Motivation– Intrinsic and Extrinsic

Extrinsic rewarding is giving prizes for behaviors, children become motivated to do a task because of the future prize.

Intrinsic motivation is when a child does the task because of its inherently rewarding behaviors (such as self-achievement, fun, empowerment) instead of looking for an outside reward. When kids are looking forward to and waiting for that treat at the end the task actually takes longer, it’s harder, and it’s done half way… sound familiar?

Studies show rewards and punishments are counterproductive and undermine “intrinsic motivation”. Extrinsic motivation negatively correlated with academic outcomes. Intrinsic motivation is associated with higher academic performance and many other positive future outcomes.


So how do you stop giving your kids rewards for everything?


  1. First is breaking the practice and offer explanations. Now instead of saying “Go clean your room so you can earn TV, sticker, treat” consider why they need to do what you want them to do and say that instead. “It’s been awhile since the clothes and toys have been picked up in your room and it’s hard to find things, today is a great day to get organized!”. Then follow suggestions below:
  2. Redirection- describe the emotions you feel when things are completed like organized toys (joy, freedom, happy when you can find a toy faster or your shoe in the morning), dancing around a clean room and not tripping, having fun while doing the task (we play songs and dance in between). When the focus is on the task and not on the candy at the end the task it is more enjoyable and is completed faster.
  3. Success Follows Success– When kids are winning they work harder. Break down tasks in small manageable pieces. Kids (and humans) need gratification and  feeling of accomplishment to stay motivated. “You pick up the red blocks and I pick the yellow and blue, wow you worked hard picking it up”. “You think next time you could get ALL the blocks? (New goal)”.
  4. Find them doing things right– “Thank you for being patient while I finish up what I’m doing, I can’t wait to play with you” “ Wow, you are stacking those blocks well” “ Thank you for sharing with your sister, she is so happy.” “Thanks for turning off the TV and coming to eat”. Be specific on what they did.
  5. Give Greater Hope– Understand their dreams and aspirations and help them work toward them. (Possible Selves Theory)
  6. Growth Mindset– Read the book Bubble Gum Brain with kids (learn about having a growth mindset, that you can develop talents through hard work and talents aren’t something you lack or have. Helps with willingness to try challenging tasks)

Use extrinsic motivation for intrinsic motivation!! What is this? Reward your child if they show growth and self-motivation but not a known prize they will get automatically. Like if they worked hard at making their bed in the morning you can leave a toy or treat for them at breakfast or in their bed recognizing how proud you are of them.


Think about how you were motivated as a kid. Are the tasks you were extrinsically motivated to do harder to do now? Or less likely for you to do? It’s never too late to change!

For more help and questions schedule an appointment today with Dr. Gonzalez!


Schedule a meet and greet to learn more about the practice: