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Parents’ Weekly Descriptions of Autonomy Supportive Communication: Promoting Children’s Motivation to Learn and Positive Emotions

Abstract

Although parental autonomy support has been linked to children’s intrinsic motivation to learn and positive emotions in numerous studies, there has been little research on interventions to promote parental autonomy support, especially in the realm of homework and school related learning. Furthermore, there are relatively few qualitative studies dealing with parent autonomy support and children’s emotional responses. This qualitative study examined the weekly journals of 15 parents who were learning how to promote autonomous motivation and academic enjoyment among their 4th and 5th grade children via autonomy supportive communication. Four themes emerged: generalization beyond homework and school-related learning; parents occasionally misinterpreting what it means to be autonomy supportive; strong positive responses, such as children enjoying homework and becoming more passionate about learning; and parent–child shared enjoyment and persistence in the educational games that were provided as a way to practice the autonomy supportive parenting style during each week of the intervention. This study provides insight into how parents actually apply autonomy supportive parenting techniques in the home environment. Future related parent education may benefit from these findings; for instance, parents may be provided with more examples of how autonomy support can generalize to learning in various domains of life, such as mastering a musical instrument, attending a museum exhibit, ordering books for reading pleasure and learning how to operate a boat safely. Interventions that promote children’s autonomous motivation to learn and enjoyment of learning through parental autonomy support should be further developed and studied.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by a University of Northern Colorado Faculty Reassignment Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Works awarded to John Mark Froiland. Emily Oros helped as a doctoral research assistant.

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Correspondence to John Mark Froiland.

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Froiland, J.M. Parents’ Weekly Descriptions of Autonomy Supportive Communication: Promoting Children’s Motivation to Learn and Positive Emotions. J Child Fam Stud 24, 117–126 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9819-x

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Keywords

  • Parent–child communication
  • Student engagement
  • Happiness
  • Parenting style
  • Self determination