Early Childhood Education

Raising Internally Driven Preschoolers

Raising Internally Driven Preschoolers

Every parent wants their children to grow up to be successful and self-motivated individuals. But if you’ve been around people lately, you’ve probably noticed that being internally driven is very much a learned skill. So how can parents instill a sense of internal drive and motivation in their preschooler? Here are some tips on how to raise internally driven kids.

Encourage Their Interests

Kids who are internally driven are passionate about their pursuits. Encourage your child to explore their interests, and provide them with opportunities to pursue them. 

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And remember … your child is in preschool. Don’t worry about whether or not their interests look good on a college résumé. The goal here is to get them internally motivated, not to perform. So whether it’s sports, music, art, or bugs, your child will be more motivated to improve and achieve when they are doing something they love.

Avoid External Rewards 

External rewards instantly undermine efforts to develop an internal drive. Stickers and candy can be effective in the short term, but they do not foster internal motivation. 

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Instead, focus on using praise to reward your child’s effort and hard work. When they feel proud of what they have accomplished, they’ll be much more likely to continue working toward their goals.

Set Realistic Goals

Whether it’s learning a new skill or learning how to care for themselves more and more, your preschooler will need some direction on what direction to head in. Helping them set realistic goals will help your child build their self-confidence and motivation. 

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Without some help, your child might get disappointed when they can’t succeed because their goals are too ambitious. On the other hand, they may get bored if the goals they’ve decided on are too easy. Help them set some small goals and gradually increase the difficulty as they get older and more skilled. When your child achieves a goal, celebrate their success and encourage them to set a new one.

Let Them Fail

Failure is a part of the learning process. When your child fails, it can be tempting to step in and fix the problem for them. 

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But if you become the person who steps in and does everything for your child when things get hard, it zaps their motivation to keep trying at all. Instead, let them experience failure and help them to learn from their mistakes. When they overcome obstacles and learn from their failures, they will be more resilient and internally motivated.

Provide Autonomy & Independence

Kids who are allowed to be independent and have some control over their lives are more likely to be internally motivated.

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Obviously, you’re not handing them the keys to your car and telling them to have fun. However, find opportunities and rituals that allow your child to make decisions, such as what they wear to school or what extra activities they participate in. This helps them to develop their sense of autonomy, responsibility, and internal motivation. When they “own” their decision-making, they may feel more motivated to follow things through. 

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Model Internal Motivation

Yep. Here we are again. That part of the article where we reiterate that one of the hardest and most necessary parts of your job is modeling the behavior you want for your children in your own life. 

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But seriously. Kids learn by watching the adults around them. And you, their caregiver, are the most important adult in their world! When your child sees you working hard and persevering, they will be more likely to adopt these behaviors themselves. So make sure your child knows about the things you are working toward in life, when you find success, and how you work through setbacks and disappointment. Like it or not, you are the best example they have in life on what it looks like to be internally motivated. 

Raising internally driven kids is an ongoing process. It’s not learned in a day. (As an adult, think about the last week and the moments where you either had to dig deep to find internal motivation!) These strategies can help kids develop a sense of purpose and self-motivation, which are essential for success in all areas of life. By instilling these qualities in your child, you are setting them up for a lifetime of achievement and fulfillment.

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