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Raising Motivated Kids

We’re in the home stretch, folks. Parents and children all across Austin are dragging themselves through these last few weeks of the school year.

 The sheer number of class parties, graduations, talent shows, teachers’ gifts, and field trips this time of year are enough to make any parent yearn for the lazy days of summer to begin.

 One of the symptoms of End of School-itis is a serious dive in motivation to get school work done.

Aren’t we done with homework yet?

 Over the last few weeks I’ve been in lots of conversations with parents who are worried about their child’s motivation and drive.

 He never wants to do anything!

She hates homework, it’s torture to make her do it!

He seems so lazy, how will he ever make it out there?

 Parents ask me all the time how to make their child be more motivated, driven, ambitious. I tell them simply, you can’t…..  

 You can’t MAKE a kid have any of the values you want them to have. You can’t force a kid to be driven, confident, generous, or patient. In fact, the more you push your value agenda on a child, the further they might run from it.

 There are some things you can do to inspire motivation, and help it grow.

 1) Grow a confident kid – Children who have high self-esteem have a much better shot of being successful in whatever path they choose. Confidence and feelings of competency are closely linked to positive self-worth. Remind your kids all the time about how great they are. Love them deeply and unconditionally, hug them frequently, high-five the heck out of them….help them see how uniquely amazing they are. Enough of that, and soon they’ll agree with you.

 2) Model Motivation and Perseverance – Remember that YOU are the perfect human being to your child. Your responses and reactions to life’s challenges teach volumes to your kid about how to interact with the world.

 Show your child what motivation and perseverance look like. Tell stories of times in your life when things got rough, or you were scared, or all looked hopeless and you pushed through and did it anyway. Share with your kid how powerful you felt afterwords, and how terrified you were in the middle of it all.

 Humanizing the experience of being confronted with a challenge and pushing through can help kids see the benefits of being driven.

 3) Use Positive Reinforcement – Notice when your child really sticks it out and finishes a task. Remember, our kids really do need our approval. So, give it to them where it counts!

 “Wow, that was a lot of math problems…and you did it! Way to stick with it!”

 “You’ve been saving for this hamster for a long time, even when there were lots of other things you wanted. I’m so proud of how focused you were on reaching your goal!”

 4) Encourage and model “Intrinsic Motivation” – Kids need and love our approval, but they also need to develop an interest in completing tasks for their own sake…. because it feels better to get it done and feels fantastic to do it well.

 “This room looks great! Nice cleaning job. Don’t you love it when everything is where it should be? It feels so good to have a clean room. I love that feeling!”

 “You really knocked out that homework. I bet it feels great to get that off your shoulders. I love the feeling of scratching things off my list. What a relief!”

 “Wow, look at the details on that picture! You really took the time to make it just how you wanted it. I bet you feel really proud. It’s a great picture…your patience really paid off!” 

 Our desperate wish for our kids to be motivated and driven comes not from our desire to have rocket-scientists and heart surgeons, but from our fear of what the world will do to them if they aren’t strong enough to handle it.

 We all want our kids to be happy, successful, and to have the rest of the world see how great they are. Just remember that the best protection you can arm your child with is self-love. If a child thinks they’re great, they’ll be great….in whatever adventures life gives them.