what motivates your child

What motivates your child?

How understanding what motivates your child can help deal with exam stress

It’s that time of the year when there is so much pressure on children to pass exams.   Whether they need the results for entrance exams, to get an apprenticeship or into a college or university, or simply to get the job they have their heart set on – their exams are their sole focus (and if they aren’t – it’s likely to be even more stressful for you!)

We all deal with stress in many different ways and our children are no different.

Understanding what motivates your child enables you to support them in the best way through any stressful periods.  Whether it be taking exams, changing schools or choosing options, to name but a few. Doing simple things to improve their motivation will give them more energy and support their mental health and well being.

The 9 key motivators

We all need, and are motivated by, different things.  It is likely that there will be two or three of these 9 motivators that stand out stronger than others for each of your family members:

Security & stability

If your child’s need is for security and stability, helping them to plan their revision timetable and letting them know where you will be when they need assistance will really help them.

Meaningful relationships

If friendship and being with others is important they will prefer to revise in the library or with friends.  Make sure they spend time relaxing with others when they aren’t revising.  Be aware that being alone is likely to seriously demotivate them.


If they like recognition, ensure you show a high level of interest in what they are doing.  Perhaps set something up visually that show’s when they have done each exam and when the end is getting closer and make sure it’s visible for everyone to see.

Being in charge

For those children who like being in charge and making decisions they will enjoy organising themselves and will be motivated by having a clear revision plan and you reviewing their progress with it.

Earning & competition

If having nice things is important, help them set clear targets for revision – give them the responsibility to do this and consider rewards for achieving their exams.


Children who love learning are likely to put extra pressure on themselves, thinking they still don’t know enough.  Help them to recognise they have covered everything they need to know.

Creativity & problem solving

Those who like being creative and problem-solving are likely to find revision easier if they are in a bright airy place and may even want to revise in different places.  (They may find drawing pictures to help them remember things easier – see How to Draw to Remember More)

Freedom and independence

Those who like freedom and independence will find revision easier if they are working to their own plan, but they may need help with timekeeping and organisation.  Get them to set clear goals and share their goals with you.  They are likely to need regular breaks so help them to chunk down their revision.

To make a difference

Finally, for children who want to make a difference, it is crucial that they are supported to see how doing these exams fits in with their longer-term life goals.

For a more detailed explanation read these 9 motivational drivers

Put exams into perspective

Remember, your motivators are likely to be different from your children’s.  For example, if you like planning your work and your child likes to have more freedom and independence you will both be wanting different things.  So, work with them to support them, and show them that you will let them manage their own revision if they show you that they are taking responsibility for doing it.

Our 9 motivators affect our speed of decision making, our attitude to risk and change and the language we use.  If we know what motivates us then setting and achieving goals, finding jobs and choosing careers we enjoy becomes so much easier.

So much pressure is put on children today and actually, what is the worst thing that can happen?  The very worst thing would be having to resit a year.  (I recently shared a great post about this from mum and hypnotherapist, Ali Hollands, on my Facebook page .  Once Ali’s daughter realised the world wouldn’t end if she did have to resit, it became easier to get through her exams.

About the author

Sarah Stones is a Motivation Specialist and Coach who works with individuals, young people, schools and businesses.  As a Licensed Practitioner of Motivational Maps® Sarah is passionate about enabling people to shine. She goes into schools to deliver talks to children, teachers and parents and also runs evening workshops for parents.  For more information  visit www.plainsailingmotivation.co.uk or contact 07816178616.

Scuseme exclusive offer

If you would like to find out what motivates your child (or find out more about your own motivators) Sarah is offering scuseme readers an special offer of a Motivational Map® report.  Instead of her usual 2hr face-to-face consultation scuseme readers can have a ½ hour telephone feedback session for only £49. Quote scuseme in any communications.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advise based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme

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