Friday, January 11, 2013
Motivating our Children
The first step in motivating any child is to observe them when they play and watch them when they interact with others. What works with one child will not necessarily work with another, even if they are being raised by the same parents, in the same house. We are all individuals and this goes for children as well.
I grew up with two brothers and was the middle child. All three of us were totally different in the ways we were motivated. Our Dad did not recognize these distinctions in our personalities at all, or he did and chose not to let us know that he did. It was easier for Dad to treat us all equally and punish in kind. If it was a good punishment for one, it was a good punishment for us all. This served to make me an introvert, my oldest brother an angry young man, and my youngest was saved in a way because he was deaf. A lot of things that came across verbally my youngest was spared from.
Mom was a loving and very sweet woman who worked harder than anyone I know, even to this day. She grew up in a home with an alcoholic dad and she learned to cope through taking care of everyone and everything. She made sure we were clean, well fed, tucked in at night, and we always knew she loved us. But Mom also looked at us like an extension of herself, what she felt and thought we also must be feeling and thinking. Such was not the case so it made for conflict as well, especially for me because I was the only girl. My Mom had very particular ways of thinking and doing things and that made them the right way. I had trouble making decisions because Mom was so sure of everything she did and knew the answer to everything.
Dad kept a tight reign on the money which was understandable because we were a middle class family and he needed to be. But for dad this meant that he bought all of us our clothes and brought them home and that is what we wore. For the boys this was not such a bad thing but for me, especially as I got into my teens, it was horrible. When I finally was able to go out and get a job at fifteen and buy my own clothes I felt as if I was in heaven. I had a horrible time making decisions about much of anything. And I did my best to stay away from the house as much as possible. Working, school, and social activities took precedence over home. My Mom could not understand it, my Dad did not notice as he traveled Monday through Friday, and my brothers were pretty much doing their own thing.
I tell you all this because it is important to know your children and how they are bent. One may need a stronger hand of discipline mixed with great love to get them where they need to be. The other child may need more encouragement and help to make decisions and come out of their shell. Motivating does not work the same for each child.
I know when it came to school my brothers and I were so very different. Dad had a policy that no one would get any help at home, they had to learn at school. Doesn’t that sound archaic according to the standards of today? When my children were small all I heard was, “Parents, your children need help at home.” Dad said if we did not learn it at school we were not getting any help at home. Apparently Dad was lazy and his parents and siblings did much of his work for him. He got in a lot of trouble at school and he was determined we would not be like him. *Sigh* I was so introverted I did not ask for extra help and had an emotional block to understanding what I heard. My oldest brother was very intelligent and did well in school but got into so much trouble. My youngest thought school was a social hour because of his deafness and because he was in a deaf school it was really the only good communication he got to enjoy.
We were all equally punished for anything less than a B regardless of the facts behind it. When I was in grade school one of the subjects was writing, hand writing. I have really bad hand writing and try as I might I could not get over a C in writing. So, every report card I was punished for my C in writing and usually my C in math as well. There were no excuses.
All children are not created equal, they do not all have the same personality, they are not motivated by the same things, they do not think the same way even if they grow up in the same house. Some need loving guidance alone, some need the loving hand of discipline, and some need encouragement by way of hands on help. For some kids the reward system works, even the little gold stars on a chart make them feel so good about themselves.
My daughter was this kind of child. Any kind of praise and encouragement made her try twofold harder. She was out to please and the more you praised her the more she would do to please. On the other hand there was my son; I tried everything to motivate him. I never have worked so hard at anything in my life, really. He cared nothing for gold stars and charts; he was only motivated by rewards for like two seconds. He did not think a thing about time outs; he would find something to do while he sat there. He did not think he needed to learn how to read, write, learn his colors, numbers, etc. He was going to be a professional fisherman and why did he need to know any of that stuff to do that? *SIGH* Nothing I could do worked and this went as well for help from his Dad, Grandmother, and Sister. We finally had to call in a stranger, a reading teacher that tutored. She was firm but loving and would not take any excuses from him. He finally found someone that would not accept his reasoning or find him irresistible when he flashed his cute little toe-headed adorable grin. This was the key to success with my son, call in a stranger who was not susceptible to his charm.
Motivating a strong willed child is the most difficult thing in the world, truthfully. The main thing is to not get yourself to the point of hopelessness or anger. Anger does nothing to help the situation. If you cannot handle a situation with love and control then call in the recruits. Call in someone who is impartial but loving. If you cannot afford a tutor there is always a way. Public schools generally have some type of program to help or if you attend a church then you can find a loving person to volunteer some time. There are other organizations like the United Way that may have programs to help you out. Do not let it get to the point where you and your child are overwhelmed.
Make sure you have watched them closely and see what could possibly motivate them. If, as in my case, there seems to be nothing then reach out for help to others. Often times a complete stranger can motivate the child because the majority of these seemingly un-motivatable children are not really lacking motivation as much as you think. They are usually highly intelligent children who are able to figure you out much better than you can figure them out. They know how to push your buttons and get their way. When this happens you need to step back and regroup to help them out. They really are not against you they are just great strategists in getting their way. This is something we are all born with but we do not all push it to the limit.
Love is the key to every child, this is the great motivator. Do everything that you do in love for the good of the other person. This is a Biblical principle that will not fail. Love never fails. When you come to a wall that looks impossible to overcome always stop and think about what the best thing is for your child. It is not always doing more, giving more, and being passive. Real love is not always giving the person what they want; it is often giving them what they need.
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