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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Gordon

What Motivates you? Taking a look at Self-Efficacy and Motivation in our Children and Teens

Self-Efficacy and Motivation in Children and Teens

Why are self-efficacy and motivation important for kids to develop? Self-efficacy is the knowledge or belief in one’s ability to achieve, perform or manage situations. Extrinsic motivation means to engage in an activity to gain an incentive or outcome or avoid punishments. Intrinsic motivation is engaging in an activity for the internal satisfaction of doing so. Let’s explore each of these terms in a bit more detail.


Kids high in self-efficacy are more likely to take on challenges and persist in the face of obstacles because they believe they can succeed. They are better equipped to bounce back from setbacks and failures, as they view them as opportunities to gain experience and improve. Self-efficacious children feel more confident in their abilities, which boosts their self-esteem and overall sense of well-being. Children with higher self-efficacy tend to perform better academically, as they approach tasks with a cheerful outlook and a belief in their capabilities. They are more willing to try new things and explore their interests, leading to better personal development and growth. Self-efficacious kids are more likely to engage in social interactions and build positive relationships with others.

Extrinsic motivation

Examples of extrinsic motivation include working to achieve external rewards, such as praise, stickers or small gifts. It can encourage children to participate in activities they might not initially find enjoyable but that contribute to their skill development and academic progress. Extrinsic motivation can reinforce positive behaviors by offering rewards or recognition, while also promoting compliance with rules and routines. This kind of motivation can spark interest in new activities or subjects, leading to exploration and potential long-term intrinsic motivation. Recognition and rewards can enhance a child’s self-esteem and confidence, especially when they receive acknowledgement for their efforts.

A word of caution: Over-reliance on external rewards can diminish intrinsic motivation over time, and kids may become dependent on constant external reinforcement.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is highly beneficial for kids because it involves engaging in activities or tasks for the inherent satisfaction, enjoyment, or interest they provide, rather than relying on external rewards or pressures. When kids are intrinsically motivated, they tend to develop a genuine interest in activities, leading to sustained engagement and a passion for learning and exploration. This kind of motivation allows children to take ownership of their actions and decisions promoting autonomy and independence in their learning endeavors. Other benefits are the increased ability to think creatively, deeper learning experiences and a higher quality of work and sense of accomplishment. A huge benefit to intrinsic motivation is that kids are less likely to experience stress and anxiety associated with external pressures.

Tip: Use extrinsic motivation judiciously and strike a balance with intrinsic motivation. Over time, children can become dependent on constant external validation and reinforcement. Combining both types and gradually transitioning towards fostering intrinsic motivation can lead to more sustainable and self-driven behaviors overall.

Stay tuned for real-world, practical examples for how to help your children develop these important skills.

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