My girls were NOT born self-motivated! Talking helps.. Not just yakking kinda talk, but heart to heart kinda talk. And if a child has good bonding with the parents, no matter how small children can feel what we feel... be it sadness, happiness, anger, frustration or even to the extent of depression.
Me and my girls talk about everything under the sun. They can manage adult conversations well for their age. Not just the kiddie chats like most...
When we read the papers and there are things of value to share, we openly discuss it and they can offer their opinions on this and that. When i bring them along for my volunteering sessions, they ask questions too? Like why this boy didn't get to eat... why that child has bruise marks on his arm and face... why are they dressed in old clothes... (etc). Empathy can be instilled from young and children model after our behaviour, the way we speak & the way we connect with people. We should never think of children as empty vessels. Like the saying that children's minds/brains are like sponges... children absorb. They absorb everything from their environment, but unfortunately all the good and also the undesirable. They're always watching and they're always listening, even though we may think sometimes they are not. It's up to us to cultivate a healthy balance of EQ and IQ. Catching up on this current rat-race lifestyle, we tend to overlook EQ, which will help our children be more confident children and sure of themselves without being peacock-proud. It is possible.
For starters, one can try to share with children from young about feelings. Like say, you just came back from work and you share with them...
"Mummy had a lousy day at work. I had to rush through so many assignments till i didn't have time to eat my lunch today? How about you? Did you have a good day? Why was it good? Ya know... when i was that busy at work today, all i could think about was being at home with my baby and hugging you. I think that'll make me feel better... "
If the bb gives mummy a hug almost immediately, bb has felt the need for mummy to feel good.. If they are too young we can also initiate the fuzzy feeling... "Can you make mummy feel better, can you give mummy a nice hug? And let's see if the lousy feeling goes away.. You won't be surprised if there comes a day when the child had a tough day in school next time, she'll just come up to you and say, "Mummy, can i get a cuddle?"
When my younger girl was feeling sad cos a friend threw a block at her, she did the same thing but she said, "I only feel a little bit better after the cuddle, but it still hurts." Hehee.. Good enuf.
When i scrub the toilet, and the girls peek in... I share with them. Hey, ya know what? This is hard work! I'm using all my energy to make this bathroom clean and fresh for all of us to use.. d'ya like how it looks and it sure smells nice to me. Whaddya' think? Geez... all i want is a glass of icy cool coke to make my tiredness go away. But i know i still hafta clean your room later on so i think i'll drink after that. So, you and jie-jie go play and i'll join you later. I came back to find a clean, nicely swept bedroom and all tables and shelves wiped, plus a drink for me (plain water, not coke... ahakz! ) and though tired as i was that day, i felt so good.
It's not impossible.
If in relevance to learning, to instill motivation a young child can be exposed to good work routine, so that they won't feel overwhelmed by the gradual work piled on them as they grow. Good learning/studying routine will help children be focused. A nice timetable drawn up to practise good work routine helps too. They will know what's to be done at different periods of the day. They will know what's expected of them to do each day, so by the time we get back from work and catch up with the children, they are able to share their achievements. A timetable can be done together with the children so as to add in their share of play as well, just to be fair.. As an example, i've alloted Mondays for Language, hence Mondays the children will take out their English assessments, books to read and games to play.... all under Language. Tuesdays we dedicate to Maths.
Again they will choose their assessments for the day and decide on the Math games to play. And so on for the other days of the week. As SAHM, i managed to start them off very young with this work routine from a few 15 mins to 30 mins a day, to a 3-hr work cycle daily today.
It can work if done systematically and over time the satisfaction is rewarding. Plus less nagging but instead more of the loving... Nothing can be automatic with children unless it has been instilled from young and beginning with small goals and making small achievements.