What Motivates Kids in 2024: Unveiling the Driving Forces of Motivation plus 10 Practical Tips

what motivates kids

What motivates kids and what can you do to get your child motivated? This article will help answer those questions and give you 10 actionable ways to motivate your kids that many parents only dream of!

Do you have kids who always seem to just lounge around the house and complain of being bored? How about a child who refuses to listen when you ask them to do their homework or chores? The lack of motivation can be so maddening!

If you are like we are then you probably have high aspirations for your kids and want them to succeed in every aspect of their lives. That is why we have worked hard to understand what motivates our children just like you are doing right now! So give yourself a good pat on the back and keep on reading!

Three Sources of What Motivates Kids

Three sources of motivation

To understand how to motivate kids we must first learn what motivates them and how motivation works. In our research, we have found three main sources of motivation that can be applied to you and your children!

1. Internal Motivation:

Internal motivation is a lasting motivation to succeed, and accomplishing goals comes from within!

This kind of motivation is the strongest kind of motivation. One of the most life-transforming courses we have ever taken is Positive Parenting Solutions. In this course, we were taught that kids learn best when they are motivated internally.

Internal motivation will foster positive behavior in your children without you having to nag or remind them constantly.

When your kids are faced with serious decisions, internal motivation will help your kids make positive choices even when you are not around to encourage or advise them. For us as parents, this is the ultimate goal because our kids spend so much time away from our influence as early as kindergarten!

Here are 4 reasons why internal motivation is so powerful.

  1. Curiosity and Exploration: Children possess an innate curiosity to explore the world around them. This drives intrinsic motivation and encourages them to ask questions, seek answers, and engage in activities that satisfy their intellectual curiosity.
  1. Autonomy and Independence: As children grow, they develop a desire for autonomy and independence. Motivation flourishes when kids are given opportunities to make choices, take responsibility, and assert their independence within a supportive framework.
  2. Mastery and Competence: The pursuit of mastery and competence is a powerful motivator for children. When they experience success in a particular skill or task, it boosts their self-esteem and fuels a desire to tackle more challenging endeavors.
  3. Interest and Passion: Children are naturally drawn to activities that capture their interest and ignite their passion. Encouraging them to explore their hobbies and interests fosters a sense of purpose and motivation.

2. External Motivation

External Motivation is often the most common type of motivation we consider when trying to help our child learn.

This type of motivation often involves rewards for a certain behavior or action. These rewards can range from a new toy to a simple word of praise.

External motivation is temporary. Children will lose motivation and self-confidence when their behavior is based on external motivation. Think of it this way; if your child is only motivated to clean their room because they get to watch TV once they do, then what will motivate them to keep their room clean when the TV is broken or when they are living on their own at college?

Some kids may be motivated by a fear of negative consequences. Make sure to use punishment as sparingly as you can. You want your kids to be motivated by positive consequences, not negative ones.

External motivation is a quick and easy fix to get a desired behavior, but it has little lasting impact on your child’s life.

That being said, it is still important to know how to use external motivation in your home. Here are 4 ways a child can be externally motivated:

  1. Recognition and Praise: External validation, such as recognition and praise from parents, teachers, or peers, can significantly impact a child’s motivation. Positive reinforcement encourages their efforts and helps them to persist in their endeavors. It is important to recognize the child’s efforts rather than praising them with a label. For example, when they draw a picture say “That looks like you worked really hard on that, great job!” as opposed to “you are such a great artist”. Make sure to praise effort more than end results or anything else.
  2. Reward Systems: Utilizing reward systems, such as stickers, tokens, or a points system, can motivate children to accomplish tasks and follow through on responsibilities. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance to prevent an overreliance on external rewards.
  3. Parental Involvement and Support: A supportive environment created by parents plays a pivotal role in motivating children. Providing assistance, encouragement, and constructive feedback helps instill a sense of security and motivation to pursue goals.
  4. Peer Influence: The desire to fit in and be accepted by peers can drive children to engage in various activities. Positive peer relationships can serve as a motivating factor, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

3. Environmental and Social Factors:

Learning Environment:

  • The atmosphere in which children learn significantly impacts their motivation. A stimulating and supportive learning environment, both at home and in school, can enhance their motivation to explore, learn, and grow.

Cultural Influences:

  • Cultural backgrounds shape children’s values, beliefs, and motivations. Understanding and respecting diverse cultural perspectives are essential in fostering motivation that aligns with individual and collective cultural values.

Social Expectations and Role Models:

  • Children often emulate the behaviors of significant adults and role models in their lives. Young kids will also look at other kids for what is acceptable. We see our 4-year-old mimicking his older brother’s behavior all of the time! Setting positive examples and establishing clear expectations can influence children’s motivation by providing them with models to aspire to.

10 Ways to Motivate Kids: Favorites in Our Home!

1. Vision Boards

vision board

This is a fun and creative way to help your kids set goals! We have our kids find pictures in magazines or online that represent a goal they want to achieve. We then have them glue these pictures onto a poster board or poster paper and hang it up in their room where they can see it every day.

This is a great way for kids to use the power of visualization! Kids feel empowered when they get to make their own goals and find their own pictures to visually represent those goals.

We often refer them to their vision board when they are struggling with a behavior. This is a great way for kids to foster internal motivation. We even use vision boards ourselves to help us achieve our goals!

2. Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful way to help kids keep a positive and optimistic outlook on life! When we are grateful for what we have we will naturally find ourselves receiving more things we can be grateful for!

In our home, we like to go over things we are grateful for with our kids every night before we pray at bedtime. This helps our kids and us as parents realize what great blessings we have in our lives. Gratitude we believe is the key to lifelong motivation and wholesome family living!

3. Acknowledge Achievements

“I noticed that you were sharing with your brother, great job! This is helping you work toward your goal of being kind to others!”

Acknowledgment like this is something we strive to do in our home. It is so rewarding as a parent to see your child’s self-confidence boosted when you notice their hard work and successes!

Helping your kids recognize their successes will greatly motivate them and give them positive energy to continue having those successes in the future!

4. Tell Stories of Motivated People in History

Thomas Edison quote

This has been a new way we have found to help motivate our kids. Give your kids people to relate to and draw strength from!

For example, when our oldest son wants to give up when something is hard we remind him of the story of the Wright brothers. They crashed tons of times and had to keep pushing through failure on their learning journey. It was because they never gave up that they were able to create a successful plane!

There are so many people in history who can help motivate your kids. Others we have used are Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, Alexander Grahm Bell, and Michael Jordan. Many of the stories we get come from a heroes video collection on the Living Scriptures streaming service.

5. Be Happy For Others Accomplishments

It is important as a family that we celebrate each other’s accomplishments. We teach our kids that when you are excited for others they will naturally want to be excited for you.

This mutual respect creates a support system within your family that will help motivate your kids and your family as a whole!

6. Focus on your Faith

You may not be religious and that is ok. In whatever way you foster spirituality in your home make it a priority!

In our home, our faith in Christ is one of the greatest motivators for us and our children. We feel we receive strength from God as we make sure to put Him first.

Our kids have often been motivated to be kind or obedient because of a scripture story we talked about in the past! Our boys love being able to relate to scripture heroes and often strive to be more like them.

7. Discover Their Passions

Every child has different gifts and abilities. Make an effort to get to know your children and find out what their passions are.

Once you have identified certain passions and gifts your child has, you can create activities and jobs around the house based on these passions. When a child’s passions are involved they are much more likely to be and stay motivated!

8. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

kid playing baseball

Helping your kids to have a growth mindset can be really difficult! Let’s be honest, it is difficult for us as adults.

One way we have found that helps is by being vulnerable with our kids. Don’t be afraid to admit when you messed up as a parent and ask your kids for help to do better next time.

This will make it so much easier to in turn encourage your kids to view failure as a learning experience on the road to success. We all mess up so instead of getting upset about it we should learn and grow from those mistakes.

9. Foster a Love for Learning

If you can teach your kids to love to learn then they will be self-motivated to read, study, and do their homework! Be creative to find ways to make learning fun.

We strive to make reading fun for our kids because we feel that books unlock a world of learning for kids no matter their interests! Books are a powerful tool to teach your kids to love to learn!

We also love to play educational games and watch educational movies with our kids!

10. Encourage Independence in Problem-Solving

We always tell our kids that we won’t do something for them that they can do for themselves. We tell them that we have confidence that if they keep trying they can figure out the solution to their problem.

This helps kids develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills will be so valuable to them throughout their life to help them stay motivated even when things get tough.

Key Considerations For Successfully Helping Children Become Motivated

kid doing karate

Helping children develop motivation skills involves thoughtful consideration of various factors. 

Individual Differences

Recognize and respect that each child is unique. Understand their personalities, interests, strengths, and challenges. Tailor your approach to motivation based on their individual needs and preferences.

Age-Appropriate Expectations

Set realistic expectations that align with a child’s age and developmental stage. What motivates a preschooler may differ significantly from what motivates a teenager. Adjust your strategies accordingly.

Promoting Autonomy

Foster a sense of independence by allowing children to make choices and decisions. Encouraging autonomy helps them develop a sense of control over their actions, fostering intrinsic motivation.

Positive Reinforcement

Provide positive reinforcement for effort and progress. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small, to boost a child’s confidence and motivation. Focus on the process rather than just the end result.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Establish an environment that supports learning and exploration. Ensure that the space is conducive to concentration, creativity, and engagement. Minimize distractions and provide necessary resources for their activities.

Setting Clear and Achievable Goals

Help children set clear, specific, and achievable goals. Breaking larger goals into smaller, manageable steps allows them to experience success along the way, reinforcing their motivation.

Encouraging Intrinsic Rewards

Emphasize internal rewards such as a sense of accomplishment, pride, and personal satisfaction. This helps children develop a deeper, lasting motivation that goes beyond external recognition.

Modeling Motivated Behavior

Children learn by example. Demonstrate motivated behavior in your own pursuits. Share your enthusiasm for learning, working hard, and overcoming challenges. Your actions serve as a powerful model for them.

Flexible Approach

Be adaptable in your approach to motivation. What works for one child may not work for another. Pay attention to their responses and adjust your strategies accordingly. Flexibility is key to finding effective motivation techniques.

Regular Communication

Maintain open communication with children. Get to know your child’s interests, concerns, and aspirations. This dialogue helps you tailor your motivational strategies to their evolving needs.

Strive to have meaningful conversations with your kids regularly. We like to do this while we are in the car, at the dinner table, or lying next to them at bedtime.

Balancing Challenges and Support

Provide an appropriate level of challenge without overwhelming them. Offer support when needed, but also allow room for independent problem-solving and decision-making.

Celebrating Progress

Acknowledge and celebrate the progress children make. Recognizing their achievements, no matter how small, reinforces their motivation and builds confidence.

By considering these factors, parents and educators can create a nurturing environment that encourages the development of motivation skills in children, setting the stage for a lifetime of positive and self-driven pursuits and academic achievement.


family silhouette

Getting kids to be motivated is not easy! We by no means are perfect at motivating our kids.

Through our research, diligence, and hard work we have learned some practical tips that have helped us motivate our children over the years.

Positive Parenting Solutions has played a significant role in the success we have had in our home!

As you strive to understand what motivates your child and implement the strategies in this article you will find your kids to be so much more motivated! It is our hope that this article brings you a sense of motivation as you learn what motivates your child!

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