Motivating Your Homeschool Kid

Psychology tells us there are two kinds of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is driven by values, desire or passion. Extrinsic motivation comes from external reward or punishment. Either form of motivation can be positive or negative.

Helping your child to have strong internal motivation is one of the greatest skills parents can develop whether homeschooling or not.

For more information on the two types of motivation, check out these articles:

What influences the development of intrinsic motivation? Personally, I think the key to motivating your homeschool child is to build trust. What do I mean by that ?

Drop the excuse and tell the truth.

Kids know when you are not telling the truth or when you’re overstating the significance of a piece of work.

    • I need you to do this because… ?  It was on your plan? You told your Learning Coach you would? It is required by Alberta Education? You feel it is a skill they must master to be successful in life? Be honest! Why does it matter?
    • Don’t nag but make sure you stick to it if it’s important.  If the task is truly important and it has to be done, then stick to it. (Consistency) This is just like the grocery store scenario that every parent faces at one time or another. If the kids have a bad case of the gimmies when you go shopping and you give in to it, then they get what they want and it re-enforces the tantrums. Sadly, you may have saved face at the moment but the behaviour never gets any better. In fact, it will probably get worse! On the other hand, if you are clear that you reward good behaviour and discipline bad, then you will see immediate improvement. This consistency takes fortitude on your part – you have to stick with it! And be prepared to leave the store without groceries! See: The Berienstein Bears for help on this one!
    • Use “when you have completed this, we can do that”. Heck, I use this as an adult to motivate myself. . . when I have finished the dishes, then I can sit down and watch my favourite TV show. It works for me!

Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Most children want to please their parents and other authorities in their lives. If they’re not “pleasing” you then perhaps there’s a valid reason why they are not.

  • Is the task too big? We all have those situations where we don’t even know where to begin on the task. Perhaps this is one of those situations. You can help them by breaking the tasks down into manageable steps or chunks.
  • Is it unpleasant? Science tells us that we do things to either gain something or avoid something. Perhaps this task is unpleasant and your child is procrastinating to avoid the task. Be honest talk about the fact that it is unpleasant but necessary.
  • Is there a better way? Sometimes it’s not necessarily the task that’s the problem but that the child has a different way of achieving the goals or outcomes which is in conflict with how you would like to task done. Why not let them try? If it gets the job done then you’re happy and they have had the freedom to complete the task in a way that suits their style.

When an agreement is broken…

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, there are times we just forget what we’re supposed to do.

  • Clarify the agreement. “I thought we agreed that you would complete this page, and then we would go to the park.”
  • Write down agreements or understandings. I like this one because it allows the child to use your agreement as a checklist and to be autonomous in the completion of tasks. Writing things down also makes it more official and adds an aura of authority.
  • If an agreement is broken, ask the question “What can we do to fix it?” Here’s an example: I see that you haven’t completed the page, we agreed that you would, what can we do to fix the situation as I would still like to go to the park today.

Give them the power . . . 

No one likes to feel forced into something and children are no different. So give them some power in the situation by…

  • Ask “Who owns the problem?” Is it really your issue or need? Or is it their problem to resolve and solve. For example: if they don’t get this piece of work done, I will look bad as an educator to my Learning Coach. This problem is mine, not theirs. Own your own junk and let them own theirs.
  • Offer them a choice. Hey kid, you can wear the red shirt today or the blue – your choice.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. I’ve always thought it was strange when a parent tells a child to “just suck it up” and they couldn’t possibly be scared or worried or anxious. To the child, those feelings are very real. Sometimes just by acknowledging their feelings, you can help the child overcome them and get to the task.
  • Ask questions. Help them discover where the blockages are? Help them formulate plans to overcome them. The skills you teach them in overcoming these small tasks will help them later in life with much bigger problems.

Helping your child develop their own motivation can be challenging but in the long run, it pays off making your homeschooling journey easier and much more rewarding for everyone.  (This article was written for the intrinsic pleasure of the author! LOL)



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