When students return to Shorecrest after the summer break, they have renewed motivation and drive. But just like New Year’s resolutions often fade before February, children tend to lose sight of those new-school-year goals without the proper support.
A while back Psychology Today published an article by Ray Williams in their Wired for Success: How to fulfill your potential section, entitled, "'Carrot and Stick' Motivation Revisited by New Research". The article is worth reading whether you are focused on your children or your own careers and workplaces.
In short, Williams refers to brain research that shows that the carrot–and-stick approach to motivation does not have universal impact. Since we are not all “wired the same,” we will not have similar responses to positive or negative rewards. The author does provide some ideas from Daniel Pink and other writers which highlight the importance of intrinsic motivators over extrinsic motivators.
At Shorecrest, we have firm belief in the concept put forth in Carol Dweck's book Mindset. There is a growing body of evidence showing that successful children and adults believe they have the ability to improve as long as they continue to work hard and deliberately on a task. This may require being open to support and new approaches from others.
Parents who sit with their children and set reasonable goals help to maintain that back-to-school motivation. Steering children towards rewards such as getting placed in a higher level class, improving test scores, and or getting a work published can lead to continuous effort on the part of the child.
Of course, many parents know the extrinsic motivators that appeal to their children. As long as we do not discourage a growth mindset with our external awards, the extrinsic rewards sure can be a joy. I still lust after the ‘64 red convertible Stingray my father used to dangle at me. Though I was not ready to achieve the goal that warranted a new car, I fondly remember achieving enough to earn a banana split.
Set goals. Teach children to determine intrinsic rewards and have fun with them.