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What Motivates Your Child to Learn?

Understand what motivates each of your children and whether those motivators are formed within themselves or developed through external circumstances.

My oldest son entered kindergarten unable to recite his ABCs, though I started working with him before he could walk. I did a lot less for my second son academically, but he was fully prepared for school. What works for one child doesn’t always work for another. And the more motivated a child is, the easier he’ll be able to learn.

When my youngest son started reading, he was driven by his desire to be like his older brothers. Some kids have intrinsic motivation (from within themselves), but this son had mostly extrinsic motivation (from external factors).

Of course, no form of motivation is inherently superior to another. Instead, each is a means toward academic success for individual children. So study your children to determine which areas best motivate them.

Intrinsic Motivators

Personal Achievements

Some children desire to be viewed as competent and successful in academics and other activities. If this motivates your child, here’s what you can do:

  • Recognize your child’s hard work and character qualities, not just his achievements. This helps
    develop a resilient learner.
  • Help him set small goals to keep track of his improvement.
  • Expect excellence, and don’t give him unearned praise or he may lose motivation to succeed.

Personal Interests

Some children are motivated by their natural attraction to a specific topic. If this motivates your child, here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage your child to find relevance and a connection to what she is studying, even if certain
    parts of the topic don’t naturally interest her.
  • Give her some control of her own learning, within your guidelines.
  • Encourage her to explore her personal interests through research, interviews, hands-on experiences, etc.

Extrinsic Motivators


Some children are motivated when they feel acceptance, encouragement or pressure from others. If this is how your child is motivated, here’s what you can do:

  • Focus on building a strong relationship with your child.
  • Affirm him as an individual, and help him better understand that his identity is in Christ, not the acceptance of people.
  • Concentrate on his strengths, and set people in his life who can mentor him in those areas.


Some children understand that the outcome of learning is valuable. If this motivates your child, here’s
what you can do:

  • Help your child continue to understand how each area of learning is relevant to her life now and
    in the future.
  • Make time for meaningful conversations about the importance and purpose of education.
  • Share your enthusiasm for what she has learned, and express appreciation for what she
    is in the process of achieving.
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If you need further guidance and encouragement, Focus on the Family has a staff of licensed, professional counselors who offer a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective. They can also refer you to counselors in your area for ongoing assistance.
Reach a Focus on the Family counselor toll-free at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).

Understand How to Respect and Love Your Son Well

"Why doesn’t my son listen to me?" Have you ever asked yourself that? The truth is, how you view your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. We’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Focus on Parenting Podcast

Mom or dad, could you use some encouragement and support? Put your ear buds in for this Christian parenting podcast and get practical, faith-based inspiration through all stages of parenting. Hosted by Dr. Danny Huerta, in every 8 to 15 minute episode, you’ll hear parenting experts share Biblical truths, effective parenting techniques, and useful resources that will help you feel equipped as a mom or dad in today’s culture.
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Learn How to Speak Your Strong-Willed Child's Language

In this free 6-part video series, Cynthia Tobias, author of many popular parenting books including You Can’t Make Me, explains why your strong-willed child thinks in certain ways and gives you effective tools you can use when communicating with him or her. Start today!

Get Equipped With the Truth So
You Can Bring Light to the Lies

Abortion is not an easy subject to talk about. You want to defend the truth, to expose the realities so easily confused during these times. Yet, it is so easy to tense up, to get nervous, to get so concerned with wanting to say the “right thing” that you end up saying nothing at all. If you feel at a loss when these conversations come up, this video series, “8 Lies About Abortion,” can help equip you with the truth, and the confidence to engage in the discussion.

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We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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