By Wendy Harron - March 31, 2014
Clapping your hands to a beat? How in the world is that going to keep a child’s attention, especially when focusing isn’t their strong point? Motivating them is the key! If you can find out what makes them “tick”, they will work very hard to reach your goals, and even some of their own too!
Motivation is important because it helps get you going and motivates you to excel. Do you notice a difference between working on something you enjoy, such as vacation planning, versus something you don’t enjoy, like doing your taxes? When we are motivated the work just seems to take less effort. Motivation keeps us going when we start to lose interest. In the middle of the course of IM training I have had kids start to perform poorly. To me, that was a huge sign that we needed some new motivation to get us over the hump and end on a positive note. A child, or an adult for that matter, who is motivated will go above and beyond what you or even they thought they could do! Not only that, but when you are motivated to do something, you actually work harder and learn more from your experience. So many times kids have said, “I’ll never be able to get a score like that!” But, if I can find the right motivation for them, they will accomplish so much more without being asked. I love it when the kids surprise themselves with more repetitions or a score that is above average for their age!
Motivation makes things more fun! I don’t know about your experience, but by 3pm, after a long day of school, kids are tired and just want to play. Unfortunately, this is typically when they come into our outpatient clinic! Whew! They can be a challenge – tired, hungry, bored, buzzing around the room….you get the picture! Sitting around and clapping or tapping their toes? Not going to happen. You need some motivation so that their perception of training is different. Present tasks as a fun challenge or have the kids make goals they can try to break! When the course of training is intense, as it is in IM, those kids who are motivated will endure and actually enjoy what they are doing. It makes my heart leap for joy when the kids jump up to greet me and are ready to get to work! Some kids even bring in their own toys for motivation and we figure out some way to use them during the session.
Motivation fits into two categories – Intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsically motivated kids are motivated from within; they enjoy achieving their goals and don’t need constant rewards. Extrinsically motivated kids need outward motivation, and this can be tough because you need to find that special thing that will motivate them to achieve and endure. Younger or developmentally delayed children seem to need more external motivation to remain engaged in the program. Sometimes the kids will need both types of motivation. I’ve had many patients who initially have needed some type of reward for each tiny thing they do – every exercise completed, every repetition increase, every new task attempted, every score beaten; it can be rough at that stage! But then, as they become motivated from within, the switch flips and you no longer need physical rewards.
Make sure you take a little bit of time to get to know your patients. Talk with their parents or caregivers and work out a motivating plan that will benefit not only the child, but you and your session as well. A motivated child makes for an enjoyable session for both of you! Make those kids excited to walk into your clinic! It makes IM fun!!!
For more info on motivating children, check out some of Wendy’s other blogs.