Why is it so hard to motivate kids? As parents, we often have a funny, inaccurate belief that our children won't care unless we twist their arms. But the simple truth is that your attempts to motivate your child are probably working against you. You can't make your childcare just because you do in fact, you might actually get in the way of their motivation. What's worse, the push-pull of trying to motivate your child usually turns into a power struggle. There's something wrong with the picture if you care more about your child's grades than he does. If you've been getting in your child's "box" and trying to make him care because you do, it's important to stop and ask yourself this question, "What's my child's responsibility here? What's mine?" If your child isn't getting his work done, your job as a parent is to hold him accountable and teach him how the real world works. In the real world, if you don't finish your work, you won't get paid. Give consequences to show your child what the result of his poor choices are, but don't confuse the reason for doing this with thinking you'll make him care about his math homework simply because you care about it. Consequences aren't there to create motivation; you give them because you're doing your job as a parent. The bottom line is that you can`t motivate another person to care. Your role, rather, is to inspire and influence.
As parents, we often feel responsible for our child's outcome in life, but understand that this is never the case ultimately, your child is responsible for his own choices. But because we think our kid' success depends on us, we step into a place where we don't belong. We're taught that we need to somehow control our kids, so we often jump in their box without a second thought. We think we're supposed to motivate our children to want certain things in life, but that only causes them to function in reaction to you. Your child might comply to get you off his back or even to please you, but that doesn't help him get self-motivated. Again, you definitely want to inspire and influence your child. The goal is the same: we want our kids to be motivated - it's how we get there that makes the difference.
I'm Trying to Motivate Him. Why Isn't It Working?
The truth of the matter is, some children are less motivated than others. There are kids who are smart as a whip but who get report cards with D's and F's. Some sit in the classroom gazing into space despite the teacher's - and your best efforts. Maybe you have a child who forgets his assignments or worse, does them and never turns them in. Or you might have a pre-teen who doesn't seem interested in anything and has no real hobbies or passions. Maybe your teen gives up easily or doesn't want to try. In spite of your best efforts, he remains stuck or is starting to fall behind. (If you have other concerns, be sure to have the school and/or your child's pediatrician rule out learning disabilities, ADHD/ADD, depression, addictions and other conditions.)
If your child is one of the less motivated, it can be a source of great worry and frustration and sometimes even despair and that's where the trouble can begin. The trouble, in this case, is your reaction to your child's lack of motivation, not the lack of motivation itself. When you get nervous about him, you try to motivate him from the grip of your own anxiety, and forget that it`s just not possible to make someone care. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does your worry compel you to nag, hover, push, cajole, or over-function for your child?
2. Does your frustration cause you to yell, scream, beg, punish, and throw your hands up in despair?
3. Does your helplessness cause you to start fighting with your spouse, who never seems to do as much as you think he or she should do to get your child motivated?
4. Does your fear about your child's underachieving cause you to keep trying to get him to change and to be more motivated?
If you find yourself doing any of the above, you've probably seen your child resist, comply to get you off his back, rebel, or dig in his heels harder. Let me be clear: Whether he fights you or goes along with what you want, the end result is that he will be no more motivated than he was before. You might eventually get him to do what you want, but your goal of helping him be self-motivated is still a far away reality.
A great book I discovered to help with child motivation is Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent`s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told
by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. "A parent's words are important in a child's life. They linger in the heart and become food for the conscience." This book is 288 pages and is quite an easy read, to be honest. The book explains how to parent in ways that build internal motivation so that kids don't have to rely on you to get things done, how to coordinate your parenting to take advantage of them, ways to energize your spiritual training with fun and creativity, and how to help children respond to mistakes instead of blaming, defending, or justifying. The book acts like a guide, but it is not one of those parenting books that tells you how to raise your child and makes you feel like a failed parent like many other books do that accuse you of doing it all wrong. I like how it teaches you how to motivate your children rather than using anger to do so - which is, unfortunately, a week point that I am guilty of. It`s how I was raised, my parents, etc and when I noticed that way wasn`t working I needed to figure out something new and "retrain" my thoughts and actions. This book has helped guide me in that right direction. Motivate Your Child describes the many different ways parents can become stressed from generational yelling to all the newness of becoming a parent and not knowing exactly what to do. In turn, parents react to the stress in anger because the frustration becomes too much. I don`t think any parent wants to yell at their child or act in anger to get their child to listen. This book is such a blessing because it takes away any kind of anger and has you commit to what the root of the problem is in your individual child, and how to internally motivate them.
Not only did I find this book to be helpful in teaching you how to motivate your kids, but I found it to be motivating to me - sort of inspirational in a way with so many scripture quotes used throughout. This book also teaches us how to instill great character and a fine ethic in our children along the way. I love the practical and doable tips this book presents to make real changes and the references to the Bible to remind us why we are teaching and guiding our children. The things we tell our children will stick with them forever - even if adults we forget what we said. This book was a God send for our family because one of my biggest worries as a parent is how can I teach my children without becoming mean to them or having them fear I`ll get angry. It`s not the type of parent I want to be. I want to my children to grow up with the mind set "my mom did this because she loved me and wanted me to do my best" and this book, I believe, is a helpful tool when you`re the type who get frustrated and don`t know what to do. Nobody likes to admit it, yet we`ve all had that point at one time or another with our children. This is definitely a much better approach on things and has helped with disciplining and motivating in our home for sure.
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