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5 Myths About Kids and Motivation to Stop Believing in 2023

🎧  Not enough time to read this article? Listen to the podcast episode on this topic. Click here to listen. 🎧

Because self-motivation is such an important and HUGE topic, I’m also continuing the theme in today’s article.

Last week, I told you about the 3 science-backed ingredients that need to be present in your day-to-day parenting in order to influence your child or teen’s self-motivation to grow. I know these ingredients work, too, because not only have I seen success with these ingredients when I used them with my own 2 kids, but I’ve also seen countless numbers of the parents I coach use these ingredients successfully.

So just to review, the three ingredients are autonomy, mastery, and connection, and if you’re new to these ingredients – or you need a reminder – I created a helpful free guide called the Self-Motivation Cheat Sheet that breaks down what these ingredients are and how to use them with your own parenting. You can get the free guide by clicking HERE or by entering your email address in the box below this article.

So now that you know the ingredients to use to grow your child or teen’s self-motivation, today’s article is meant to give you the confidence that YOU can use these ingredients successfully too.

Since the last article and podcast, I’ve received many emails with questions about kids and motivation – and the theme of these emails seems to be that many of you are caught up in some of the myths surrounding self-motivation, and many of these myths are totally wrong – AND keeping your child or teen stuck in the same place they were at.

I don’t want your child or teen to be stuck – I want them to have a better experience this semester than they had last semester.

I want them to avoid the stress and frustration of having to make up a bunch of incomplete work at the end of the semester in order to pass their classes.

I want them to feel proud of themselves for getting good grades this semester.

And most of all, I want them to learn the important life skills of self-motivation NOW so that they are masters with these skills when they become young adults. This is SUPER important for their future!

When I talk about self-motivation, I’m talking about more than just getting homework done. When kids and teens are self-motivated, they feel like they have control over their decisions, that they have great natural talents and interests that make them special, and that these talents and interests connect them to family, friends, and the larger world around them.

Young people who are self-motivated are invested in making good decisions for themselves because they believe that THEY have control over their lives and they WANT to bring about good things in their lives. They enjoy using their natural talents and interests, and they’re able to push through the uncomfortable feelings that cause many young people to give up on a task when that task gets too hard, boring, or intimidating. They are able to avoid procrastination and have developed great skills in the areas of problem-solving and stick-to-itiveness.

Wouldn’t that be great if you were able to put your child or teen on the path to lifelong self-motivation?

Well then, if you haven’t last week’s article on WHY today’s generation struggles with self-motivation so much, then I invite you to read that article in order to gain a good understanding of the 3 important elements. And remember – these elements have a LOT of scientific backing behind them – so they definitely work. I

Now, let’s answer the common objections that I hear from parents about why autonomy, mastery, and connection just won’t work for their child or teen. I KNOW this works – so I want to address the top 5 myths that keep a lot of parents from taking this important step in helping their young person to totally turn around their self-motivation in a good way.

I believe that once you see how these myths aren’t true, you’ll feel more empowered to use the 3 ingredients to begin creating a home environment where your child or teen has no excuse but to succeed.

Ok. Let’s start with the first myth now.


Myth #1: My child is born with low motivation, and that just won’t change.


I hear this myth repeated in the Modern Parenting Solutions office all the time. Parents tell me things like, “My kid has always been lazy – there’s nothing I can do about it.” Or, “I’ve tried everything to get them to turn their homework in on time, but nothing I do works because they just don’t care.” Or, “I’ve always been a procrastinator and was not able to change, and my teen inherited that habit too, so there’s no use fighting it.

I don’t care what excuse you’ve been telling yourself about your young person’s lack of motivation, but I’m here to tell you the truth: self-motivation isn’t a personality trait that is static; rather, it’s something that’s malleable and can improve with attention and the right tools. For example, think of motivation as if it was a physical muscle. When people don’t use their muscles, they atrophy and don’t get any stronger; but, when they go to the gym and work out those muscles, then they get stronger.

Even though self-motivation is an internal drive, the more we use it and exercise it, the more it improves.

Not only is there scientific proof to back this up, but I’ve witnessed so many families improve their young person’s self-motivation after working with them. So if you have the mindset that your child or teen can’t change, they YOU need to choose a different mindset.

Instead of “My child can’t change,” start thinking, “My child CAN change when I use the right parenting tools.”

Instead of having the mindset that, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” start thinking, “I can influence my young person’s self-motivation over time by consistently looking for opportunities to use autonomy, mastery, and connection in my day-to-day parenting.”

Look, I know the 3 ingredients work, but you’ve also got to have a positive mindset when using them too.


Myth #2: My teen is too old to learn to be self-motivated.


Research tells us that this simply is not true. For decades, Richard Ryan and Edward Deci have performed experiments using participants of all ages in order to investigate the ins and outs of self-motivation. I talk a lot about their work in last week’s article and in my online parenting course called The Self-Motivation Success Academy, so if you want to know more about their work – and how it relates to parenting – then I suggest accessing those resources.

But their work highlights the fact that when autonomy, mastery, and connection are present, then children, teens, and adults all have the opportunity to increase their self-motivation. There is not one experiment that they conducted where autonomy, mastery, and connection didn’t work on a particular age group.

So with that being said, you just need to change your mindset from, “It’s to late” to, “Starting to improve my teen’s motivation now is better than never starting at all.”

Certainly, the earlier you begin working with a young person on improving their self-motivation, the better, as you’ll have more opportunities over the years to really drive the lesson home. But, beginning the work with an older teen is just as important because they’ve GOT to master self-motivation if they want to be successful in college, their career, and even in their adult interpersonal relationships.

So don’t let your young person’s age intimidate you from starting this important work with them.


Myth #3: There’s nothing I can do as a parent to help my child to become more motivated.


Parents tell me this myth A LOT. This goes back to the belief that self-motivation is something that people are born with and cannot change, but I think that you’re beginning to see that the truth is exactly the opposite: that self-motivation improves with practice.

But what is the parent’s role in getting their young person to become more self-motivated?

Motivation researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci suggest that the proper question isn’t, “How can parents motivate their kids,” but rather, “How can parents create the condition within which young people will WANT to motivate themselves.”

This is the holy grail of self-motivation, right? We want our young people to independently choose to make good decisions for themselves, create dreams and goals that highlight their natural talents and interests, and become dependable and interesting young adults who attract great people into their lives. We can’t always hover around our kids, making sure they are self-motivated, but we can get them into the habit of self-motivation by creating a home environment that encourages young people to be self-motivated.

So the bottom line here is that if you want your child or teen’s self-motivation to improve, you’ve GOT to get involved now. How? I think you know. By using the three ingredients of autonomy, mastery, and connection.


Myth #4: Rewards or punishments increase motivation


To address this myth, let me tell you about an experiment that motivation researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci performed with college students in their lab. They wanted to answer the question, “What will happen to the internal motivation – or the desire to complete a task for the natural interest or enjoyment of it – if the college students are paid to complete the task? Will their motivation to do the task on their own increase, stay the same, or will it decrease”?

To answer this question, they designed an experiment where they would ask the students to complete a puzzle that was previously shown to be fun and engaging with this age group. Previous work with this puzzle showed that college students enjoyed picking up this puzzle – called a Soma puzzle – and playing with it. The researchers also divided the students into two groups: one group would be paid to solve the puzzle and the other group would not.

Then the experiment started. One by one the students would come into the lab and the researchers asked them to complete the Soma puzzle. After solving the puzzle, the researchers either paid the student for solving the puzzle or not (depending on which group they were in) and then left the room for 8 minutes. During this 8 minutes, the student was left alone with the puzzle, magazines, and a few other distractions.

The question now was, “How would the student spend their time for the 8 minutes?” This was actually the part of the experiment that mattered. And what do you think happened? How do you think paying the students to complete a fun activity affected their future motivation to complete this activity on their own?

In the end, the students who were paid to compete the fun puzzle spend far less time during the 8 minutes picking up the puzzle again. These students seemed to pick up the idea that the puzzle was a task that should only be performed for an external reward. On the other hand, the students who were not paid seemed to enjoy re-working the puzzle during the 8-minute interlude. Their motivation to continue working on the puzzle came from inside – from intrinsic motivation.

So why am I telling you about this experiment? It’s to show you that the two most popular methods parents use to try to motivate their young people just don’t work. Rewards and punishments actually decrease our young people’s motivation.

So what has research shown to increase intrinsic motivation? You got it! Autonomy, mastery, and connection. You can use strategic rewards and consequences to influence self-motivation, but this is a big topic. If you want to know more, I go into detail on this topic in my online course for parents called The Self-Motivation Success Academy.


Myth #5: I can’t influence my child to be self-motivated if I struggle in this area too


Ok. Let me get real with you: ANYONE can inspire a young person to improve their “Motivation Muscle” as long as they focus on the three ingredients.

I’ve seen all kinds of parents use autonomy, mastery, and connection to make a real difference in their young person’s life. And you know what? I’ve also seen some of these same parents improve their own self-motivation in the process! Why? Because before they didn’t understand the ins and outs of what it takes to build one’s “Motivation Muscle” but now that they’re aware of what it takes, they use this information with their kids AND within their own lives.

So if YOU struggle with self-motivation, what can you do? Be sure to incorporate all the elements of autonomy, mastery, and connection in your own life. For example, if you notice that your motivation tanks at work, maybe it’s because you feel controlled during some of your tasks. If this is the case, figure out ways to bring back more autonomy on your part. Do you need to have a talk with your supervisor to suggest ways your voice is heard more during tasks and projects? Or maybe you have a great idea to make a work task better. Bringing back your feeling of autonomy – and the intrinsic motivation that goes along with that – might be all the difference to improving your own self-motivation.

And another thing. Remember to model mastery and connection in front of your young person. Be sure that you’re participating in your own natural talents and interests and cultivating your own connections with family, friends, and others.


Take Home Message


Ok. I hope that by addressing these motivation myths that you now feel more confident in using autonomy, mastery, and connection in your day-to-day parenting with your young person.

Remember, it’s by using these 3 elements consistently that serves to build your young person’s “Motivation Muscle.”

Grab the free Self-Motivation cheat sheet to review the ins and outs of autonomy, mastery, and connection. Click HERE to get it now, or enter your email address in the box below this article.

Now, I know a lot of you want more support with creating a home environment where your child has no choice but to be self-motivated, so that’s why I created the online course for parents called The Self-Motivation Success Academy and I’m so excited to begin teaching a new cohort of parents how to supercharge their young person’s self-motivation.

I only open enrollment twice per year for this online course, and if your young person is about to begin a new semester, this is the PERFECT time to learn how to set your young person up for a successful way to end their academic year. By the end of this 4-week online course, you’ll feel more confident in guiding your young person in a way that improves their self-motivation “muscle”. I love teaching this course, because I’ve had so many parents tell me that they know their young person has so much potential, but they just don’t know how to guide their child to take advantage of that potential for great things. After going through this course with me, you’ll never feel like your child is wasting their potential ever again.

The best thing about The Self-Motivation Success Academy is that I’ve created 3 different ways to take advantage of the course that best fits your lifestyle. The first and easiest way is to take advantage of the self-paced package. In this package, you’re able to watch the lesson videos and complete the lesson worksheets on your own time. If you only have weekend evenings to watch one or two lesson videos, then they’ll be there waiting for you.

The second package is what I call the “Gentle Support” package. In this package, you not only gain access to the online lesson videos and worksheets, but you’ll also gain access to a private Facebook group where I jump on to answer questions and give advice and encouragement. What’s really great about this package is that you get to go through this experience with other awesome parents just like yourself. I’ve found that there’s a lot of value in going through a new experience with support, so I’ve created an experience where you learn from and gain support from your peers who are also going through the same thing – and I get to pop into the group to make sure you’re questions are answered and to provide encouragement too.

Finally, the last package is for those the parent who wants individual coaching alongside the lesson videos. I call this the “All In” package and if you choose this package, you’ll not only gain access to the course videos, worksheets, and Facebook group, but you’ll also get 6 individual coaching sessions with me during the course. This package is the best way to use my expertise in this area, and I love working with the parents that choose this package.

So you can find out more about the Self-Motivation Success Academy and all three packages by clicking HERE.


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Download this FREE resource that goes along with this article:
The Self-Motivation Cheat Sheet