contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us and we will get back to you soon!


2500 Harborshide Financial, Plaza 5
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Parenting blog

A blog for parents with effective techniques based on developmental psychology. 

Understanding achievement motivation

Sara Zaidi

People differ in their motivation to achieve. The manner in which this motive is nurtured, the expectancies of succeeding, and the causal attributions to success and failure are all important determinants of achievement behavior.

Nurturing children’s motivation in appropriate ways at a young age is imperative in raising self-motivated individuals. If the feedback given to children is based on the end product rather than the process they may feel that they always have to do well, they show reluctance to take on bigger challenges, fear that they might disappoint the parent or the teacher resulting in lower self-confidence, and require a constant need for approval. Instead, the attention should be shifted to the effort they put in to accomplish the task and the strategies they use to problem solve. Rather than saying, "that's a beautiful picture," for example, asking them for explanations about their artwork, why they chose specific colors or how they chose what to draw would shift the focus from the end product and your approval of it to the work that they put in.  

Success and achievement motivation can be explained by two implicit theories of intelligence: an ‘entity’ theory in which individuals view their intelligence as an unchangeable internal characteristic and an ‘incremental theory in which individuals believe that their intelligence is malleable and can be increased through effort. Someone who believes the incremental theory will demonstrate a mastery oriented response associated with perseverance and an increased effort to solve a problem while focusing on a learning goal - seeking new knowledge and continually improve oneself.

Alternatively, those who believe the entity theory tend to focus on performance goals where they feel they have to document their abilities. If their confidence level is high they will opt for a mastery oriented response. However, if their confidence level is low they will choose the helplessness response, characterized by a focus on outcome and a desire to avoid negative feedback leading to anxiety and an inability to persist when faced with obstacles.

Children will choose to persist and demonstrate an ability to learn or give up and shy away from possible failure based on the kind of feedback they receive. For example, if they simply hear, "good job" they are only receiving recognition for their ability to get the task done. However, if they receive encouragement in the form of, "you were really thinking about how you were going to solve that puzzle," they will feel rewarded for their efforts and in most likelihood, express an interest in mastering something new. 

Thus, teaching children early on to focus on ‘learning’ goals rather than ‘performance’ goals will enhance their motivation to succeed. If they master these techniques in childhood they will eventually be able to extend them to the social world.