Category Archives: motivation

Motivating Students

At a recent elementary school training, a teacher began asking me about strategies for a student who has no motivation.  He refuses to do any work at all and she has tried numerous strategies already.  “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” she said.  As a school counselor for 20 years, I often heard similar concerns.

I understand the frustrating and difficult job of teaching students in today’s society.  Many students come to the classroom with little preparation in the way of academic skills, positive encouragement or mental preparedness.  However, I often think that we begin at the wrong end of the continuum in our attempts to change behavior.  We begin with rewards and consequences.  We test for deficits and disabilities.  What if instead we began teaching and regularly encouraging a growth mindset?  What if we believed in the effectiveness of a growth mindset ourselves?

What is a growth mindset? Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defined it this way: The growth mindset is one where a student believes that their personality, intelligence, ability or skill is changeable and with focused effort and training they can change the outcome.

What if you set the stage every day for a growth mindset and success?

What would it look like?

Begin with  brain facts-What we know about the brain is that thoughts and beliefs that we repeat regularly become a familiar neural pathway.  Neurons that fire together, wire together and become dominant.  This is important to know if you are an educator trying to motivate a student who is determined to spend the day distracted and unfocused rather than learning and growing.  It means that even if a student has already created a negative set of thought patterns that the possibility exists to replace that mindset with a more positive, motivating one that will ensure success not only in the classroom but in everyday life. Teach students that the brain is plastic and changeable.  Teach students that the brain is like a muscle that when used repeatedly grows stronger and stronger in the areas where it is used.

Develop positive mental messages or mindsets: It’s not necessary to be creative or unique.  There are already plenty of inspirational mantras or quotes available to choose from.  Pick something that resonates with you and with your style of teaching. Here are a few examples that illustrate the growth mindset:

  • Every day in every way I’m getting better and better through practice and persistence
  • Love challenges, learn from mistakes, give your best, and always keep growing
  • Learn, grow and help others
  • Great effort and frequent failure is the recipe for great success

Repeat the message regularly:  This isn’t a matter of putting up an inspirational poster that becomes a piece of the woodwork.  Instead, this is a message to begin the day, to end the day and to repeat throughout the day. It is a message to work into academics, physical activities and social occasions. Make it visual. Make it auditory. Have students memorize and repeat it.

Changing fixed mindsets isn’t easy.  We all have stories and messages that we’ve learned and incorporated into the fabric of our lives.  However, helping students develop a mindset that spurs them on to be life long learners and persistent in the face of failure and mistakes will serve them well throughout their lives.

Related Posts:

The growth mindset and success

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Doubtbusters for Kids

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Help Kids Set Goals that Motivate

Do you sometimes wish that you could swap your personality for another?

Do you wish you could swap a child’s personality for another, at least long enough to get them to finish their homework or do their chores?

If you are reserved, do you wish that you could be more outgoing?

If you are a detail person, do you wish that you could be  more sensitive to people and their feelings?

We all have aspects of our personality that we sometimes wish we could change.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

Understanding and speaking the same language is important isn’t it?  Speaking a child’s personality language is helpful in parenting as well.   This is especially true if you want to help a child set goals that motivate them.  As a quick reminder the four main personality types are:

D wired=dominant, decisive, determined, doer

I wired=interactive, inspiring, influential, initiator

S wired=stable, sweet, shy, likes status quo

C wired=conscientious, careful, cautious, careful

Personality Style and Motivation

If you have a D wired child, then you will want to help them chose a goal that is very specific and has a deadline.  D personalities are highly motivated and competitive, so setting a goal to give their energy some direction will be very successful.

I wired children are great starters but not such great finishers.  They thrive on social interaction and recognition, so setting a goal that involves a social network to support and encourage them to achieve it is best.  Add in an element of fun and the I wired child will be hooked.

S wired children are great finishers but have difficulty starting tasks.  They are tuned in to the needs of others and will work to accomplish a goal as much to please you as to please themselves.  Select a goal that they can commit to with your support or the support of a close friend to motivate them.

Finally, C wired children love to develop and research a goal.  When they are committed to a goal, they are conscientious and  will work hard to accomplish the task.  Help them see the big picture so that they don’t get lost in the details and you will have a winning combination.

Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important skill to learn and by speaking a child’s personality language, you can ensure that they are successful.

Related Posts:

DISCover Your Personality Style

Celebrate Your Child’s Personality Style

Parenting and Teaching the High Energy Child

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)



Motivation: Helping children find their why

He has the potential to do so much more…

She daydreams all the time and never focuses on the lesson.

He doesn’t care and it shows in his work.

How do you motivate an unmotivated child?

In truth, every child is motivated toward something.  It just doesn’t always line up with what the adults in their life want them to be motivated toward.  How can that be turned around?

I believe that the key to motivating a child is to help them find their why.

It’s hard to be excited about learning to read if you don’t see the advantage of it. But what if you know that being able to read means you will open a world of stories and fantasy? What if you learn it will challenge your imagination and creativity? What if you learn it will expand your world and take you places you may never be able to visit otherwise?

It’s hard to get excited about learning math if you don’t see the point of it.  But what if you learn to see it as a puzzle to be solved?  What if you see it as exercise for the brain?  What if you learn that it will help you make money, count money, budget money and buy things?

I don’t know what the why is that will hook your particular child with any given activity. But I think we need to at least help children see the reason behind learning and develop their why.  We need to present learning as exciting, challenging, mind opening and life changing.  Instead it is often presented it as something a student just has to get through to pass a test and make it to the next grade so they can eventually graduate and do what they really want to do.  That doesn’t motivate me… does it you?

What is your why?

Maybe we ultimately need to ask ourselves what the why is behind the work that we do.  If our why is to share the thrill of learning and becoming the best that we can be every day, then we need to ask ourselves if we are translating that enthusiasm and excitement into the lessons that we teach and the life that we model. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Listen to what Marva Collins, renowned teacher who is quoted in the book Mindset said to an unmotivated second grader in her class on the first day of school, “Come on, peach,” she said to him, cupping his face in her hands, “we have work to do.  You can’t just sit in a seat and grow smart… I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce.  I am not going to let you fail.”

There are lots of strategies that can be put into place to motivate a child.  We can use stickers and candy and treasure boxes of toys.  But in the long run these things lose appeal and research actually shows that they have an adverse effect on the desire to learn and grow.  Instead what if it is possible to nurture a growth mindset that will encourage kids to become life long learners ?  What if the answer is to truly see students as successful, enthusiastic learners and hold that space for them as they grow into it?

Related posts:

Are you accidentally sabotaging student learning with rewards?

Personality style and motivation

The secret sauce to setting and achieving goals


 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners