In order to motivate your child, it helps to know what motivation really is.

And once you understand what it is, you’ll want to get clear on which emotions can help motivate  your child so that you can use them in a way that empowers, rather than dis-empowers.

The following article is a modified excerpt from the best selling book, Learning vs. Testing, Strategies That Bridge The Gap.

The Benefit:

Motivate your child even when neither of you feels like doing anything.

First, I’d like you to think of a time when you’ve been really motivated to do something.  Recall the time entirely.  How did you feel, what images, sounds or feelings did you have in your mind, and whatever else that got you highly motivated.  Now, think of what it is you have to do right now, that you’ve been putting off and apply those same strategies to motivate your child.

I remember a time when I knew I had to motivate myself to clean out my office.

The truth is, some writers sometimes have papers all over the floor, research books on the desk and on every other available space.  I put the papers into different folders when I write and each folder contains a particular chapter.  Nonetheless, it gets pretty messy with all the research materials in the room.

Anyway, I had an appointment with a Doctor who was coming to my office to show me a computer program that had to do with improving visual skills for better reading results.

Although I had “put off” cleaning up the office for days, today was it!  I suddenly was forced to motivate myself to clean up the office and make it look more presentable.

What do you think it took to motivate me?  Was it pain or pleasure?

It would have been very painful for me to have this person visit and see the papers strewn all over and I don’t think it would have created the best impression.  (This by the way is called “pain” or an anxiety type motivation strategy really based on fear of consequences).

The deadline jump-started me and I I knew how to motivate myself.  The office was spotless in less than an hour.  Imagine how good I felt when it was done.  (Pleasure)!  But that was not what got me started in the first place.

Now think about your life.  Has there ever been a time when you’ve put something off, waiting until the last possible moment to do it?  What was it – cleaning the garage, doing your taxes, going on a diet, cleaning out your closet, doing the laundry, writing a report or thesis, going grocery shopping?  I’m sure everyone said yes to at least one of the above.

Now think for a moment.  What was it specifically that finally got you moving and actually doing what you’d been putting off? 

Think carefully before you answer because when you do, you’ll know the well-kept secret of how to motivate your child…

You knew, for example, that if you didn’t pay your taxes, your fear of punishment, fines, jail, etc. was worse than just getting them paid.

You associated so much PAIN to not paying your taxes, that you finally motivated yourself to take action and file them.  In other words, you didn’t act until the PAIN of not acting was worse than procrastinating and putting it off for a while longer.

And this little tidbit is true for most people – their fear of loss is far greater than their desire for gain… they will almost always do more to avoid PAIN than they will ever do to get PLEASURE.

Take a moment and think about this.  Play around with a picture in your mind of how your PAIN and FEAR will actually motivate you to pay those pesky taxes.  I’m sure you’ll agree that many of us waited (of course, not everyone…) until the last minute to gather all the information needed to file.

Yet once you passed a certain threshold point, (your motivation strategy ran on anxiety) you couldn’t stand the PAIN any longer and didn’t want punishment for not paying Uncle Sam, so you got you very motivated to gather the information, file the return and write out the check.

Many people try to motivate themselves to lose weight in the same way.

They finally can’t stand the PAIN of not looking good, being unable to fit into their clothes or maybe they can’t stand the thought of going to a high school reunion where they might feel too much pain because they are overweight and might be embarrassed.

Many of these people motivate themselves based on their feelings, and many can actually see themselves so overweight – using a big, bright picture, until they just can’t stand it anymore.  When this happens, they pass their threshold point and lose weight very quickly to save themselves that PAIN.

When you discover what motivates you and your child, it might be PAIN or PLEASURE, your answer is the key to creating the lasting changes you want in the area of motivation.

Once you know whether you are controlled by PAIN or what you associate PLEASURE with, you’ll be in the driver’s seat in regard to motivating yourself and others.

What’s important to know – is whether it is PAIN or PLEASURE what will motivate your child to make lasting changes when it comes to learning.

Ask detailed questions about how your child gets motivated to do something – do they hear a voice, do they feel something in a certain location in their body, do they see a big, bright picture first?

I’ll give you a great example – using my own life.  Publishing deadlines!  Since I write books, I have a publisher and an editor who give me lots of deadline dates.  I must absolutely adhere to these dates or the publication of the book gets delayed – and that means really interesting things happen…

So, how do I motivate myself?  I write to deadline.  Does this sound like a familiar event in your life or your child’s?

It’s the deadline that gets me to do the writing.  The PAIN I associate with not meeting the deadline will motivate me to produce faster.

Even though I love to write and know I am helping children turn their whole lives around, it’s reasonable to say that I don’t always feel like writing on a particular day.  Sometimes other things come up, sometimes I want to visit with my children, my golden retriever might need attention or, I might really need a rest to refresh my mind.

The great thing now is – I know how to motivate myself.  So I can control the emotions and my actions rather than the other way around.  And that’s the benefit for you and your child.  Once you know what to do to motivate your child you can create motivation on the spot.

Think about this a while longer.  There is actually another motivation strategy.  This one is called PLEASURE.  When was the last time that getting ready to go on vacation propelled you to move faster, get more done in less time and be more “motivated”?

See, motivation can be the result of PLEASURE as well.  You probably can “feel, see and hear” what is going to be like to go on vacation.  You feel the comfort of living your life the way you planned it on your vacation.  It makes you feel good.  So, you’ll do anything you have to in order to feel that comfort sensation you get when you go on vacation.

This time, your motivation strategy is the pleasure.  It means more to you than all the work you have to do to get ready for the trip and you’ll do whatever it takes.

With your child, do a little detective work.  Mull over the times you saw your child motivate him or herself.  This could be even as simple as watching T.V.  What is it that prompted him or her to actually turn on the T.V.?  How about going out with friends?  Eating candy?  Getting an “A” in a certain class?

Believe me, their motivation strategy is in there – and you’ll quickly discover whether they are more motivated by the PAIN and FEAR of not doing something or the PLEASURE of doing something they love and looking forward to the result.

Motivate Action Item: If you discover that your child associates pain with learning, maybe you’ll want to turn that around and break the pattern.

What could you do to get them to associate pleasure with learning?  Remember – success breeds more success.  Teach them the strategies in this book and create new patterns of success.  You’ll notice their motivation changes quickly when they are certain they have a success strategy for learning and will definitely succeed.

If you discover that your child acts only when motivated by PAIN, it sets up consequences for inaction. It’s that simple.

So what are those painful consequences for your child who doesn’t want to do his or her work either at school or at home?  Make a list, right here of what they might be.  Remember, they don’t all have to be negative consequences, because your child might be motivated by lack of a positive thing happening too.

Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional


List of Painful Consequences To Motivate My Child


Just to get you started, here are a few I’ve used successfully:

1.     Removing a favorite activity from the day or week, until the work is done.

2.     Friends can’t visit or be visited until…

3.     No athletic participation or events until…

4.     All TV watching removed unless the work is done…

5.     Allowance is delayed until task is finished


List of Pleasure Items to Motivate My Child

1.     Adding a favorite activity when the work is done

2.     Allow friends to visit when their assignments are complete

3.     Get tickets for a favorite sporting event – take your child when they do their work

4.     Permit T.V. or computer time as work gets finished

5.     Sometimes, just the intrinsic pleasure of learning something new will motivate your child

6.     Challenge your child with something positive – a contest maybe.

Check the blog for more on how to motivate your child.

pat-wymanPat Wyman is the founder of and best selling author several books including Instant Learning for Amazing Grades. She is a university instructor and provides strategies on faster learning and how to motivate.


Posted by +Pat Wyman, author and founder of