Aug 17, 2023
min read
Parent Resources

Unlocking the Power of Motivation: Exploring Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Elizabeth Adams
Chief Clinical Officer

As a parent, you're undoubtedly concerned about nurturing your child's motivation and drive. We all want our children to be enthusiastic learners, self-driven and curious individuals. But how do we strike the right balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation — and what’s the difference, anyway? Good news! We are here to guide you through this intriguing journey of motivating your child effectively.

Motivation is the driving force behind our actions, propelling us towards personal and professional success. In the realm of child development, understanding the interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is pivotal for nurturing a child's potential. As we explore the depths of these motivations, we uncover the keys to guiding our young ones towards a fulfilling and motivated life.

Intrinsic Motivation: Fostering Passion from Within

Intrinsic motivation is the fire that burns from within. It's the enthusiasm that arises when a child engages in an activity purely for the joy it brings. This type of motivation isn't influenced by external rewards or pressures; it's fueled by personal interest, satisfaction, and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies the pursuit of one's passions. When children are intrinsically motivated, they exhibit higher levels of creativity, persistence, and deep engagement.

Extrinsic Motivation: The External Nudge

In contrast, extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors such as rewards, recognition, or the avoidance of negative consequences. While it might initiate action, its impact on long-term commitment and satisfaction is less profound. Extrinsic motivators, such as grades, prizes, and praise, can influence behavior, but they need to be wielded thoughtfully to ensure they don't overshadow intrinsic desires.

The Blurry Line Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The boundary between these two forms of motivation isn't always distinct; they often intermingle in complex ways. Intrinsic motivation is like the spark that drives children to explore, learn, and create. When a child tackles a puzzle simply because they find it fun, that's intrinsic motivation in action. It's the foundation for lifelong learning and self-discovery. Extrinsic motivation, while not inherently negative, involves incentives that come from outside. Think of it as the nudge that encourages children to complete chores for a promised reward or to excel in school to earn parental approval. It’s also worth noting that external environmental factors and individual differences can also impact children’s motivation at home or in school

Navigating the Spectrum of Motivation

The key lies in understanding that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play crucial roles. As parents, we can foster intrinsic motivation while judiciously employing extrinsic motivation to enhance the learning experience. Here are some tips:

  • Cultivate Curiosity: Encourage your child's innate curiosity by providing a rich and stimulating environment. Expose them to books, art, nature, and a variety of experiences to ignite their passion for exploration.
  • Set Goals: Collaborate with your child to set achievable goals. This empowers them to take charge of their own progress, fueling their intrinsic motivation to succeed.
  • Praise Effort, Not Results: Focus on acknowledging your child's effort rather than just their achievements. This approach cultivates a growth mindset, where they value the process of learning over immediate outcomes.
  • Make Learning Enjoyable: Introduce gamified learning activities or turn chores into engaging challenges. This combines elements of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, making tasks enjoyable and rewarding.
  • Use Extrinsic Motivation Wisely: When using rewards, ensure they are occasional and unexpected. This prevents over-reliance on external incentives and maintains the child's natural enthusiasm.
  • Encourage Autonomy: Give your child choices and let them take ownership of decisions. This nurtures their sense of independence and self-motivation.
  • Embrace Failure: Teach your child that setbacks are opportunities for growth. Resilience and a willingness to try again are key components of intrinsic motivation.

In the dynamic landscape of child development, the interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is like a delicate dance. As parents, our role is to cultivate a nurturing environment where both forms of motivation coexist harmoniously. Remember, intrinsic motivation is the heart of lifelong learning, while extrinsic motivation can be a useful tool when wielded thoughtfully. By understanding the nuances of these motivations and applying the principles of psychology, you're empowering your child to become a motivated, resilient, and self-driven individual.

We are long time users and fans of Ello. Our daughter was late to show interest in reading, and getting her to try was always a battle. Ello was a game changer for our family. We have been so pleased with the improvements we’ve seen in our daughter’s confidence and interest in reading. It’s been very fun to watch her grow. But we didn’t realize just how much of a concrete impact Ello has had until we received her end of the year data from school. She went from being below grade level to well above the benchmark! We are blown away by the growth and we know that a big part of that is thanks to Ello. Caroline is now a confident reader who gets caught reading for fun in her bed long after lights off. As parents, we couldn’t be happier!
Elizabeth M., Happy Ello Parent