Parenting Problems

Motivating the Unmotivated Child: What’s Possible &What’s Not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seems that we see more children and adolescents who appear ‘unmotivated.’ This varies with different families, cheap different communities and different subcultures in our country. However, the trend is clear: We are raising more children (and now adults) who expect to have everything they want …WHILE doing little or nothing to earn it.

“Give me more. I deserve it.”

That’s the battle cry of the unmotivated child these days. It’s not just that they don’t want to work; it’s that they actually want everything…while doing nothing. In this three-part series, I will examine how we are nurturing such unmotivated and entitled children. More importantly, we will cover specific strategies to turn this around. The sooner you get started, the easier the path to success. However, if you have raised an entitled 18-year-old, your path is long and arduous. It’s the price you must pay.

Understand the Challenge of Changing Motivation

Let’s make sure we get started, with a clear understanding. You can turn things around, if your child is unmotivated. It requires change. But the change is on your part first. You must lead…and your children will follow.

And it will not be leading with more words. Nope. Not it.

It’s leading with precise action, and that’s what this series is about. Precise…right action.

There are systematic environmental components, which are about specific parenting skills. This is where we will start. There are also internal components for the child (i.e., mindset, strategies and state management), which you can nurture through coaching. The coaching can occur ONLY after you have addressed the environment, or the parenting piece. Let’s get started.

The External: Setting up the parenting system to build motivation

We are all motivated to get what we want first. It’s human nature.

So, in many ways, the key to motivating your child is to understand that we are going to set up a system that takes advantage of this fact. You must be willing to hold your children to the system you put in place, and not bend or fold when the going gets tough.

You can’t force this. Please accept that. It’s a learning process.

You can’t control your child. If you could, you would control their motivation. But you can’t. Instead, you can control the environment your child cares about. And that’s where we begin.

  1. Put the reality formula in place first: Effort is required before you get the goodies.

In the world most of us live in, let me ask you this: Do you find that life delivers anything of value without effort? Do you find that work is required, before you can enjoy the benefits of life?

I honestly don’t know why this simple formula has been abandoned in such a wholesale, widespread manner. It is critical to life success and happiness. Making it easy for your children to have everything they want…that is a false lesson. It’s not the way the world works.

Instead, it’s critical to have them grounded in reality.

It should sound like this; “Sweetheart, do your work (and do it well) and then you can play. Take all the time you want to figure that out…as your goodies will be waiting.”

In many ways, it’s that simple. Don’t argue or negotiate, or try to explain yourself in more detail. Simply set up the reality formula and stick to it. We must have this set in stone, in order to do our part in setting up a motivated mindset.

Insider Tip: Don’t try to convince your child of this reality. Don’t try to control your child. Instead, control your home.

To make this work, you must gain control of what your child cares about. Lock up the goodies. Shut down the pool. Take the phone, the PS4, the cable box, and the IPad. Do every day, without discussion or negotiation, until the work is done. Control what you can, and don’t think about the rest (for now).

This is leverage. It’s the same leverage that happens at every workplace every single day. You show up, you work, you contribute…and a few days later…you get the reward.

If you want more energy, or you want to lose weight, you put in the effort. You start walking, or exercising daily. In a short time, you start to get the reward.

If your son wants to go to an Ivy league school, that’s great …perhaps. But it will require effort, more than IQ points. Lots of very bright kids fail to put in the real effort, and reality gives them feedback. With real effort academically, your child will be rewarded.

These are only a few examples of how the reality formula works. I mention these only to make it clear: This is an essential starting point. You must be willing to create temporary disdain and misery for your unmotivated child. They will not be happy! They will not rejoice at these changes. They want it their way (i.e., “Give me more… I deserve it.”).

In the next two articles on motivation, we will go deeper into the changes in the home, as well as the coaching lessons you can eventually offer your child. Until then, control ONLY what you can. Just walk away from the rest. Best of luck, and look for my fall schedule of parenting talks. These will be finalized

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