Book Review: The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned-Out Child

I was attracted to this title because I can identify with the feelings of loss when dealing with a seemingly unmotivated or tuned-out child. It’s easy, relaxing even, to teach kids who are motivated and willing to learn. It isn’t difficult to help them get ahead. The challenge is helping the unmotivated out of their shells. I have had my own share of unmotivated students while tutoring. In classrooms, my attention often goes to the unmotivated child. I am eager to find out what makes them tick, what will help bring out their fullest potential, what will make them smile and their eyes sparkle or what keeps their inner fire burning. This book has been extremely enlightening and offers much good advice and perspectives to achieve that in every child. It talks not just about developing but also maximizing the potential of our students.

There are several refreshing concepts mentioned but I shall highlight a few that were especially revolutionary to my own teaching experience: (1) praise vs encouragement, (2) the existence of motivator types, (3) success is the greatest motivator.

Growing up in a rather strict and traditional Asian family, my siblings and I were not familiar with praise. Being aware of this fact, I intentionally try to instill positivity and joy in my students by praising them. It was only in the later generations and in the Western world that praise really becomes a crucial component in a child’s learning process. The use of praise continues to increase in importance, to an extent where modern educators start questioning its effectiveness. Lavoie very eloquently explained how the use of praise can get excessive, inappropriate and damaging to the child’s development, and suggested the use of encouragement instead. He made the distinction between both terms. “Praise is a judgment; encouragement is acknowledgement. Praise is earned; encouragement is a gift. (Page 122)” I realized how encouragement was so much more edifying and empowering, and I determined to be more careful about whether I praise or encourage my students. I want my students to feel loved, acknowledged and valued at every stage rather than feel that they have to reach certain standards before I start to love them. I hope that my heart to value them as individuals who have their own unique strengths can be seen through my words and will motivate them to achieve more for themselves.

A huge part of the book’s midsection elaborates extensively on different generic child profiles and their respective motivators. It may sound like a very emotionless and methodical approach but Lavoie manages to insert many colourful anecdotal examples and brilliant analogies to help the reader visualize each profile. I am thankful for the numerous insights mentioned here. It has reminded me to be more understanding of the situations and decisions my students may be struggling with, and put more effort into helping them find their own learning zone in my classroom. As adults with a greater sense of self-assuredness, we frequently ask that people accept and embrace our differences. I do think as teachers, we could help our students embrace themselves with greater joy, and help them transfer that energy into their studies.

One of the greatest lessons I learnt here was this: “Success is the greatest motivator (repeated many times in the book).” As a teacher, I would love for my kids to succeed and go far in their adulthood. However, I realize that I don’t have to build them up to succeed only in their adulthood; I can help them see they are already succeeding and will continue to succeed. By the time they reach adulthood, they could all be really strong, independent and driven learners! I am excited to apply what I have learnt here and use to empower the young more effectively.

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