What is the  driving factor that motivates children to learn?

In many educational models, motivation is based on punishments and rewards. Children work for good grades, social recognition, and to avoid negative attention, embarrassment, and shame.  These are the rewards for studying, reading, writing well, understanding mathematical principles, and memorizing dates from history. Some children even have secondary reward systems built around these initial rewards. For example, parents may pay a child a certain number of dollars for each ‘A’  they bring home, promise them a fun trip if they get a certain grade point average, or ground the child if his test scores are not up to standard. It’s the age old “carrot and stick” mentality. Students are trained to focus on acquiring “carrots” (rewards) and avoiding “sticks” (punishments).

Here is intrinsic motivation specialist Alfie Kohn explaining why grades don’t actually benefit a child’s education…

Why Grades Shouldn't Exist - Alfie Kohn

At American Family Education, we believe that there is a better way. An intrinsic form of motivation that inspires children and parents to study, accomplish, and progress. This motivation is found by connecting students to their Purpose. It is discovering “the heart” or “the why” of their education that drives them forward.

Why do we study math? Why do we study history? Why do we strive to master grammar and spelling skills? When students understand the purpose, they cease to need carrots and sticks.

Instead of focusing of fear based, short term rewards and punishments, we lead and teach by first supporting the child’s natural love of learning and then helping each student connect to their own personal purpose–the Why– behind their learning.

The road to purpose is not always straight forward. The shift from coercion based education to self-directed education is found in helping each child “own” their education. How can we help our students make this shift? Here is Adam Hailstone explaining how to help students to mentally own their education…

Adam Hailstone - Self-Directed Learning and Helping Your Children Own Their Education

Learning is inherently enjoyable! Children are naturally curious! When we strip away all of the layers of coercion and control that have been placed between children and education, and provide excellent examples of what they could accomplish, we get students who are joyful in their learning, engaged in what they are accomplishing, and driven to do more than the bare minimum.

This can’t happen unless we as parents and educators step away from coercion and fear based methods.  Here is Dr. Becky Bailey explaining how fear based parenting or teaching cuts students off from the higher centers of their brains that enable them to think and problem solve.

Dr. Becky Bailey at TEDx - Wiring the Brain for Success

Here is Kaity Broadbent walking you through some ideas for how to identify your long term vision and purpose for the education of your children and how you can help them find their individual life missions or purposes. To read more about this please see Kaity’s post: Finding the Why.

How to Help Your Kids Identify their Purpose

When children understand their purpose they become intrinsically motivated, self-directed learners.

Continue to Step 5: Heart