Sunday, March 21, 2010

Super Sunday Series - Motivation

Welcome back to the Super Sunday Series - where I speak to all topics gifted and how they relate to your child's well-being.  Please click on the tab above if you want to discover more about the Series and its topics.

This week in the Series is MOTIVATION!  Motivation is complex and layered.  There are psychological components, sociological components, and family components to consider.

I've decided today to talk about nurturing motivation.  I think all parents have a fear (some hidden, some announced) that their child won't live up to their "potential."  My gifted bible, A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children, (which I haven't quoted in so long!) says this about it:
Fundamentally, it is difficult for children who are in the upper 3% to stay motivated in an educational system that focuses primarily on the other 97%.  The resulting discouragement is probably the main reason why most gifted children work at least two to four grade levels below their potential.  Pages 61-62.  
So what can parents do to help our gifted children stay motivated when practically everywhere they look they are being told to slow down in some form or another?
  1. Try to be understanding, rather than demanding. 
  2. Find the child's interests, build on that motivation, then work on redirecting it.  In our house, Oldest's interests change often.  Right now, it's Pokemon.  Previously, it's been Scooby Doo or the movie Cars.  I could teach an entire curriculum through her interests when she's in the thick of them.  Seriously.  She might be resistant to division, for example.  But I'll bet if I told her to add up all the Pokemon in one of her books then divide them equally between the three main characters, she would do it so fast (and accurately) my head would spin.  But if I said, "let's work on division!"  She might get herself grounded with the bellyaching she would do.  
  3. Teach your child self-management skills.  Lucky for me, the Montessori philosophy does this quite well.  But learning the art of negotiation, priority setting, and time management are all essential life skills to acquire and they don't come about magically.    
  4. Help your child focus on effort, not just outcome.  Sound familiar?  Perfectionism 101.  
  5. Participate in activities together.  We do this a lot here.  I'll set Oldest up with something and I'll set myself up with something, then we'll work on our projects in the same room.  This will help your child see how you stay motivated and how you work through tough patches.
All tips come from A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children.

Finally, Parent's Guide astutely reminds parents to recognize that our own motivation ebbs and flows, sometimes more than once a day.  So wouldn't it be unfair to expect more motivation from our kids than we expect from ourselves?    

I hope this helps.  If you find something here you'd like to know more about, please let me know in a comment.  I'll be happy to dig a little deeper.  

What do you do in your house to foster motivation?  
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