6 WAYS to motivate your kids
shares her advice on keeping kids motivated.
The chances are that by the time you become a parent, you’ve had enough bosses during your career to be able to instantly recall your best and worst ones. The ones that encouraged you and gave you the confidence to achieve in your role are likely at the top of your favourites list, while the ones who micromanaged and couldn’t communicate well are probably at the bottom. The same motivation techniques that are successful in the workplace, are a great way to encourage your children.
You don’t often hear Diane Levy talking about the negative, but sometimes, she says, you need to check out the flipside. If you’re looking for ways to motivate your children, you also need to look at the ways you may, inadvertently, be demotivating them – just like that annoying boss.
Here are Diane’s top ways to motivate your children (with an acknowledgement of some of the things we do that may be hindering them from achieving their very best).
1. First, know your child
Before we can influence them, it is important that our children believe we understand where they are coming from. “Mum and Dad get me,” is one of the most motivating feelings they can have.
If you understand them, you can start where they are at. Jump ahead of their emotional, physical or academic level and you will lose their interest and cooperation very quickly.
Some children will watch the All Blacks play and say, “I’m going to do that one day.” Others will think, “That looks really hard. I’ll never be that good – why should I even start?” The trick is understanding your child’s personality, so you can encourage them in a way that makes sense to them. Your peaceloving child will need someone who can sit alongside them while they observe, and your fun-loving child will need a personal cheerleader.
The trick is understanding your child’s personality‚ so you can encourage them in a way that makes sense to them.
2. Manageable bites
If you are standing at the bottom of a cliff and want to get to the top but you can’t see any way up, why would you start? If something looks too hard, it’s easy for children to be demotivated. If, on the other hand, you can see the ladder and see that the rungs are a size your little legs can manage, then you can think about starting.
Breaking things up into manageable bites is a great way to introduce children to new experiences. If a child turns up to swimming lessons for the first time and sees people splashing around, swimming from one end to the other when they can’t even put their head under water, they are likely to feel overwhelmed and not want to get in. There’s the option of forcing them in, kicking and screaming – but that’s highly unlikely to be a motivator. Break it into manageable bites. First blow bubbles in a cup of water, then in a shallow bath, and so on.
Children will always react in different ways to one another. If they’re a joiner, they may run straight onto the field for their first soccer training session. Others may need to watch from the sideline for a while. Dropping them in too quickly will demotivate them. You need to let them watch, and think, and imagine how they will fit into the situation.
3. Speak adult to adult (whilst acknowledging they are children)
Yes, they are little, but when there is something they need to learn to do, even if it’s something they don’t feel like doing, there’s a lot to be said for sitting down and having a meaningful conversation and chatting as you would to an adult. “I know this is something you are not keen on, but we need to work on getting your maths done. Firstly, you’ll need it as a grown-up, but you also need it so you will feel okay in class. When the class is doing multiplication, you need to be able to keep up. That’s why we are going to listen to the times table CD every morning in the car on the way to school.”
There is a big difference between doing this and giving them a lecture. It has something to do with sitting alongside them and giving a logical reason for why they might have to try and do something they may not feel like doing.
4. Establish structure
As their lives get busier, and there are more things we need our children to be competent at, it helps to introduce structure. Some will be happy moving seamlessly from one thing to the next, but others need to know how the day and week are shaping up. If you have a chart or a list of things that need to be done, it opens the way for a conversation about how you are going to approach the things that aren’t very popular. Give them some choice and control. “Okay, here are the things you don’t mind doing, and here are the things you aren’t so keen on, but have to do. Are you the kind of person who likes to do all their least favourite things first, or are you the kind of person who likes to alternate between one thing you like and one thing you don’t?” They still have to do the things they don’t want to do, but you are being respectful and supportive.
5. Check their exhaustion levels
Have you ever noticed how sometimes you send a nine year old off to school, but a three year old comes home? When children are exhausted, there’s often a significant difference between their emotional age and their chronological age. You can’t give the three year old the nine year old’s schedule. They may normally be able to do their homework as soon as they get home from school, but if they are a tired, cranky three year old in a nine-yearold body, they may need to blob out and recharge first.
Often as parents, we are so driven to get things done that we can find ourselves battling with an exhausted child – that’s demotivating. Recognise it as a sign to regroup and recharge.
6. Consider their capabilities
If a child is struggling with schoolwork, it's helpful to ask – is there a gap between what the class has learned and what your child has understood, or is there a learning issue that needs to be addressed? If what they are doing is too hard or boring, it will be impossible to keep a child motivated. It’s our job to keep an eye out for this and see how we can help and support them. What is it that they need from us, both short-term and long-term, that will enable them to cope with the task that appears overwhelming to them?
It is the joy of mastery that is ultimately motivating.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes you send a nine year old off to school‚ but a three year old comes home?