One of the biggest complaints I hear from parents is that there child is not motivated to do anything. With the exception of depression I have yet to meet a child who is not motivated.
In counseling the not so motivated child is usually the parents issues. The child may lack the motivation that the parent wants, but they most certainly don’t lack the motivation of what they want to do. Parents typically get in the way of their child’s own motivation because of their agenda which can then lead to a power struggle. Now you will meet a very motivated child who refuses to do what the parents wants.
Parents typically want their child to try harder, to do better, to aim for something bigger than themselves, but when the parents are asked if they have ever allowed their child to fail in life so they can do better and aim for something bigger in life, I am instantly met with a barrage of reasons of why that is impossible. Parents today are robbing their children of valuable coping skills, by swooping in and taking care of the problems. Not allowing a child to have a skinned knee, or protecting them from a break up or not allowing them to get anything below an A is incomprehensible. Children have to learn to be prepared for a world that is not failure free.
Allowing your child to fail is one of the greatest and valuable gifts that you can give your child in life. Allowing a child to fail allows them to learn from their mistakes, to build valuable coping skills, find solutions to problems, self-respect, and a sense of self awareness.
New research is showing that teenage brains are wired to take risks. These risks allow them to find their own identity, their values, passions, and boundaries. They learn from experience. It is similar to a toddler learning to walk. They learn from their falls on how to balance and within a few hours or days a toddler has mastered the art of walking from experience, risks and failure.
So how can a parent prepare their child to find their own inner drive and to succeed in a world that does not always guarantee success in life?
1. Don’t reward basics that life requires. If your relationship is based on material rewards, (ie if you get all A’s I will buy you an I phone). Children will not get to experience intrinsic motivation that helps them understand the art of self-discipline, gratification and achievement. When a child is rewarded with extrinsic rewards it can rob them of their creativity, and ability to solve problems.
2. Affirm smart risk-taking and hard work wisely. Help them see the advantage of both of these, and that stepping out a comfort zone usually pays off.
3. Let your child make his own choices and face her own natural consequences: Allowing your child to face natural consequences such as going to the beach without sun cream will teach them the natural consequences of sun.
4. Slow down on the praise: It might seem that praising your child’s intelligence or talent would boost her self-esteem and motivate her to do better. But it appears that this sort of praise can actually backfire causing a drop in their self esteem. So focus on what they can change like their effort or the strategies they use to solve their own problems. Be especially sincere when praising teenagers and older adults as they become aware of your motives.
5. Pay attention to what motivates your child.