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Motivating our Kids

Motivating our Kids

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Motivating our Kids How easy is it to convince our children to do chores or even to just get up on time in the mornings? Arguing and dreading, do they accomplish all the daily acts- eating healthy food, homework, attending school? Do they automatically do it without us asking? Or is that describing the impossible? Unfortunately, kids do not come with an owner's manual containing all the answers. Instead we all have our own skills and our own character strengths, even our children posses their own strengths. Even so, it is possible with the right skill set to motivate just about anyone.

Often we fall back into learned habits either from our parents or other examples of yelling or force. That may get the children to move for the moment, yet it may not motivate nor instill a lasting skill. And in reality instilling fear can cause broken relationships and make motivating them tomorrow even harder. We could take our child's agency however; we can't control how it's going to end or how they will feel about us deep in their heart.

I have six children. And what I have found out is that each one is different. I actually have one who wants and will get up in the mornings. Gets ready in plenty of time for school and even leaves a little ahead of schedule. So what happened there? One child is highly motivated to get the day going. Others are not as motivated in the morning yet they are willing to get up and ready just in time to not be too late for school. Then we all have that one child that doesn't seem to fit our mold. I have two who would not even get up in the morning if the world was ending. Every day is WWIII to get them going. They do not feel the need to rise and get the day started. They really don't care how they look or smell or how late they are.

Regardless, we still need to find a solution that would motivate the child to get up and get moving on his own. How do we do that? And how do we traverse those small steps to the more important life decisions? My goal would be to plant a seed of motivation. The motivation that would help him realize his possibilities and function well in society. The goal is not to force him to comply with the rules that he may not understand or doesn't see a need for.

We want our children to have the best life can offer, but we know from experience a lot of what life can offer is how we perceive it and how hard we work for it. So how do we help our children achieve their potential, and how do we help them learn the skills to be self-motivated?

Here are three basic steps to begin this process of self-motivation in our children. Naturally we start motivating with the very basic of human needs, which are: to be understood and be validated. Knowing how to use the skills of understanding and validating will reach the hearts of children faster than any form of manipulation or force.

1- First understand the child's position. Instead of immediately reacting to the children's ideas, or objections, spend the energy trying to understand their position. Why do they not do their chores or why do they not get up when they need to?

This is not the time to drill or give them all the reasons they should do it. This is the time to understand their point of view. Hear their story and let them know that you are trying to understand what they are feeling or what they are struggling with. When they feel understood they then can feel the love. Love is a great motivator resulting in the desire to respond better.

If you were standing in line at a breakfast buffet and a person walked in who was obviously starving to death and was excited to finally be able to eat, would you make him wait for you to get your food first? Consequently, if you're talking to your child and you keep interrupting his conversation, you're doing just that. This interruption shows that, to him, your desires matter more than his needs. This will only destroy your ability to motivate. Give him the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

2- Ask yourself a question and create the conditions for change. What part of the problem am I? What is my child trying to say? How can we work this out together? These questions help us to turn out thoughts to understanding what he is saying rather than wanting our desires to be met now, such as getting out of bed now. These questions help us to think beyond ourselves and to realize what we want most. Do we want a lifetime of motivation and a good relationship with our children or do we want the job to be done now and done our way? The following is an old story of Indian origins found at that demonstrates how each of us has our own skills and our own character strengths. It is okay for our kids to be or do life differently. The Cracked Pot A waterbearer in India had two large pots, one hung on each end of a pole, which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. While the other pot was perfect, and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the mistress's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to her master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream: "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your mistress's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said. The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in her compassion she said, "As we return to the mistress's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? "That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. "For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my mistress's table. Without you being just the way you are, she would not have this beauty to grace her house." Our children may not complete tasks the way we do, yet remember, they have different skills and understanding, which can benefit our lives as well as their own. We just need to take the time to see their viewpoint.

3- Build rules together. In preparation for difficult times, anticipate that problems are going to happen. Make rules together for how you and your child both will handle these chores or situations. Talk to your child about what both of you should or could do and who is responsible for each part. How can you work together to make the good things happen and how it can benefit both of you? And, if there is a need, also discuss the consequences for noncompliance. Both parent and child together making the rules and consequences will benefit both parties. These rules can be written and posted to be reviewed often or when needed. Be sure to follow through with your part and if needed help them follow through with their part. a- On a piece of paper draw 4 columns: one column for goals, one column for pros, one for cons, the last one for consequences and out comes. In the first area list what your child thinks should be the rules. Regardless if you disagree write them down. This is his time to voice his opinion. Let the child state what they would like for the rules first. Now is not the time to state your side.

b- Below your child's list, add your list. After he has finished telling his desires, is then your turn to state what you are wanting for rules and write them all down. Both of you contributing and writing all comments down. No final conclusions should be reached yet. The next step or two columns would be to add the pros and cons and write them down. What do you and your child think would work or not work?

c- The final column is to look at what the consequences of the goal would be. What would be the end result if you did this goal? The conclusion of all the rules and consequences can now be writhen down on a blank paper. This final document is the one to be posted in a visible location and followed through with.

d- Now is the time for follow through. Both child and parent can help police each other. This can be a growing experience for both. (Parent's do have final approval, yet follow through is much more effective and easier when a child feels understood)

This may take time to work though yet it can change your own life and the motivation of your child. The time will not be remembered just that you did it together.

Once we understand the rules and the needs of both parent and child are being met, then change begins to take place. We all have an inherent need to be understood and valued. Having those needs met is a monumental motivator.

How we choose to motivate them today will determine how we have to motivate them tomorrow.

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