How to Promote Self-Motivation in Your Children

From the time children are born, their instincts motivate them to satisfy their own needs. They're curious by nature, and want to feel capable and do things on their own. With all of that in mind, we want to tell you how to encourage self-motivation in your children.
How to Promote Self-Motivation in Your Children
Azucena Fernández

Written and verified by the teacher Azucena Fernández.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The feeling of being capable develops and is reinforced constantly by children doing things repeatedly until they feel they’ve mastered them. But many rigid education systems stifle this innate motivation by imposing certain external rewards for learning. Therefore, as a father or mother, it’s important to know how to promote self-motivation in your children.

We need to understand how motivation works and seek to encourage it in children. Their curiosity helps them understand their world and how they should adapt to it. What’s more, this same quality helps them learn what they should do, how to do it, and what helps them move forward.

The brain releases dopamine when we have gratifying experiences. This happens, for example, when we expect something important to happen or we expect an achievement to take place. It also occurs when we expect something to improve or advance. And that’s right when we begin to feel motivated.

Motivation is the impulse that puts us into active mode when we want to complete a task, achieve something, improve, overcome obstacles, or seek success .

Tips to help promote self-motivation in children

Intrinsic motivation (internal)

How to Promote Self-Motivation in Your Children

As a result, they feel driven to learn, take initiative, and continue with the task until they finish it. A higher level of internal motivation causes them to search for challenging tasks. Therefore, they won’t enjoy homework that’s too easy.

Children learn when it’s important for them. Therefore, a lack of meaning behind what they’re learning can reduce intrinsic motivation and interest. For example, things like concentrating too much on good grades or trying to learn without understanding the purpose.

Extrinsic motivation (external)

This motivation drives children to look for the approval of their parents, teachers, or classmates. It causes fear of negative consequences and reduces a genuine interest in learning. This is the type of motivation that appears when children feel pressured to get good grades or seek opportunities and privileges.

It takes away from the fun and enjoyment of the experience and feeds into limiting negative thoughts. Thoughts like, “I have to please someone, avoid punishment, and obtain a reward.”

So, a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation tends to work the best. For example, children may feel motivated when they’re interested in an activity and, at the same time, seek the approval of their teachers or classmates as an incentive.

How to encourage self-motivation in children

Have realistic expectations

It’s important to take into account the personality and temperament of each child. We must help them become the best version of themselves rather than whatever we want them to be. We must encourage them for what they are and appreciate what they’re capable of. And that means not imposing expectations that are unrealistic.

“Children must be taught how to think not what to think.”

– Margaret Mead –

Increase confidence to promote self-motivation in your children

We must give our children opportunities to feel good about themselves and, especially, to feel capable. Whenever children’s curiosity awakens, they try something new, or they make a decision, we must respond with encouragement. We should respect their astonishment and support them in their desire to learn. Confidence in our children is essential for good motivation.

Hard work is important

We must teach children things like not giving up easily. Even when the going gets tough, it’s important to continue. At the same time, we need to foster self-control. This involves helping them in their quest to discover what they’re good at and encourage them in the sincerest way possible.

Help children set goals

Having clear goals improves performance, concentration, and effort. So, we should teach our children to establish their own goals. Small goals work best as they can gradually push little ones to seek and enjoy the challenges. At the same time, we teach them that progress is the result of effort, perseverance, and determination.

How to Promote Self-Motivation in Your Children

If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.

– Haim Ginott –

Appreciate every small achievement to encourage self-motivation in your children

We can appreciate each small accomplishment that our children make by sharing them with important people in their lives. These relationships will give children the courage to explore and learn more about the world.

At the same time, they increase their understanding of how their environment works. When we express compliments, they should always be sincere.

Develop a growth mentality

We can develop a growth mentality in children by teaching them that intelligence isn’t a fixed characteristic. Rather, they can progress with effort and practice. What’s more, learning can take place even after they fail.

Finally, it’s important to remember that encouraging self-motivation in your children will teach them important life skills… Abilities like concentration, attention, problem-solving, self-control, planning, and organization.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Deci, Edward L. Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational psychologist. 1991.
  • Schunk Dale H. y Frank Pajares. The development of academic self-efficacy. Development of achievement motivation. Academic Press. 2002.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.