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Moving Forward With Motivation

What do M&M’s and toilets have in common?! Well any parent can tell you it’s the key to potty training success of course! While parents would prefer for their children to be intrinsically motivated, we often find ourselves offering our children “prizes” for performing certain tasks. While conditional motivation works for all people, no matter the age, the positive effects of the rewards are short-lived.

Encouraging our children to follow through with the activities that excite them and watching them experience the feeling of fulfillment and the thrill of achievement is irreplaceable. What is more motivating than that feeling of mastering that which you set your mind and heart on doing? This is a feeling to be recognized, celebrated and stored away to try to duplicate in other situations.

It is also important to consider our expectations for our children. While I am a strong believer in setting the bar high because kids always seem to meet, surpass and surprise you, I also believe in reasonable and age appropriate expectations. For example, if I was offered $10,000 to speak to a group of people in Mandarin right now, I couldn’t do it. It’s not a matter of being defiant. No matter how much I would like to earn that money, I don’t speak the language and I simply don’t have the skill set to do that right nowt. Sometimes what we ask of our children they’re just not developmentally ready or capable of doing at that time.  Maybe they’re tired so they're physically and mentally not able to do perform at that moment.

So, how can we intrinsically motivate our kids more? Really listen to your children when they’re speaking and ask curious questions. I hated math growing up because I couldn’t find how it connected to my life. I couldn’t figure out it’s importance to me. “Just do it because you have to,” our teachers always said. I can tell you from experience, that is not a way to motivate a student. How does it connect to your life? Point out the benefits of non-choice activities so your child could find what feels good about achieving them. If they’re interested in more play time after school, have them come up with a plan for how they can achieve that. Maybe they’ll see that getting homework started right away and getting it completed quickly, without long and numerous breaks, leads to a great sense of accomplishment and more free time.

Sometimes we are motivated away from what we don’t want or towards what we do. If you are speaking with an older child, you can ask them questions that may lead to recognition of one of these styles. Avoid battles and power struggles and try to work with your child to figure out how you can help.

Remember when your toddler wanted to sweep and vacuum? When does that change to a dreaded chore? Relax your standards about how it gets done and compliment the helpfulness and contribution to the house and family.

Here comes that word “empower” again. Find areas where your little person is given choices to avoid power struggles. For example, “Do you want to make your bed before or after breakfast?”

Research has recently showed that the most important qualities leading to success are persistence and determination, resilience, self-control, curiosity, grit, conscientiousness, self-confidence, and optimism. These are all qualities that parents instill in their children and act as the main role models for. We need to lead by example and start each day with an optimistic approach!  Happy new day!

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