Inside a Dance Studio is a blog hosted by Pegasus Studios with the aim of celebrating, discussing and learning about how dance can help support and foster healthy and happy children, adolescents and adults. This blog is inspired by our experiences as teachers and owners of Pegasus Studios, a dance studio primarily dedicated to art and health in children, from the ages of 2-20, give or take a few years!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Parent Toolbox: The Tough Get Going: How to motivate your child when the going gets tough

Motivating children is one thing… keeping them motivated during the rough times or when they are deep in the middle of a project, like preparing for a ballet exam, is another thing. So, how do you help your child get through that dip, the rough patch in the middle, to keep working hard and push through to the other side? We’ve compiled some resources and tips from various places for this blog entry for you – they’ve been helpful to the teachers here at Pegasus and we hope that you may find a little nugget that can be helpful to you as well.

To begin with, these are the two main types of motivation:
·         Intrinsically motivated “for its own sake, for the enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits or the feelings of accomplishment it evokes”. (Mark Lepper 1988)*
·         Extrinsically motivated – “in order to obtain some reward or avoid some punishment external to the activity itself”. (grades, stickers, teacher approval (Lepper).
*The first one, intrinsically, is much more beneficial in the long run as it will give them the skills to become motivated in any situation.

According to Jere Brophy (1987) motivation to learn is a competence acquired through general experience but stimulated through modeling, communication of expectations and direct instruction or socialization by significant others (parents and teacher).
Home environment shapes the initial attitudes they develop toward learning. When parents nurture their children’s natural curiosity about the world, welcoming their questions, encouraging exploration and familiarizing them with resources that can enlarge their world – the message is that learning is worthwhile and fun and satisfying. (

One of the most important aspects of keeping children (or anyone for that matter) motivated is the ability to set personal goals. Sure, your child may be working towards a ballet exam, but if you can help them set up their own goals within that – for example: working towards a specific exercise that is challenging for them, using the exam as a way to practice performance skills for the upcoming recital, practicing the ability to learn and remember choreography, etc. – goals that speak directly to their own personal bests, their own personal desires to be in that situation and their own personal strengths. This process not only makes the larger goal seem more achievable but it also helps to keep the larger goal in focus as sometimes it can get lost because of its size. For a child, being able to clearly see how their activities are applicable to their life is key. (

Strategies parents can use to help children remain more fully intrinsically motivated.
·         Provide environment that allows children to freely explore and to see the effect of their actions.
·         Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence. When children are deeply involved with an activity, make sure that they can finish without interruption.  Resist the natural urge to help
·         Provide many opportunities for children and adults to explore together and interact directly. This lets you observe, model and encourage your child.
·         Provides situations that give children an acceptable challenge.  Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished.
·         Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. “What do you think?”  (
For the older child, this is an excerpt from a great book:
From the book; Dr. Karyn’s Guide to the Teen Years.  By Dr. Karyn Gordon
How to Help your teen be a motivated student;
Modeling is very important – if you love to learn, they are likely to as well;
o   How to help; focus on their efforts, not on the end results.
o   Praise and affirm their effort when you see it.
o   Don’t over function.  If parents are highly anxious about their teen’s school work and performance, there is a strong chance your teen will under function in reaction. Let them own their school experience.
o   Ask what they are learning and studying.  Invite them to discuss some of the things that have interested them
o   Ask if they need any help Let them know you are available if they need any support.
o   If they show an interest in a career choice, do activities with them that might further excite them about that field.
o   Look for everyday events and family trips to inspire a love of learning.
o   Get solution-focused and brainstorm with them about what has worked in the past regarding their motivation
-          The Key is to partner with your teens and not micromanage them.  You want to help your teen discover the unique equation that helps them be focused and efficient.
The resources in this article are a great source of information, much more than we’ve provided here. Check them out for more detailed information on this subject.

No comments: