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Ways to Foster Intrinsic Motivation in the Home

Otis making beetroot muffins at HWM

"Montessori education is designed to awaken interest and to allow children to pursue learning about issues that personally interest them. This is necessary to a system that is based on intrinsic motivation." - Montessori the Science Behind the Genius - Angeline Stoll Lillard

Intrinsic motivation is a prompt to action that comes from within the individual; a drive to action that is rewarded by doing the activity itself, rather than deriving some external reward from it. The concept of intrinsic motivation is fundamental to the Montessori philosophy. It is much talked about in the classroom but what about in the home?

Some of these will not work for all children and in all homes, hopefully it will still be useful and give you (and me) a few ideas! 

Ways to foster intrinsic motivation in the home:

  • Create a supportive environment. Yes to encouragement and trust. No to criticism, judgements and critiques. Children should feel free to fail, we often learn more from our failures than our successes. 
  • Set clear and achievable expectations, so that children can meet our expectations and feel a sense of accomplishment and self satisfaction. Our expectations should not be unattainable.
  • Make tasks achievable, with a defined end and outcome. Provide opportunities for children to build skills and build confidence. Give them the opportunity to use these skills. Set the child up for success! Our actions are often based on our beliefs, we need believe we can do a task. Children need to believe in themselves. 
  • Eliminate extrinsic motivations as such punishments and rewards. Children can become dependent on them, then in turn parents become accustomed to them and rely on them.
  • Share accomplishments and struggles with each other. Allow children to share their highs and lows, their progress and all the steps along the way. Remember the key isn't about what you learn but about how you learn. 
  • Allow children to see their successes or improvements over time. Show them how they have improved, how far they have come, "Remember last time you couldn't reach that bar/go that far..."
  • Allow the child to see the impact and value of their work. Community service or helping friends are really good examples where children can feel and see how their work has impacted others.
  • Autonomy. Allow the child to have as much choice as possible. This increases the responsibility and commitment they have towards the task/project. If it has been by their choice they will be more committed to it personally and take personal responsibility to see it to the end, to do the best they can. Allow the child to set their own goals and rules (where possible), children then become accountable to themselves. 
  • Give genuine, accurate and authentic feedback. 
  • Be curious and passionate about learning yourself, seek to learn and do new things, role model enjoying the journey, not just the outcome.
  • Work together or in group to achieve a common goal. This can be as simple as working on a project as a family, where everyone has a role. We can feel valued when working in a team and feel a sense of achievement when as a group we achieve our purpose. Children can feel like they have contributed to something greater than themselves. 

Otis making Muffins at HWM #2

Otis is often intrinsically motivated to bake, he feels confident and capable, he has purpose, he chooses the activity, he wants to do the activity, he is committed and he wants to see (and taste) the results (perhaps that is an external reward too)!  

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