the biggest for high-ability children is educational-match. If the assumption Maria Montessori makes is correct, children are inherently motivated to learn and to master concepts given the right conditions, a bit of guidance and freedom. This idea is reflected in the natural metaphor of a seed being put in the ground to grow and prosper. The seed has inner motivation (direction), but needs a rich soil of nutrients to build a good root system, break through the ground and flourish. As parents we provide a layer of nutrient rich soil, but there are other layers that affect the child’s ability to prosper.
A child spends his/her best and most productive hours (especially in primary school) in an environment far away from immediate family. The child’s teacher, peer group, level of independence, learning ability, goals and many other factors influence the level of motivation a child has towards high achievement in any given subject or individual lesson. A single incident and/or consistent negative influence on any of these important elements can lead to a slow degradation of inner drive, performance, low feeling of satisfaction and self-worth.
Anxiety can also be a serious threat to motivation and success in school or when doing activities at home. Here are 20 Tips that you can use to help de-escalate an episode of anxiety to get back on track to learning and open the mind. Anxiety is known to close down the prefrontal cortex where decision-making and learning takes place. It adversely affects working memory leading to spotty learning and “holes” for otherwise very high ability children. Other obstacles such as learning disabilities, lack of communication skills, impulsivity, family life and more can further affect a child’s level of motivation and learning retention.
To combat some of the negative influences, Katrina Schwartz from MindShift writes, “Teaching kids about how their brains and memory work can also be a way to help them discover intrinsic motivation to complete tasks.” In the book Being Smart About Gifted Education, by Dr. Dona Matthews and Dr. Joanne Foster, there is an entire chapter dedicated to motivation and achievement offering educators and parents insight into keeping children inspired to learn. Tying the value of an activity to expectation of success, confidence, atmosphere, the adult’s enthusiasm for the concept/idea/subject, positive reinforcement, wonder, curiosity, climate, feedback and so many other aspects can all be grouped together to create the perfect conditions for enlightened learning.
Lately, more research and exploration is coming out on the importance of curiosity and play to enhance motivation and memory. This NPR article says that curiosity releases dopamine in our brains; the hormone that helps us feel good. Psychologist Charan Ranganath continues, "… dopamine also seems to play a role in enhancing the connections between cells that are involved in learning." In the Ted Radio Hour Show, Press Play, Stuart Brown continues to talk about how play is more than having a good time. Similarly, in his book, Play, Brown states, “The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” In Larry Kim’s article on Inc. titled, 10 Critical Skills for 2020, all 10 of skills require social awareness, creativity and innovation.
How does all of this information make a difference in your household? To get started think about these five questions for your child.
When those questions have been answered and exhausted, it’s time to encourage “assertiveness, independence, self-reliance and effort.” (APGTGC) How will you help the child get started? What ideas does the child have? What about other’s around him/her? Who can you get to collaborate? Then create the environment to promote access, learning and achievement; sprinkle in a bit of help where needed, establish some goals, and let the fun fly!
Are you excited about what you just read? Want to know more or want to add to our list of resources? Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do the research and write it up, because if you are wondering, someone else is, too.
The Dangerous Book for Boys (book for children)
The Daring Book for Girls (book for children)
Ted Talk: Play is More than Just Fun (video)
Ted Talk: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do (video)
NYTimes Magazine: Taking Play Seriously (article)
APGTGC: A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children (resource)
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (article)
Curiosity and Powerful Learning - PDF by Wayne Craig (resource)
NPR Ted Radio Hour: Press Play (podcast)
Being Smart about Gifted Education (resource)
Play, Development, and Early Education (resource)
Fun Games for Car Rides (resource)
Make Believe Games Activities for Imaginative Play (resource)
Creativity Unhinged: 120 Games for Kids to Spark Creative Thinking and Let Imaginations Run Wild (resource)