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Self Motivation; Cultivating internal and avoiding external motivation.

When trying to understand what can motivate a child to display a particular behavior, it is hard to find anything more motivating than the child’s own feelings. Behavioural science has shown that intrinsic motivation, the type of motivation which comes from within the child, is much more effective in reinforcing a behavior than motivation coming from an outside source, such as the parent or educator. In fact, extrinsic motivation has been shown to even have negative effects on reinforcing behavior, especially in the long term.


Dr Montessori believed that extrinsic motivation, being positive or negative (rewards and punishments) could stifle the child’s development by:


-Quashing intrinsic motivation

-Contributing to performance anxiety

-Fostering dependence on adult intervention and validation, rather than developing self-regulation and self-confidence


Dr Montessori further believed that allowing a child to follow their own intrinsic motivation led to deeper learning and healthier psychological well-being, as the child could engage with the process rather than worrying about how an adult would react to a finished product.


This leaves us, the carers and educators in a bit of an odd position, because we do want to share our joy and pleasure for their achievements and we do want to provide them with feedback. It is necessary for us, too. Below you can see some examples of what seems so natural to us, but that we would do well to avoid.


Some examples of what to avoid saying are platitudes or judgements such as:

“Good job”, “You are very smart”, “Good boy / girl”, “It doesn’t matter / It’s O.K.”


Instead, what we can do is offer P.R.A.I.S.E. by focusing on the Process, showing Respect, Acknowledge the child's efforts, offer our opinion though and 'I' statement, Share our attention with the child, and Enquire about the child's decisions.





Further, we can show our appreciation by saying in the following situations:

If you want to express that you are feeling proud you can ask:

- “How do you feel about that?” or

- “Did you enjoy that? Which part did you enjoy?


If the child does something helpful to you: - “Your help made that much quicker so now I can spend some time with you” or

- “I feel really happy when you help me with that”


When you are overwhelmed by the urge to 'correct' a child:

- “I am glad you tried this today, let's try it again another time, and if you wish I can help you too“

-“It takes practice to learn how to do this. Shall we practice together some other time?”


The majority of this article has been presented first by Jessica Matheson from www.montessorichild.com.au. You can find the original and very impressive infographic which contains many more workable examples by clicking here

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