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Extrinsic VS Intrinsic Motivators

Updated: Apr 7

A narcissistic parent will always focus on their children's external: their looks, their accomplishments, their awards, their achievements, their academics, their athletics.


They truly view their children as extensions of themselves. So, when their children do well, it reflects upon them as parents- and a narcissistic parent needs the world to believe they are exceptional at everything they do, especially parenting.


Your children quickly learn that their worth is about the external, so they start to look towards extrinsic motivators and rewards as proof of their worth and their value.

They are conditioned to link how they do, with who they are. Their worth becomes externally motivated.


These include: points, grades, money, marks, awards. If they don't perform to unrealistic expectations and standards, they are losers. They have no worth, they are unworthy of affection and attention.


This is how their narcissistic parent rewards them: you do well, you make me look good, and I might give you some attention and some affection. You might get a reward. They are constantly striving to please this parent.


So, your work, your focus needs to be on your children's internal attributes. And to focus on helping them align more with intrinsic rewards and motivators.


Things like: purpose, interest, mastery, curiosity, pride. This will last them a lifetime and it won't be connected to their worth. They immerse themselves in activities, athletics, academics because they enjoy it; they seek to master the skill; they take pride in their hard work; they're curious about the outcome of their work and dedication; their immersion gives them purpose.


This all sounds great Chantal, but you're more than likely wondering, how do I teach my children to be intrinsically motivated?


  1. Praise their effort and not their outcome. Rather than saying "you're so smart" say things like "you worked so hard. You must be so proud of yourself."

  2. Point out their progress: we all start as novices when learning a new skill. We are bound to not be good at it if it's new. To make mistakes. So point out the progress they're making to help them see they are moving forward, even if it's at a snails pace. Feeling successful will naturally build intrinsic motivation to continue.

  3. Encourage independence and autonomy. Do this by giving your children choices, within parameters that are age appropriate. This can be around food, clothing, books, chores, activities they do etc. Don't rush to solve their problems or issues for them. Let them struggle, again, within age appropriate parameters. Talk them through resolving their problems and issues. Guide them until they're able to resolve them on their own.

  4. Have realistic expectations that are age appropriate. We all have off/bad days. We don't expect perfection, only that we try our best on any given day, depending on the variables at play (sleep, food, mood etc.)

  5. Point out the good things about your children, the good things they do. Limit cristicism, shame, judgement. "Promote what you love rather than bashing what you hate." Change their inner dialogue, they get enough criticism from their other parent.

  6. Limit your focus on extrinsic motivators. You don't have to fully abstain from them, but do try to be cognizant of how frequently you praise them for their high grades versus their hard work. And always try to have them reflect on how they feel about themselves "you must be so proud of yourself" versus you simply saying you're proud of them. That way they look to themselves as guides for how well they're doing and don't need to rely on other's praise to feel good about themselves.



Your job is to help refocus their motivation on the intrinsic versus the extrinsic, so that their worth is more on who they are, and not on what they do.


It helps to rewrite the internal dialogue that their other parent is narrating: your worth is tied to how well you perform, and your performance dictates how much affection and attention I may dole out.


You have to be the antidote to their other parent's toxicity.


Reminder: you're playing the long game. What you do now may not start to pay off until much further down the road, but it will pay off.


Keep going. 🤍

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