internal motivation

5 Tips to Raise Children Who Have Internal Motivation

Why do we do the things we do? the could be many reasons, whether it is to fit in, to be praised or because you simply want to. As intentional parents, the top of our list is to raise children who have internal motivation. Children who can achieve the results that they want and stay focused on their goals.

Of course, having the agency to make the right decisions will be something that our children develop along the way. We want them to be part of the process while understanding how to make the right decisions.

internal motivation Different Types of Motivation

The reality is that sometimes outside factors motivate us. This is known as extrinsic motivation. Perhaps you could be motivated to complete a task to earn money or approval from your family or friends. Or your child could finish their homework on time so that they can get their phones to jump on Snapchat. These are all examples of extrinsic motivation at play.

On the other hand, Intrinsic motivation (also referred to as internal motivation); is engaging in something for our own personal reasons and goals. It might be because we have positive emotions like joy, achievement or feelings of pride in ourselves. And we are much more likely to stick with change if we are doing something we like or want or need to do for our benefit.

Additionally, internal motivation can result from our feelings; such as happiness or anger, or thoughts; such as “I better finish the report before the deadline tonight” as well as values and goals. The home environment and the family will play a big part in shaping your child’s values.

According to a study, praising children’s effort encourages them to adopt incremental motivational frameworks. They believe ability is malleable; that they can learn and get better; attribute success to hard work, enjoy challenges, and generate strategies for improvement. Indeed, parents can give their children the gift of an inner voice that praises perseverance, hard work, and fosters their inner-belief that they can do it.

Mother and Son Hugging

Growth Mindset

Intrinsic motivation is related to the concept of growth mindset — the idea that our abilities are not set in stone and that we can learn from mistakes.

We want our children to do things because they want to do well and because it feels good to do well, not just tied to getting a reward. Longer-term, we want our children to have a sense of pride in their accomplishments, whether academically or in their actions.

Our children should understand that failure is simply feedback and that they can always try their best, learn from their mistakes and get up again. To have this ability to get back up, to persevere, to believe in them themselves and their abilities; they need to be trained in having a growth mindset.

Having a growth mindset is a critical ingredient in having internal motivation. Click To Tweet

Having a growth mindset is a critical ingredient in having internal motivation. It is like a muscle in a way. When a child is encouraged to be their best and to trust the process and believe that they can learn, their abilities in themselves will get strengthened.

For parents in addition to praising effort; you should also help your child reflect on how they feel when they work hard at something. Help them to self-reflect and recognise that they worked hard and pay attention to how they feel. Help them to name the emotion they feel. And remember that no emotion in itself is bad, rather it is an indicator.

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

― Carol S. Dweck, Developmental Psychologist

Focus on the Process

Many times children are socialised and conditioned to look for praise and focus on the result. So in school, do they get the prize for coming first in class, at home do the parents show love or give a gift for completing a chore or coming first in the race? Rather than simply focus on the outcome, as either good or bad, worthy of praise or not; it is much more effective to focus on the process.

As a parent, when you raise your child in an environment where they are taught to show up and do their best, thought to focus on the process and love to learn, they are more likely to learn to be motivated for the right reasons.

All children are born with internal motivation, but it often diminishes as children mature. But rather than follow this pattern, parents can preserve and protect their children’s internal motivation.

All children are born with internal motivation, but it often diminishes as children mature. But rather than follow this pattern, parents can preserve and protect their children's internal motivation. Click To Tweet

So rather than praise your child as “so smart when he or she gets a good grade; praise them for working hard and ask how they feel?”If your child always asks you if you are proud of them, you can also make sure to ask how he or she feels about their achievements as well.

A child whose love language is words of affirmation might need to hear you tell them that you are proud of them, but you want to ensure that they are also building the ability to affirm themselves and trust in their ability to do good work or make good decisions

The choice of school is also critical in reinforcing this as well. For example, one of the reasons the Montessori classrooms are great is that they work with each child’s abilities and personalize their learning. Look out for schools that believe in personalizing learning to match each child’s abilities.

Children’s internal motivation thrives when they are able to develop their skills slowly by practising things that are just hard enough to help them progress. At home, this means that you offer minimal support when calling a child to learn something. You can be there to encourage them, but let them do it themselves. For example, when your child is learning to tie their shoelaces, let them try while you support them, do not always do it for them. If things are done for children all the time, they will never get the agency to do it themselves.

internal motivation Be a Coach

The benefit of working with a coach is that they are able to help you get where you want to go; by encouraging you and holding you accountable. Ultimately you do the work, but there is someone helping you to focus on your strengths so you do achieve your goals.

The goal of coaching is not to do the work for you, but rather to tap into your internal motivations to achieve the goals you set for yourself. For example, when I work with my clients, we start with their values, beliefs and goals as well as ensure that when they set their goals they are SMART and tied to what he or she truly wants to achieve.

A life coach is a person that works in partnership with an individual to help them reach their potential across all facets of life.

According to a study by the International Coaching Federation, 80% of people who hired a life coach reported an improvement in self-confidence.

All this reference to coaching is to highlight how an intentional parent is the best life coach for a child. As a parent who wants to raise a child who has the internal motivation and agency to be their best in life; you need to focus on your child’s strengths. In addition, focusing on your child’s natural interests is a way to raise a child to be the best version of him or herself. Every child will thrive if they have the enabling environment and parents who raise them to be the best version of themselves. Focus on strengths, encourage them, love them unconditionally, challenge them in the right ways and ensure that as a family you are clear on your values.

Having a growth mindset is a critical ingredient in having internal motivation. Click To Tweet

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It means you are making emotions work for you, instead of against you. The ability to understand and manage emotions greatly increases the chances of our children mastering internal motivation. They are able to understand, identify and express how they feel after taking certain actions or making certain decisions.

Children with higher levels of emotional intelligence perform better in school. In addition, they tend to manage conflict better and develop deeper friendships. All of these traits add to a child’s ability to thrive in life and overcome any challenge they might face. At the heart of internal motivation is having a good level of self-awareness to make the right decisions and take the actions that will lead you towards the goals of ideal outcomes.

No matter how emotionally intelligent your child seems, there is always room for improvement. And there are likely to be some ups and downs throughout childhood and adolescence. As your child grows, he is likely to face obstacles that will be challenging. Therefore make it a goal to incorporate this skill into everyday life.

Ask questions that encourage conversation. For example, do not ask your child “how was school?” which is a closed-ended question; rather ask “What did you enjoy the most today in school?” this gives them the ability to self-reflect and give you more insight into their day.

To encourage your child to be internally motivated to do things, they will need to be able to self-reflect. This means being able to ask themselves, why and how? “Why do I want to do this?” and “How will I feel” or “How am I going to achieve this?”


Overall, raising a child who has internal motivation is a mix of various skills learnt over time. If a child develops a growth mindset, loves learning and is raised in an enabling environment; where they are taught the skills to make the right decisions, then your child is on the right path to thrive.

Whether your child is a toddler or older, he or she needs to have the self-belief that they can achieve what they set their minds to. A fixed mindset is one that says I can’t do, while a growth mindset is one that thinks I do not understand that yet, but I can learn. 

raising a child who has internal motivation is a mix of various skills learnt over time. Click To Tweet

Self-belief encompasses the belief in your values, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Self-believe is very important because it affects a person’s lifestyle and choices. A child who has self-belief knows their worth and value.

A person without self-belief will constantly downplay their abilities while settling for less than what they deserve. Most times, the individual takes whatever blow life deals because they do not believe that they deserve better.

A child who grows up in an unhappy home, or with very critical parents can grow up with a lack of confidence in their abilities. Peer pressure and the choice of friends can also have a positive or negative effect on children.

As Henry Ford famously said, “whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right”. This goes to show that your belief in yourself is a determining factor in your success, and your internal motivation to show up and do things in life!

We all want to raise children who become adults who have a true sense of their abilities, are able to achieve what they put their minds to and have the internal motivation to make the right choices.

Read Also: Beauty and Self-Worth

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