Last month, we talked about motivating our kids by taking the time to really engage with them, taking them seriously, and speaking to them with the utmost respect. Kids get “fired-up” and confident to do great things when they are empowered by our respect and praise.
I understand that discussion might have produced a bit of the “ouch-factor” as we recognized ourselves in some of our less than encouraging or edifying scenarios. But please be encouraged; I have seen evidence that seemingly small changes can have a very large impact. So start by focusing on just one area and knock your child’s socks off with your praise and encouragement.
You might have noticed that now there are SIX principles for motivating your kids, when last month there were only five. I realized there is another REALLY important principle that may seem obvious, but sadly, often gets lost in the rush of life:
3. WE REALLY NEED TO BE PURPOSEFUL ABOUT LISTENING TO OUR KIDS
Have you ever noticed that they often open up and want to have looong conversations at the most inconvenient times and often late at night? I remember when they were little and I was totally wiped out from the day, as I was putting them to bed and anxious to go hang out with hubby, THAT would be the time that they wanted to have a profound conversation or process something that happened during the day. Or when they’re older, just when our parent-brains are shutting down for the night and we are dreaming of bed – our child emerges from his/her room and wants to talk. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE when my kids open up; it’s just so hard when we are tired and weary from the day.
But the truth is, if we want to be a motivating influence in their lives, we have to be available when they are ready to talk! I have spent many late evenings struggling to stay awake while listening to something that is important to my teen. Frankly, it didn’t always seem that important to me, but I know I need to listen or they will stop sharing things with me. This extremely wise woman sums it up:
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” (Catherine M. Wallace, cultural historian, literary theologian and college writing professor)
Now, on to our 4th principle for motivating our kids:
4. LET THEM MAKE CHOICES AND TAKE RISKS
When kids push-back and are uncooperative, it is often from not feeling heard or being part of the decision making; they get frustrated when they have no say in the matter. Not only does letting them make choices develop their decision-making skills, but it also exponentially increases their confidence.
We also mustn’t be too quick to solve their predicaments. They will become self-reliant when we let them wrestle with and come up with their own plan-of-action. They will feel smart and valued when we make a point of asking for their input and they might even come up with a better or creative solution for your problem as well.
And remember, kids will make mistakes (we all do!). They need to know that they will fail AND that’s ok. Just ask Bill Gates, James Dyson, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs, all billionaires that experienced great failure before their successes. Making mistakes can be a wonderful thing when it is used to learn how to bounce back from them. Natural consequences are the best teacher!
Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.” Our kids will own it when we allow them to use their own initiative and make some mistakes. So we must teach our kids to be resilient by focusing on solutions rather than dwelling on setbacks.
Do you want to protect your children or prepare them for the future?
Not only should we let them make some choices, but we should also allow them to take some risks! Encouraging them to do things that challenge and stretch them will, in turn, give them confidence which will spur them to even greater challenges.
Often parents hold back their kids, especially their firstborns. Whether we are hesitant out of fear, laziness, or our inability to see that our children are growing up, we must recognize that we are sending the message that we don’t believe that they are capable. Have you ever had the experience of being away from your children for a few days and coming back, you think, “Whoa! When did that happen? When did they get so big?!” For some reason, we tend to continue to see them as little and often forget to give them more challenges and responsibilities as they grow up. Periodically, we need to step back, get a fresh perspective, and see our kids as the maturing, growing people that they are. They truly crave to be seen as mature individuals, worthy of your trust and respect. Let’s not hold them back; instead communicate your trust and confidence in them.
So let’s create plenty of opportunities for them to prove themselves; it lets them know that you believe in them and see them as capable. We want them to be confident in who they are, which will create initiative and motivate them. We must help them to believe that they have what it takes to make it in this world!
Tune in next month for Part Three of Igniting the Fire! – Five (Now Six) Principles to Motivate Your Kids
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.