Monday, May 19, 2014

How can we intrinsically motivate our kids ?

Some of my friends think I might have some magical powers to answer some of life's most perplexing problems.

Today they asked me a question about how to intrinsically motivate their kids.

While I have neither the qualifications nor the knowledge to answer such a question, I think that it may be interesting to blog about this anyway since many readers may be parents and some of you guys may have gifted kids and can share some of your insights with us.

While I am not a magical shaman who can teach you how to raise your kids or increase your penis size, I have a magical tool called Google and given my amateur interest in psychology, I might be able to get some reasonable answers for kiasu parents.

And my answer, which I will qualify later, is a BIG FAT NO !

I'm going to start with simple reason why you can't intrinsically motivate your kids - The main reason why you can't do it is because if you succeed, then your kid is not motivating himself intrinsically, your kid is being extrinsically motivated. But of course, you don't ask your friendly, neighborhood,  financial blogger to just play word games with you, so here's an answer which is more interesting :

Conscientiousness is largely genetic.

Psychological studies on twins show that conscientiousness, that magical quality that makes kids delay gratification and focus on their studies, is largely based on the genes that are passed onto them from their parents. A sad conclusion from this study is that if you have been a conscientious person yourself, there is a possibility that this can rub off on your kids, but if you are a flake, always late for appointments and sabo-ing your project team, I think a vasectomy might not be a bad idea.

In previous articles, I have alluded to other studies that practicing your willpower will increase your conscientiousness. Science has not determined what kind of exercises these should be to be most effective. You might have to think of designing a life around your kids where they can practice their willpower but I am not too sure how to do that effectively. I do know that conscientious people who do sign up for muscle training and end up being more conscientious with their finances. A lot of enterprising folks have programs for children but I would challenge any provider to document their results scientifically for verification.

Psychological research is not all bad news for parents - One trait which can be affected by environmental factors is Agreeableness. Which means that  raising kids to be competitive, Zerg-rush for early retirement only to get into the gladiatorial arena of law school might not be a terribly workable objective for many parents ( Besides, I would really hate the competition ! ).

It is better to create a loving environment for your kids so that they can become positive people who can make your lives better and happier when you get older.

That is almost the only thing which parents can take credit for.

So have happy kids... Their own ambitions will take care of everything else.






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