How do I know if my child is motivated or not?

One of the most important concerns of a parent is to draw the balance between pushing the child to not be lazy and pushing to the point of breakdown. It is very hard to understand when to and when not to push your kid. Your child might be just amazing in chess, but they may not really be motivated. So what does one do in such situations?

Let’s understand what motivation really is. Motivation is the foundation of sports performance. It is the reason people strive to reach their full potential. Be it in academics or chess or other extra-curricular activities, your child may be really good in terms of the skill, but may not be motivated to keep competing in competitions. Earlier motivation was merely just described in households as “He/she isn’t motivated” or that “he or she is motivated”. Although we think that being good at chess skills simply means the child needs to be motivated or driven, it’s not that way. Being good in the sport could be one of the factors for the child to be highly driven, but need not always. 

Motivation need not be something which is a constant. It keeps varying from time to time. Of course it could be inherent partly, but there are also ways when motivation can change over time and that depends on the development of the child, exposure towards the sport and even the responses of the child’s parents, coaches and peer group. This could influence your child’s motivation to another activity but not always be the same. There are various types of motivation and it is essential for you, as parents or coaches, to understand the motivation pattern of your child.

1. No motivation – Nothing really motivates them. Maybe they are new to chess and so they don’t know too many things about it. Maybe they have a misperception about it in their mind. Or could also be that there is a sense of fear in your child.  They have no sense of personal control with respect to them playing chess. They don’t really know or understand why they should play chess. They just don’t perceive or see any reason for them to participate or they see a reason for them to not-participate. 

2. External rewards as key motivators – In this your child is motivated to play chess or train but due to external rewards. They are driven to do something because they understand that they are to receive rewards from outside. In this case, they could also perform because they sense that they are about to receive a punishment if they don’t practice or play and then practice to avoid punishment. Or even, avoiding “punishment” in terms of you as a parent ignoring your child and not talking to him/her or even yelling for the same.  For example, maybe as parents, if you end up being a gift for him or her to be motivated then your child plays chess for the external driver which is the gift in itself. If you shout or yell or probably even withhold something from the child (say for example, usage of phone), then they end up practicing so that they can avoid the punishment or rather in order to keep the phone usage. This form of motivation is fine if the child is too young, but this is not the most recommended form as the child may learn to make decisions, important life decisions based on the external rewards rather than what they understand as their choices. 

3. Introjected motivation – Your child’s internalized reason to play or participate in the sport are tied to internal rewards and punishments. For example, feeling a sense of pride about playing or participating or even winning a chess game and that propelling your child to take up chess. You can hear them say things like “I am going to practice today because I will feel guilty if I don’t”. They could play to avoid whether they really like it or not. 

4. Identified motivation – Your child is very much self-determined but it’s not considered as fun. For example, they may do physical activity as a box to be ticked not because they actually find physical activity pleasurable or fun. 

5. Internal motivation – Your child takes up chess for their own inherent satisfaction. They are self-determined and also feel the activity itself is pleasurable or fun. 

Of all the five, it is always better for your child to exist on the lower end of the spectrum. Having said that, the motivation can vary and can change as well depending on their experiences. Hence you, as a parent can be one of the very strong influences of the motivating factor. The way you respond and react can highly impact how authentic and how motivated your child is towards chess. 

Five of the most important points to keep in mind as parents

1. It is important to keep emphasizing on the other aspects of chess apart from just the competitive aspect. All your words and actions need to be aligned towards the same. It’s very important to express that to your child. This essentially means while winning or losing it is essential to acknowledge and ask how your child is feeling. After losing a chess tournament, it is quite important to ask the child how they are feeling instead of really pushing your opinion and feedback to the child as to how he/she should have really played. 

2. Make sure you don’t “restrict” anything as punishment. Restriction only creates an aversion and a gap between you and your child and of course your child and chess. In fact, what is really important is for you to explain both sides of the coin and enable them to make their choice. That makes a big difference in your child’s motivation to the sport. 

3. Reward or appreciate the progress that they have made. Not everyone Is going to win every time. But the progress is inevitable. Even if one loses, the progress that one makes is more important than winning in itself. Progress can be slow, it can be small. But progress is so important. Rewarding or just merely appreciating the progress (of course not criticizing the loss) is very important. 

It’s not just enough to know and understand if your child is motivated or not, or even “good” or “bad” at chess. It is very important to understand how your behavior, actions and words impact your child and their motivation towards chess. 

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