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Ways Parents can Promote Positive Motivation

Following up on our webinar on helping teens stay motivated while quarantining at home, here are the A-B-Cs of promoting positive motivation. This is based on "Self-Determination Theory" which teaches that motivation flourishes when three basic human needs are met: Autonomy, Belonging and Competence.

↑ Monica Kowalski is Associate Director for the Program Evaluation and Research; Faculty, ACE Teaching Fellows and the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame. This video is an excerpt from our recent webinar on helping teens stay motivated at home.

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A = Autonomy

Autonomy is the ability to determine the course of one’s life, to make choices and be the source of one’s own actions. To increase autonomy:

  • Provide choices
  • Empathize with their perspective
  • Validate their feelings
  • Avoid threats and consequences
  • Provide opportunities for collaborative problem solving

B = Belonging

Belonging is the need to interact in close relationships. To increase belonging:

  • Show genuine interest in them
  • Provide care and concern for their wellbeing
  • Empathize with their emotions
  • Demonstrate unconditional love

C = Competence

Competence is the need to feel capable, to be able to master challenges. To increase competence:

  • Promote a growth mindset, learning from mistakes and believing you can improve
  • Break tasks into manageable chunks
  • Use checklists or to do lists
  • Praise and affirm effort and improvement
  • Seek additional help or resources when needed


  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology.
May 11, 2020
Monica Kowalski, PhD | Associate Director, ACE

Monica Kowalski, PhD | Associate Director, ACE

Dr. Monica Kowalski, PhD, is the Associate Director for the Program Evaluation and Research and a faculty member of the ACE Teaching Fellows program and Remick Leadership Program. She currently teaches courses in the ACE Teaching Fellows and Remick Leadership Programs.

Kowalski graduated from the ACE Teaching Fellows program, where she taught second grade in Jackson, Mississippi, while earning a master's degree in education. After ACE, she worked in Notre Dame undergraduate admissions for three years before pursuing further graduate studies.

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