Myths About Motivation

Richard Lavoie – One of the greatest assets to the teaching profession.

I have been using his strategies for years and his presentations provide significant insight into the daily experience, emotion and turbulence of a child with a learning disability.

In his latest book, The Motivation Breakthrough, he refers to five myths about motivation…essential for us to be aware of as teachers and parents. We need to identify these motivation myths and misconceptions and eliminate them in order to embrace a more enlightened approach to motivating our children and students.

Myth # 1: Some children are motivated by nothing
Every aspect of our behavior always has a motivation. When a child stops reading a book before the end, we cannot say that he is “not motivated to read.” Rather – he was motivated to stop reading. Along the same line, a person may be motivated to end a friendship rather than being unmotivated to maintain the friendship.

Myth # 2: One day a child is motivated the next day he is not
A child’s performance, productivity and progress may be different from day to day, but this is a reflection of a child’s unpredictable learning style and not a reflection of his motivation. Most children with learning difficulties demonstrate inconsistent performances in their school work…this has got nothing to do with motivation. (Lavoie provides further information and understanding for working with these unpredictable learning styles – a blog post I will most certainly do more on later.) As teachers, we especially need to recognize that performance inconsistency in children with learning difficulties is neurologically based!

Myth # 3: “Give him something; that will motivate him.”
If the goal for a child becomes to receive the reward, how can the goal ever be to progress or gain new knowledge? Here we have the distinction between extrinsic motivation (the tangible reward) and intrinsic motivation (the desire to succeed.) Although rewards may play a role in the classroom, children should not be judging their own performance or achievements on the number of stickers they receive in a day…perhaps another blog post on this one waiting to happen too.

Myth # 4: Competition – The Great Motivator
“The only person motivated by competition is the person who believes that he has a chance of winning.” Competition includes quizzes and tests. Children with learning difficulties should be removed from a competitive environment…which makes the whole policy of inclusive education questionable doesn’t it?
As teachers and parents we need to place greater emphasis on individual goal setting and a cooperative learning environment. “Failure to meet one’s own goals can encourage tenacity, resilience, effort, and self-discipline. However, failure to meet imposed public goals often results in humiliation, timidity, and lowered self-esteem.” In a cooperative learning environment, competition is replaced by collaboration.

Myth # 5: Punishment is an effective motivator
Punishment is an ineffective, short-term solution to a motivation problem. By the time a child with learning disabilities gets to the end of primary school, he has probably endured countless hours of punishment already …detention, standing outside the classroom, losing privileges… he has probably become desensitized to punishment.
In addition a child will “associate the punishment with the punisher, not with the offending behavior.”

Lavoie goes on to help us identify that the manner in which each child is motivated is actually unique and he provides strategies and methods for identifying each child’s motivational needs. I also love his reference to the six C’s which are an essential in every classroom if motivation in students is to be enhanced. They are:

Creativity Community Clarity Coaching Conferencing Control

(Don’t you love that when I interviewed kids on what makes a good teacher over here, you will see that all their comments combined fit exactly into these six C’s? We really do need to hear our kids more often…)

I highly recommend that every teacher reads The Motivation Breakthrough. I plan to read my copy again and again …

This entry was posted in Discipline Strategies, Inspiration, Kids, Parenting Tips, Resillience, Teaching Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Myths About Motivation

  1. Sonia Marsh says:

    Very interesting article that I believe can be applied to children who are perhaps just average students too. What do you think?

  2. Sam says:

    Interesting post. I think we all resort to giving reward to our kids – don’t we?

  3. GERALD says:


  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve never heard of this author but his ideas seem spot on!!

  5. Jeryl M. says:

    I am a new follower from the blog hop. Interesting article. I am a stay-at-home Mom with two daughters. I am interested in reading your blog and finding out more about helping my children be the best they can be inside the classroom and out. I have noticed that even with my own children their motivation changes from one day to the next and even from one minute to the next. Visit my and my older daughter’s blog, Says Me Says Mom (, where we talk about anything and everything.

    • TeacherMum says:

      Thanks for your comments Jeryl. I do believe though that it is the performance that changes – not the motivation as much.

  6. Linx says:

    Haven’t read ur blog for a while and I’ve missed it!your motivation blogs amazing – love being refreshed of old and new ideas to use in parenting! Thanks for sharing your ingenious ideas with us …….

  7. maryt82 says:

    Great article. One point I disagree with somewhat is in regard to the use of rewards. I do think that some students need those extrinsic rewards. When these rewards are motivating enough to help them acquire and maintain the desired behaviors for a period of time, the student is getting used to repeating the behavior. I believe that the next step is the internalization of the behavior because it has become like second nature. But some kids never get to that point unless they start off by getting those extrinsic motivators.

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