In last week’s article, I responded to a common question about children who appear minimally motivated and lazy. For many of these kids, they may be quite motivated to play video games or even a sport, but show no interest in academics, family activity, or helping out with chores and responsibilities. Others only want to hang out with friends and make sure their ‘streaks’ are in tack on Snapchat. The bottom line is that on a daily practical level, mom and dad are constantly battling to get the important things done. It’s always a battle, as many of you have written in emails to TerrificParenting.com.
To set the stage for this system, in the last article I asked you to do one thing: Stop talking. Stop asking. Stop requesting, negotiating, and arguing over and over. This isn’t working, and it won’t suddenly start working. I know that is difficult, but it’s essential to take this disciplined action if you are going to embrace a better parenting plan. So, starting from there, let’s begin.
Let’s End the Battles and Set Up a Parenting System
First, I invite you to shift your perspective. Most of you spend excessive time using words upon more words, trying desperately to manage your children with words. It is exhausting and creates angst for you, and perhaps more importantly…it creates anxiety for them and it often fails.
So, let’s agree to abandon words, and abandon trying to manage their every move. Instead, shift your thought process to that of managing a system. Let’s the system take care of the details with your kids, and alleviate this daily attention to all these decisions, threats, and consequences. This is key.
Next, we must understand fundamental human motivation. We are all motivated to get something, and whatever that something is, absent self-discipline…we want that FIRST. We don’t want to wait. In other words, we want what we want. It’s not just human nature, it’s nature itself.
So, in many ways, the key to motivating the unmotivated child is to understand that we are going to set up a system that takes advantage of this fact. You must be willing to enforce the system you put in place, and not bend or fold when the going gets tough.
This system is set off to allow for learning. Nothing will achieve perfection tomorrow. We don’t want that. We want a system that allows your son or daughter to learn to make responsible choices.
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. Make home reflect reality: Do your responsibilities, then you get your 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’s success and happiness. Making it easy for your children to have everything they want… 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, 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 internet and tv. Take the phone, the video game controllers, the cable box, or the IPad. If your kids are younger, and you have a room full of toys…then lock it up so you can control access. Do this 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.”).
So, to summarize. You have stopped nagging, talking, arguing, and negotiating daily. Instead, you are requiring them to do their responsibilities, before they get what they want. Simple right? It is simple if you gain control over those goodies. That’s the key.
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.