The opposite of intrinsic is extrinsic. When your child explores why the teetering stack of blocks fell (by repeatedly stacking and watching them fall), she is showing intrinsic motivation to learn. When a teacher tells your child she will get juice once the blocks are put away, your child receives extrinsic motivation. The secret to parenting a lifelong learner is building plenty of intrinsic motivation. How are you doing?
Facilitator or Enabler?
Do you deliberately set up opportunities for your child to feel competent? Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci famously outlined parenting conditions that nurture intrinsic motivation, and chief among them were opportunities for optimal challenges.
Optimal challenges are tasks sufficiently beyond current capacity to be interesting without being frustrating. This is a fine edge, and you only know by experimentation whether your child can or cannot do something. However, if you never give your child an opportunity to try something new and difficult, you enable dependency and helplessness.
Praising or Gushing?
Do you identify your child’s specific accomplishment, or heap unconditional praise with every breath? Children grow in intrinsic motivation when your parenting gives clear feedback identifying exactly what they achieved.
Can’t or Can’t Yet?
When parenting, do you redirect your child when she faces limitations? The lifelong learner’s mindset is not, “I can’t do it,” but rather, “I can’t do it yet, but I will.” This optimism feeds self-confidence and a passion for doing more, learning more and exploring more.
Static or Change?
All children enjoy stability, but do you shield your child from life’s inevitable changes? New ideas, new inventions, and new possibilities come to us every day. The child who—in the words of Richard Hamming—is prepared to ride the tsunami of information, rather than drown in it, will be a lifelong learner.
If you facilitate, praise, redirect and foster change, you are parenting a lifelong learner. If you find areas for improvement, Kids Konnect recommends you do a little learning of your own here and here.
How are you encouraging your child to be a lifelong learner? Please leave your comments below.