Motivating our kids can be a struggle! We know best, and we want to get our kids to care about certain things for the good of their futures. Despite our efforts, it sometimes seems impossible to mold their priorities. After a certain point, our attempts at motivation may even backfire, resulting in a push-pull dynamic.
When our kids seem to lack intrinsic motivation, there are a few things we need make sure we recognize: first, we need to hold our kids accountable, but accountability isn’t the same as creating motivation. We need to show them that there are natural consequences for not getting things done. For example, not turning in assignments leads to poor grades, and poor grades can lead to a loss of privileges. But next, we have to grasp that consequences aren’t going to make out kids care. They don’t build intrinsic motivation. Our kids might comply in order to please us, or to avoid consequences, but that’s external motivation. It doesn’t mean that they see the bigger picture, and it doesn’t mean they are becoming self-motivated, which is ultimately the result we are looking for.
So what do we need to do? We need to understand that some kids are naturally less motivated than others. That quality is not something we can necessarily change. After we have accepted that, we need to avoid trying to motivate our kids by nagging or expressing our anxiety or feelings of helplessness. This is only a catalyst for the power struggle dynamic. Instead, think about what inspires you.
- Reflect on what you have seen other people do-your parents, siblings, favorite teachers and other role models that helped ignite your personal desire to succeed.
- Channel that inspiration and energy into modeling for your kids how a motivated person thinks and acts.
- Think about the steps you take to work through inevitable periods of procrastination and inertia.
- Instead of telling your child to do x, y, and z, explain to them the steps you take when you faced with undesirable but necessary tasks.
- Tune into your child’s interests and goals. What naturally motivates your child? How can you use that to your advantage? How can you incorporate that into the things s/he isn’t naturally inclined to do? How can you further develop the passions your child already has?
Showing genuine interest will assure your child that you are on his/her team. Now you can teach your child that in order to one day pursue what we love, we have to first do a lot of other things that we won’t always enjoy. It’s just how life works! And finally, don’t take a lack of motivation personally. All you can do is provide the tools and set the best example. The rest is up to them.