How to motivate children without becoming helicopter parents

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Of the many challenges parents face, raising safe children is undoubtedly the most motivating. And also the most difficult: self-esteem is a journey that is undertaken together and not just a journey that affects children. The risk around the corner is to become helicopter parents, who do not realize they are a limit to the freedom and growth of children but believe they are helping them by doing things for them. How to motivate children every day to be themselves, to say what they think, how to help them in practice to build a universe made up of certainties that also push them to explore the world, even knowing that they can always go back "to the base" with effective educational methods? 

Read also: How to raise a self-confident child: a handbook of advice

How to motivate kids every day (without becoming helicopter parents)

Strengthening self-esteem in children also means working on yourself if you are a parent. And take a step back when necessary, even if it's about letting them make a mistake. A difficult path, which however is not impossible to undertake. Grow by WebMD crossed a series of tips from pedagogists and psychologists to raise motivated children without suffocating them, being too present or, worse, doing things for them. 

Show, don't do

Example is the best form of teaching. Doing in place of children, on the other hand, implies that they feel protected in a shell in which they do not necessarily have to take action. A mechanism that, in the long run, deteriorates self-esteem.

Answer their questions

A recent New York Times article titled "If Your Child Keeps Asking Why, You Answer" revealed the power of growth and learning hidden behind a question (and an answer) to children's questions. The phase of children's whys is an inexhaustible source of knowledge for them, but also a way for parents to measure themselves with their limits (and why not, even with patience). Always answering, even to questions that seem trivial, implies emphasizing the small, big curiosities of children without diminishing them.

Time together

The research published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives called "Parental Education and Parental Time With Children" focuses on the power of parent-child time as a source of growth and motivation for children. And it is not the only one to show, with targeted experiments and surveys, how much spending quality time in the company of mum and dad makes children feel more motivated, confident and serene.

Don't use food (or games) as a reward

There are rewards, such as report card gifts, which can be motivated by an achievement. But does gratifying children with food, sweets or other small treats have the same effect on their self-esteem? Not always. Indeed, according to an article published in Psychology Today, motivating children without rewards is a great challenge, but it also operates a conditioning that children tend to associate with all their actions, even those that are actually "free" and should leave spontaneously. .

Reward the effort, not just the result

In this context, the reward does not work also because, to motivate children, gratifying their efforts (even if they have not been positive) is the first step to make them feel understood. Not only the result, but also the journey made to get there - in whatever form it takes - is important for the child. 

Discover new sources of inspiration together

Reading books, discovering figures and examples in them other than those that children have in the family, is the first step to broaden the sources of "inspiration". A growth mechanism that is valid not only for children but also for parents, who measure themselves with new models that are not only educational but also social.

Fonti per questo articolo: New York Times "If Your Kid Keeps Asking 'Why,' Give Them an Answer"; Journal of Economic Perspectives, "Parental Education and Parental Time With Children"; Psychology Today, "Motivating Children Without Rewards"


  • esteem
  • Parents
  • advice to parents
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