Who has motivation to play with their kids? Why do we bother playing with them? Let me tell you – I get it! There are just some days where I can not be bothered to play or read to my children. I’ve recently lost a parent to cancer and some days the grief overwhelms me and I have to bribe my children to give me peace and quiet. Other days I feel the mummy guilt that I should have done more for my kids.
In my research on motivation, cognition and metacognition in studying my Masters of Education (Cognitive Psychology and Learning Practices), I’ve come up with this explanation for myself as a parent. A few parents have asked me about the motivation for learning and I thought I’d pass on the knowledge from what I have researched.
Here’s how I explain motivation to play with other parents:
Do you read a book with your child because you feel like you should? Or do you read a book with them every night because of your fear of their schooling failure?
Motivation theorist and behaviourist Clark Hull created a theory on motivation called the ‘Drive Theory.’ Essentially it explained that we have two types of motivations. On one side we are motivated because we have a “need to feed.” It’s like we’re obligated to read to our child daily or at least weekly because we have too. That’s the mummy guilt we feel at the end of the day. It’s the same feelings we get when we have to pay bills, or buy groceries… we feel like we HAVE TO read a book.
The other motivation is called the “fear of failure.” Don’t let the dialogue ‘failure’ make you feel like you are one. Instead ‘fear of failure’ has evolved today and is known as incentive to produce positive perspective. If you’re fearful that your child won’t be a successful adult, then you’re more likely to be involved in getting them a good education. Which means you may feel motivational pressure to get a school tutor, or to help them with their homework question or read that book for the thousandth time.
The theory behind the ‘fear of failure’ can motivate us in the long term. If I said to you, you need to read to your child every night – chances are you’re probably not going to read to your child every night. However, if I said to you that a night-time reading routine sets up a literacy future for your child right through into adulthood, then you’re probably more likely to make the effort in the long-term. This is what is called self-motivation.
Self-motivation isn’t just for reading with your kids or motivating yourself to play. Self-motivation is recognising your own ‘why?’ when it comes to anything you are task avoiding. Are you avoiding someone or something? This goes into self-regulation which I’ll explain further in another blog.
Let’s focus on the ‘why’ we make an effort to play with our kids.
When we delve into our deeper level thinking, also known as higher order thinking, we build a metacognitive perspective about play. We are more likely to play with our children when we ask ourselves “why should I play?” “Why should I read this book again?” “Why am I saying no we can’t spend time together?” Understanding your WHY as a parent, will help motivate your perception of the power of play with your child. This creates meaningful play and mindfulness and transforms everyday play into intentional play which supports preliteracy outcomes for your child/ren.
Literacy outcomes starts at home
You are your child’s first teacher (no pressure). There needs to be intentional scheduled play and spontaneous fun play. It’s okay to not always be playing with your children. I’m not going to tell you that you must play with your child because I don’t always play with mine. The trick is to be mindful of your ‘why’ in the moment. Ask yourself why you can’t play or why you can play. Why you can’t read or why you can read. If you’ve had a really terrible day DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED TO READ that day.
I scheduled some play into the weekly routine. Miss 3 year old loves to bake so I try and make Wednesday mornings a packet mix bake for her. This is our quality time together and that fills her love language. She also chases me every night for a book before falling asleep. Our 14 month old gets Thursday/Friday mornings. His cup gets filled quickly with play and he enjoys exploring outside without me. The oldest requires rough play every morning. He wants a joke and a laugh and a bit of silliness from mummy. I’ve noticed on days that I don’t give him a tickle or a scare he drags his feet to school.
It comes down to creating good habits with your family. Not just for reading but for mindful play which creates excellent preliteracy, communicaton skills. It’s your child’s way of talking with you and involving you in their world. I want to encourage you that even on those darkest of days you can talk to them about your emotions and negotiate a compromise for play or reading.
Written by Sarah Courtney