Get started! Tips for helping youth become self-motivated

Self-motivation is something we all may struggle with. Use these tips to help youth learn early how to get themselves going.

Let’s face it, sometimes we all struggle with self-motivation. Often times we have so many things on our plates to accomplish and so little time to accomplish them all in. Being intentional about helping youth become self-motivated is probably the furthest thing on our minds.

Self-motivation is a life skill that will help youth become successful adults, so we need to be intentional about helping them develop and practice that skill. Michigan State University Extension offers some quick tips for busy parents and volunteers to help youth practice self-motivation.

  1. Be optimistic. Focus on solutions rather than problems. When we train our minds to think in this manner, we are able to take action instead of dwelling on our problems, which is a more constructive use of our time.
  2. Dealing with failure. Failure is part of the learning process. Most of us can honestly say that we have learned more when our best laid plans didn’t happen like we’d anticipated. There is opportunity in failure. When adults help youth focus on what they learned, the failure becomes a softer lesson and the fear of failure diminishes.
  3. Celebrate achievement. Yes, when things go as planned, celebrate! Praise, shout-outs and pats on the back have not gone out of style and are certainly appropriate when youth have accomplished their goals, no matter how big or small.
  4. Make success possible. Adults are in a position to help guide youth through the learning process, not by taking control and doing it all, but by offering suggestions, asking for and encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving. Part of guidance is finding that delicate balance between attainable success that still presents a challenge and that pie-in-the-sky unattainable goal. Helping youth set developmentally appropriate goals where success is not out of the realm of possibility can spark motivation to then set another goal, and so on.

The one characteristic that all of these tips have in common is they aren’t something adults can do for youth. They are all things we do with youth. Adults provide the guidance, advice, cheering section and shoulder to cry on for youth. Even in our busy lives, these are all things any adult working with youth, whether parent, coach or 4-H Leader, can be intentional about doing.

To learn more about the resources Michigan 4-H life skill development has to offer, please visit MSU Extension’s Life Skills webpage.

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