Two questions are addressed: (1) What are the motivational characteristics of a child who is most likely to achieve in school at an optimal level? and (2) What kind of educational environment fosters these characteristics? Evidence suggesting that external rewards and punishment can have negative long-term effects on achievement motivation is reviewed. A discussion is given of theoretical and empirical work demonstrating that it is not reinforcement per se that influences children's behavior, but beliefs about one's competencies, perceptions of the cause of achievement outcomes, and values regarding achievement-related rewards that determine behavior. For maintaining high motivation in children, the following strategies are recommended: (1) evaluating on a mastery rather than a normative standard; (2) minimizing salient public evidence of individual childrens' performance; (3) considering errors as a normal aspect of mastering new skills; and (4) providing opportunities for all children to demonstrate competence in activities valued by the teacher. Encouraging students to trust their own evaluations and to set reasonable goals and providing greater autonomy in learning situations are suggested to help them develop independent, self-directed learning strategies.