Many of you have written to me with regards to motivating your children. Whether motivation in terms of school work, simply listening, doing chores or exhibiting certain behaviors. Influencing another person’s behavior is never easy! Think of all of your relationships and then thing of your sphere of influence. Most of the time, in our leadership roles either at home (Mom the Boss) or at work, we are telling people what to do. In a work context this is accepted, but within the home we often struggle.
I want my children to feel like they have some autonomy over their own lives, that they can often be active in life’s choices. But, I also want them to listen when I need them to listen. Sound familiar? So how do you balance both?
I have recently been potty training my 3 year old. We have gone through about 6 months of almost having it licked…most of the time diaper free, but with lots and lots of accidents. I was frustrated, irritated and tired of cleaning up crap to be honest. I talked to him and encouraged him and rewarded him and even got to the point where I was pleeding with him to make it to the toilet on time. Until I hit me….
He was not going to take responsiblity for this until he WANTED to. Because he was physically able to do it, I saw that many times, but everytime we talked about it, I could see that the desire for this new behavior wasn’t there. So we started talking about wanting to do this. I let go of pushing him into it and told him that when he wanted to be a big boy and master the toilet routine then he would. He was fully potty trained in less than 3 days after than conversation.
So how do we tap into motivating our children to WANT what we want or rather, INSPIRE positive behavior and learning?
My mother to this day says to me: “I don’t know why you don’t just listen to me….why do you have to figure everything out on your own!?” Because that is just how humans are Mom!!! We must physically, emotionally or spiritually feel something in order to determine our relationship to it. So that means we have to often experience the negative stuff, the pain, the struggle or the failure in order to really SEE what it is that we desire. And this isn’t just relevant to me or adults in general, kids are just the same. We need contrasting experiences to illustrate our lives, to put our desires into our minds and into our souls.
Tip for MOTIVATING your children:
- When your child exhibits behavior opposite to what you would like to see, don’t rush to correct it. Often we are too quick to jump in, punish, redirect and correct our children’s behavior. It doesn’t give them time to learn from the experience. Take a few minutes to really explore the situation with your child, allowing her to feel the negative context. When your child misbehaves, ask her:
- “How does it feel to act in ways that make mamma mad/you know is not what I asked of you?”
- “How proud do you feel of your actions?”
- “By acting this way, do you think you will get your way?” (showing him that his actions will not lead to his ultimate desire – candy, staying up late, a new toy, etc.. – you have to stick to your guns here…no means no).
- Then have have your child explore the feelings of showing up in more positive/expected ways. Ask her:
- “What would listening better to mamma/pappa feel like?”
- “How would acting in this way feel? Would it make you feel proud?”
- “Do you think if you were a better listener, we would listen to YOU more?”
- “What could you do right now that would feel good?”
- “How could we compromise?”
By approaching your child in this way not only are you encouraging self insight, but you are enabling your child to tap into her intrinsic motivation. Feeling what PRIDE feels like and connecting that to action will motivate her to act in positive ways – not only to please you, but to please herself.
Your challenge today is to stop just telling your children what to do, but take the time and dare to get a little deep with your them. Get curious, have fun and connect with your child. Play with these questions – make up your own, inspire new thoughts, new actions in your child. The idea is to enable your child to find motivation within him for change. In addition to locating this inner desire in your child for positive behavior, you also give your child the gift of being seen – of having his feelings legitimized and understood. This is food for a child’s soul! Good luck!