In The Motivation Breakthrough, Richard Lavoie outlines six motivational strategies, how they can be used and for whom they work:


Praise. Specific, sincere praise focused on effort and improvement is effective for most children, especially for those motivated by status, recognition or affiliation (a need to belong).

Power. Offering minor choices will help motivate power-driven, autonomous and aggressive children. Avoiding power struggles means figuring out how to give kids some power without ceding your own.

Projects. Using projects to connect different disciplines can stimulate and motivate an autonomous or inquisitive child.

People. Though all children need positive relationships, it’s especially important for adults to build positive relationships with people-oriented kids.

Prizes. Prizes hold huge appeal to children driven by status, recognition, affiliation or power. But because formal reward systems may divert attention from the actual task, Lavoie suggests intermittent rewards not announced ahead of time to celebrate best efforts.

Prestige. To some extent, all children need to feel important, but for autonomous, aggressive, status- or power-driven children, prestige and recognition are fundamental. Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase their talents are important.


— “The reality is, the only person motivated by competition is the person who thinks he has a chance of winning.”

— “Rewards don’t work, either, if the child is having difficulty. All reward systems are based on the concept that the child can do it, he just chooses not to.”

— “Punishment is just a totally ineffective way to motivate kids. To take the child’s favorite thing, whether it be a soccer ball or a skateboard, and take it away from him when he’s bad, that’s just poor human relations.”

— “The irony is that high school teachers particularly, and parents of high school kids, need to be more skilled at motivating, and yet it’s the high school teacher who often says, “It’s not my job.”

These kids don’t come with batteries included, and you need to put those batteries in. I had a teacher say to me one time, “I taught it to him, but he didn’t learn it.” I said, “That’s like a salesman saying to his boss, ‘I sold it to him, but he didn’t buy it.’ ” I think that, particularly at the upper school level, we assume that the kid’s going to come in the door totally motivated and sit there and learn, and it simply isn’t true. You need to continue to be a salesman and a motivator as a high school teacher and as a parent of high school kids.”

— “(And) it’s important to communicate with the child, effectively and often. Don’t wait until the report card comes to sit down and talk with the child. Help them make the connection between what they’re learning in school and what’s happening in the world.

But the most important thing parents and teachers need to do is to keep in mind the balance between what I call support and challenge. You need to constantly challenge kids. But you need to give them the support to meet those challenges.”

The above are some of the tips given by Richard Lavoie, a special-educator for more than 30 years, he has written The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child. He is widely known for a popular PBS video and workshops that show teachers what school is really like for struggling kids. Read the full interview By Tracey Wong Briggs, How kids can get over the ‘motivation brick wall’ at: USA TODAY