Laying the Foundation for Intrinsic Motivation through Declarative Language

Why should we avoid imperative language when Guiding our children?

Being asked questions is perceived as a demand by many children. In fact, questions or demands actually raise blood pressure in the child, putting them on the defensive! In a MindGuiding relationship (or any relationship for that matter) if the apprentice is put on the defensive it will shut down their natural curiosity and their desire to want to learn and it will activate their flight/fight/fright response. 

So, what do we do instead? We use Declarative Language. 

RDI®️️ Consultant Linda Murphy shares:

Declarative language, plain and simple, is stating out loud what one knows or thinks in the form of a comment. It may be used to share an opinion (I love spaghetti!); make a prediction (I think we are going to the movies tomorrow.); announce / celebrate (We had a great time today!); observe (I notice that your friend wants a turn.); reflect on past experience (Last time this stopped working we checked the batteries.); or problem solve (We need tape to fix it.). Declarative language does not require a verbal response. Rather, it invites experience-sharing, and provides an ideal social framework for later conversational interactions. (taken from an article inside the RDI®️️ Online Learning Community)

Making comments is a great way to engage our children without them feeling like a demand was placed on them. 

Using Declarative language to build Intrinsic Motivation 

Allana Robinson shares the following example of how using declarative language in everyday parenting can help your child develop intrinsic motivation:

Since declarative statements don’t give children the answer on a silver platter (Close the door. Stop climbing the stairs.) They have to use critical thinking skills to determine why you would be drawing attention to a behaviour they’re exhibiting, and decide for themselves to change it. This flips the motivation from external (I’m doing this because she told me to) to intrinsic (I’ve decided this isn’t a safe/good thing to do.) See how we changed this from blind obedience to their idea?

WOW! That is exactly what we want to install in our children right? 

What is RDI®️️?

RDI® is not a behavior therapy and it is not a checklist of skills that have to be learned. RDI® is an intervention of gradually re-building the foundations of the Guiding Relationship that have been affected by autism.

We do this, not by “getting” a child to do something but by teaching parents how to create customized experiences (unique for your child) over a period of years that focus on activating growth seeking, building intrinsic motivation and giving the child the mental & emotional abilities that we all count on to survive this dynamic world.

The following are some examples.


  1. Elizabeth Johnson

    How can I get more information about this? No one has ever mentioned this to me & I am going to start trying this immediately. Brilliant.

  2. G Hart

    What do you suggest with pre-teens whom have lost all motivation and drive to do homework / revise for tests / check emails from school. I am repeating myself daily to nudge her to take responsibility and to remind her of what she needs to do. I did give her a three month break from me reminding / nudging her – but this just led her to falling immensely behind and all grades have gone down.
    I’m at a dead-end and just really wish she would take the lead on her own school-related responsibilities. She’s 12 years old. I have made her a schedule of what she should do every day after school, which I’ll read out from / encourage her to read – but any kind of reminders just bring on friction between us. She does not refer to the schedule herself.

  3. Rachelle Sheely

    If you will send me your emal address, I’ll have a consultant contact you. We offer free consultations that you might find helpful

  4. Rachelle Sheely

    HI Elizabeth
    Our website has a lot of information as does our RDI Book (Amazon) Also, if you would like to speak to a consultant, we have available a free consultation.

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