4 Things Every Parent Needs to Understand About Motivating Children

    One of the parents of an unmotivated baseball player asked me how I motivate Becky.  While other parents were offering money or ice cream to their boys, with varying success, I was offering my super motivated daughter absolutely nothing.  And yet, at times, she was the only kid on the team receiving banana splits from the coach for catching a fly ball.
    I have to tell you that even though she was happy to get a banana split, she would have worked equally hard without that prize.  Becky is just internally motivated to play hard and win.  This illustrates point number 1.  All children are motivated.
   Now before you start to argue, let me explain.  Children are not necessarily motivated about the things that we prefer.  Perhaps this unmotivated baseball player loved to fish, perform magic tricks, or race bicycles, but that is not acceptable to us because we've already decided that we want him on a fast track to a baseball scholarship.
   If we are wise parents, we will not try to mold our children into our preconceived images.  Instead, we will encourage their interests.  This is not to say that we can't expose them to a variety of activities.  But when they are clearly uninterested and untalented in a particular sphere, we  do well to respect their inclinations.
    We've all seen the father who lives vicariously through his son.  He never was the football star he wanted to be, but now he sees potential in his son for this coveted honor.  And so, he drives his son hard.  He shouts from the sidelines. He demands more than the coach.  His own reputation weighs heavily on his son's success.  Point number 2.  We can kill our child's natural motivation by pushing too hard.  What started out as fun for the son has now become the key to his father's acceptance and approval.  At some point he just burns out because no matter how hard he tries, it is never enough.
     I used to buy eggs from a Mennonite farm.  One day, as one of my little ones was carrying them to the car, the lady marveled that she didn't drop them.  The thought never occurred to me.  Point number 3, trust your children to do things.  When you trust them, they will rise to the challange, but if you say, "Give me those eggs before you break them", you are minimizing their abilities.  Of course, there will have to be times when they are not allowed to do something for their own safety, or common sense would dictate you need to do it.  But the less you trust them to do things, the less they will be able to do.  On the other hand, when you allow them to do things, or even require that they do things, it will increase their confidence.
     Lastly, understand that temperment and birth order will determine, to a large degree, the strength of your child's motivation.  First borns are generally more motivated than middle children and "babies". Having said that, my last born is a very motivated choleric!
    Our job as parents is not to manufacture motivation.  It simply doesn't work!  Our job is to expose them to a variety of things to stimulate interest, invest in what they are good at, and like, encourage them to pursue their own interests and to not discourage them by expecting perfection.
    Following these tips, you will be surprised at how far your child will go.  And in the end, when your child follows her heart, you will be on the sidelines, basking in the glow of her accomplishments.


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