Behavior Modification Techniques: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

There was a hard lesson I had to learn in my parenting methodology before I began making any real and measurable progress with my children. It was not only a lesson about kids, but a lesson about people in general.

That is, extrinsic motivational techniques don’t have a tenth the effect that intrinsic motivation has on people.
Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources of reward such as money or positions, jail or fines, etc. They are things that control and guide our behavior from outside of us, to put it quite simply.

Copyright: Daniel Wagner - Parent of Progress
On the other hand, intrinsic motivation comes from inside. They are forces that control or guide your behavior from internal sources, such as your principles or morals. For example, your drive to ‘do the right thing’ might force your decisions one way or another.

Being new to peaceful parenting and all the terminology that encompasses its practice, I am still learning how to actually apply these principles. Sometimes it becomes incredibly difficult not to resort back to bribing the kids with treats and candy, or using guilt or threats to get compliance; all external forms of motivation.

The benefits of allowing them to become intrinsically motivated will have long-lasting effects well into adulthood. They start thinking more long-term in their goals and they become more likely to actually achieve those goals become they have determined their own purpose; found their own inner driving force.

Money will only motivate someone for so long due to its intrinsic nature. I once took a job simply because I needed the money. At first it was wonderful. A stable, well-paying job with great benefits. What more could I want? However, as time went on, the extrinsic motivators were no longer enough to sustain interest and desire to return to work. I needed a change.

Why would kids be any different?

As  a kid, I had a bad habit of lying. I would do things I knew I was not supposed to do, then proceed to lie my little head off. These lies came of fear. Fear that I would get in trouble and be spanked, grounded, etc. 

These punishments were all extrinsic consequences for my bad behavior—and they didn’t work.

I never learned. I just practiced getting better at lying to my parents. I worked on getting slicker at not being caught in the first place. I got better at executing my rule-breaking behavior.

It wasn’t until years later that I began to learn what not to do from a principled standpoint. I stopped lying, cheating, and stealing because I had formed my own intrinsic morals that told me it was wrong. I stopped disrespecting people because I recognized the benefit of respect—because I would want the same treatment.

I was (and still am) intrinsically motivated to do the right thing. Not because someone is threatening me. Not because someone is telling me to. But because I am using my own core principles as guides.

If it works for me, why wouldn’t it work for my own children?

Now to figure out how to execute these concepts.

Any ideas?

Daniel Wagner.

Daniel Wagner.
Daniel Wagner, owner of the Parent of Progress blog, shares his experiences, tips, and advice for new parents and/or parents who are new to the concept of peaceful parenting and the challenges associated with the transition in differing mindsets.