• Dr Nikki James

Internal Motivation # 1

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Motivation is the desire to act in the service of a goal! Right now 860 Million children and teenagers are out of school. The lucky ones, have the opportunity to continue their education online! But the struggle is REAL.


Motivation is in the service of A GOAL, A PURPOSE or A WHY!


At school kids have external motivators in the form of teachers and friends. So even if they don't know WHY they are learning algebra or reading Shakespeare they have lots of external motivators that act like the bumpers do in bumper bowling! They keep our kids going towards the goal even if they're not heading in the right direction.


At home, they have you! You've probably used external motivators to get your kids to do their homework! Maybe you offered playtime or desert after homework is finished! These motivators are GREAT (everyone loves a treat!) but in this scenario the learning isn't the goal it's the TASK that leads to a short term reward.


It's likely that with your kids doing school at home you'll have to have even more external motivators - and probably bigger ones too!


What if the silver lining of social distancing could be developing internal motivation for learning! How? Help your kids see how what they are learning today connects with their goals.


Here's a quick lesson you can use to do this with your kids!


1. Pick a computer game and play it!


2. After playing for a while use these prompt questions to have a conversation with your kids about the goals of the game:

  • What's the goal of the game?

  • Ask about specific things they did in the game. Eg. Why did you pick up the banana peel? What did that jetpack you put on do? Why did you collect those materials?

  • Ah! So you picked up the banana peel (Task) so that you could WIN (Goal)!


NOTE: When a game designer built the game there was a reason behind these things. Maybe the GOAL of the game is to WIN and the banana peel can cause competitors to slip up. Maybe the jetpack is needed to win against the alien at the end of the round.


3. Now let's try and transfer this link between goals and tasks to their school work.

  • What's a goal you want to achieve? or What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • Why do you want to do that?

  • What are you learning today that will help you achieve that goal?


NOTE: If they don't make the link, help them out! You can do this by asking them more about what they are learning and connect it to tasks they would do to achieve their goal.



In a game, the time between task and goal is short! So it is easier for kids to make the connection. Linking their class work today to a future goal requires longer term thinking. So helping your kids understand the TASK - GOAL link in games and transferring this to longer term situations in their real life can help them develop their internal motivation for things that will help them achieve their goals!


I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.




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