A lot of our problems may go away the moment we accept that the only person we could ever have any real control over is ourselves. As parents, we naturally feel answerable for our children’s choices. The truth is, no one can be accountable for another person’s decisions.
Make no mistake, your kids, however young, are their own people and their lives are ultimately their own making. It is the false belief that our children’s success depends only on us that leads to power struggles. In our attempt to control our kids, we nag, bribe, yell, punish, hover, cajole, or even beg. Sometimes these strategies may work, but not for the reason you think.
Your children may comply just to get you to leave them alone or to please you out of love. But, that’s not the kind of motivation that they need. When they don’t comply, we end up using labels of learning disabilities and behavioral disorders to try to make sense of their actions. While these special situations may indeed be the case at times, you simply can’t make them care just because you do.
It is as simple and as complex as that. Think of anyone who inspires you. What characteristics do they possess that you admire? What can you do everyday to be more of those things? What would your inspirational figure do in your shoes? Demonstrate to your child your own motivation for whatever it is you’re personally passionate about and that energy you bring is bound to rub off on everyone in your household.
Decision making is one of the most important skills your children need to become functional and healthy adults. When they make good decisions, they can gain the greatest amount of satisfaction because they themselves chose to do so. When your children make bad decisions on the other hand, they may suffer, but they can also learn from these experiences and make better decisions in the future. It’s a win either way. Don’t deprive them of this experience by choosing on their behalf or by not allowing the natural consequences of their choices. Depending on their age, you can begin to teach decision making in increments that expand as they grow older.
In this brilliant Ted Talk, Jennifer Nacif tells us how to shift manipulation to motivation when it comes to communicating with our children. Jennifer plays the characters of four different children, and in a clever fashion, shows us how different personalities require different reactions from parents. The needs of each personality are not only relevant to the children in our lives, but to everyone we encounter, and Jennifer provides easy and actionable ways for us to motivate and empower those around us.
Catch them when they’re good. It’s easy to find fault, but how often do you actually praise your children when they do something right? Your kids are definitely not unmotivated 100% of the time. But, it might feel that way if it’s all you notice. When they’re doing something that obviously sparks their interest, something they like and they’re happy or laughing, that’s when you can add to it–your support, your cheers! Being your child’s greatest fan isn’t tough because you already are; you just have to show it more.
Refuse to be a part of the problem. Don’t add emphasis to the stuff you know your child doesn’t want. How do you talk to your children? How do you talk to others about your children? Speak positively or do not speak at all. The last thing an unmotivated person needs is criticism. As adults, we are familiar with how hurtful judgment can be and your kids are still learning to cope with their emotions. So, although you are not the solver of your child’s problems, you can always be part of the solution.