A common problem most parents talk about is that they feel their child is not self-motivated or self-driven. The Oxford English Dictionary defines motivation as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. But, according to the parenting dictionary, it is the child’s desire to work hard towards achieving academic success.

While there are many children who are focused and self-motivated to work towards their academic and personal goals, there are some who like walking at their own pace, challenging the stereotypes. They are not driven by other’s opinions because they like making their own decisions — to smell the flowers or play football in their room or spend their time doodling in their books.

But most parents fail to understand this difference. They want their child to understand the importance of being self-motivated, driven and focused, and so take matters into their own hands, literally. From threats of deprivation of favourite things — gadgets, TV time, play dates and outings — to promises that include treating the kids to their favourite dish or dessert, buying them a new toy or gadget, etc, such parents tend to use a range of methods to “motivate” their child to work hard.

Unfortunately, in the long run neither approach bears fruit.

Recently, a mother approached me for advice on how she could encourage her child to listen to her. As we discussed the problem in detail, I figured out that one of the factors that contributed to her child’s careless behaviour was that he was always busy with his new gadget. Incidentally, the gadget was gifted to the child by his parents to “encourage” him to study for his impending exams.

But, now the child was slowly getting addicted to gaming, had no desire to work hard, thought he was doing his parents a favour by studying, felt he should be bribed every time the parents want him to work hard, and thought he can extrapolate this bribe in other areas also, such as, listening to his parents.

The parents have simply taught the child how to blackmail and hold them to ransom.

We need to understand that one feels motivated to do something when he or she is able to connect to it and understand that it would benefit them. Yes, in case of younger children it is important that you explain them how education will benefit them. You must support them to hone their strengths and learn from their mistakes. But, if you use these external baits in older children, you will create a trap for yourself.

Remember, motivation comes from within. If you want your child to become self-motivated in life, then let him follow his passion. This will help him stay happy and content.

This is an interactive column on parenting skills and child behaviour. If you have a query, write to tabloid@gulfnews.com

— Sunaina Vohra is a certified Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to www.athenalifecoaching.com or call (+971) 56-1399033.