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Breaking Through the ‘Motivation Brick Wall’

Richard Lavoie, educator and author, talks to USA Today about how to motivate kids.

“The most important thing parents and teachers need to do is to keep in mind the balance between what I call support and challenge. You need to constantly challenge kids. But you need to give them the support to meet those challenges,” he says.

Richard Lavoie’s book, The Motivation Breakthrough, outlines six motivational strategies:

Praise. Specific, sincere praise focused on effort and improvement is effective for most children, especially for those motivated by status, recognition or affiliation (a need to belong).

Power. Offering minor choices will help motivate power-driven, autonomous and aggressive children. Avoiding power struggles means figuring out how to give kids some power without ceding your own.

Projects. Using projects to connect different disciplines can stimulate and motivate an autonomous or inquisitive child.

People. Though all children need positive relationships, it’s especially important for adults to build positive relationships with people-oriented kids.

Prizes. Prizes hold huge appeal to children driven by status, recognition, affiliation or power. But because formal reward systems may divert attention from the actual task, Lavoie suggests intermittent rewards not announced ahead of time to celebrate best efforts.

Prestige. To some extent, all children need to feel important, but for autonomous, aggressive, status- or power-driven children, prestige and recognition are fundamental. Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase their talents are important.

The warning Lavoie gives about prizes matches what others have said. This is the reason we don’t use rewards systems at TeamUP! Tutors.

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