Monday 20 May 2013


What Produces Self-Motivation?

What is self-motivation?

Ever seen a baby so self-motivated to learn to walk? I have experienced it with J. What a joy it was.

This is usually lost by the time the child is 4 years old, especially in developed and affluence countries like Singapore and Denmark. I am afraid that I am seeing this happening in J too.

There is a lot of western theories on how to encourage self-motivation amongst are:

1. Child-led (Montessori concept)
2. Give your child freedom to decide
3. Do not make it too orderly and structured
4. Do not teach your child anything too soon, before he or she shows interest

I have seen a lot of real life examples, but I don't think that it really encourages self-motivation, at least not in the programme featuring the Danish students - out of a class of 25, only 2-3 students are self-motivated. The rest chose to play, come late and disrupt classes.

Another case in point, the experimental Hellerup Skole set up approx. 10 years ago is characterized by freedom and the lack of partitions has one of the lowest grade in the wealthy county in Denmark.

My Chinese friend in DK attributed to her teaching her daughter, A, too soon to write, and that she has lost interest, when the Danish kindergarten finally start. But I think it is mainly due to her lack of expectations.

I have written a post on the Chinese Education System.

What impressed me the most is not the discipline and the order, but the amount of self-motivation the whole class of Chinese students showed. The whole class of them.

Are they characterized by being child-led? No.

Freedom to come and go to class? No

The students not taught too many things too soon? No, in fact, it is a total opposite. Loads of curriculum cramped into a year's work, especially Maths.

So what produces self-motivation?

Maturity perhaps.

The class of Chinese students came across as very matured and sensible.

What produces maturity?

It leads me thinking...

It is hardship... I think

Maria Montessori achieved great success with "The Children House". But let us not forget - the children she had probably had a great deal of self-motivation already. What they lacked were resources, and she came and she gave it to them. The children in Maria Montessori's Children House were the poor, the less privileged, neglected by the society. In other words, these children had experienced for themselves tremendous hardship. When Maria Montessori came, they were hungry for all the knowledge, learning and activities that she was ready to impart.

How did Singapore reach the level of affluence it is today?

It was once a poor country poorer than the poorest African countries in the 1960s.

Our pioneers must have developed a lot of self-motivation through all the hardship they experienced first-hand that matured them. Some Many sadly did not survive under such extreme hardship. (The success of Singapore was also bought with a high price - human price).

Perhaps life in Denmark and Singapore are too good and soft now... Comforters, sweets, cakes, Nintendo, iPad, all come free and easy and is an everyday affair.

I think I might try something to encourage self-motivation in J.

And I think here is what making J soft and lacking self-motivation compared to the Chinese kids... we travel in style (relatively speaking), in comfortable hotels with nice bathroom, in cars, in planes. We eat in restaurants. We shopped for the latest gadgets... because we ourselves as parents have become soft. These things come easy to J, without him having to earn a penny for it.

I have to convince Daddy to forego the luxury... and myself too.

We are thinking of going to Australia for our next trip. But I will now make a priority to discuss with Daddy to change plan to visit Africa and China instead to see the amount of hardship people face there.

I will try to enrol him into a "hardship"camp with other children less fortunate than him.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! You made me think! The other source of motivation is fear. Fear of losing out, fear of lack, fear of being the last, fear of being reprimanded. I am still in 2 minds if this is a good source of motivation. My son is self motivated but it is driven very much by fear. I don't like it as I think it is not healthy emotionally. Yet, he is driven to a point where he monitors his own school work and pays attention in class. So I don't know, is fear a good reason to be motivated?


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