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Formative Motivation is Key to Success

Motivation plays an important role in whether or not your child is motivated toward learning. Learning motivation begins at home as early as birth.  Your child, from their initial breaths, begin their educational journey with you, as their first teacher. Your position as a parent-teacher is a constant influence throughout your child’s life.  Formative motivation begins at birth as you are smile and hold your child. The manner in which you connect with your child in those first moments is a springboard into their first instances of learning.  Loving words and care motivate your newborn to seek more of the same from you.

These formative teaching moments grow into deeper interaction as a child’s motivation is enhanced.  As your child enters school for the first time, they take all the knowledge and love that you have shared with them and begin to evaluate the way that their teachers and peers relate to them, measuring those experiences against their initial experiences at home.   If those early experiences have proven fulfilling, your child will seek those similar healthy moments with their new teachers and classmates.  They will compare each new experience with their formative years helping them to discern their new relationships.  If their early experience at home has been difficult, your child will likely have confusion in other early relationships with others causing angst for your child.  When confusion is present, motivation to move through the distraction may be more difficult. Your job as their first teacher is the most important job you will ever have. How you and your child traverse through those first few years of learning may be an indicator of your child’s success in school.

As teacher and parent, you are also the first and most important role model.  Your child will naturally mimic much of what they see you do and say. If something is very important to you, there is a real chance that the same thing may be important to them.  If they see you talk respectfully to your spouse and their siblings, there is a real possibility that they will do the same with others including teachers and peers. These initial behaviors are the foundation of much of what your child will create within any domain they construct. This is especially evident as your child begins to create the sources of intrinsic motivation which may determine the manner in which they connect to everyday life. This created behavior may also play a role in their self-motivation. 

Creating a culture of motivation and encouragement in your home launches your child’s healthy development and lays a critical foundation that shapes your child’s success not only with family, but also with teachers, and schoolmates — all of which shape and impact learning success.   

Written by John T. McMahan III

Professor McMahan is the Editor-in-Chief of Family Literacy Journal. With a doctorate in educational leadership, and focus on curriculum and instruction, he is a career educator and superintendent. His consultancy, The McMahan Group, helps administrators and teachers maximize student success. McMahan owns and stewards the 150-year-old McMahan and Sons, one of Ohio’s oldest and most respected family-owned farm businesses. As a 3-term township trustee in Trumbull, Ohio, McMahan is committed to the empowerment and integration of family, community, and education. McMahan is also an accomplished musician and published poet.

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