Speaking to the Kids #2 - Motivation
Getting your kids to do what you want them to do can be a challenging. Success has a lot to do with how you speak to them and how you follow through. Here’s some dos and don’ts based on the previous lesson: Speaking to the Kids: General Principles. I will repeat the general principles and apply them specifically to motivating kids to do what you want or need.
The first thing to avoid is yelling for motivation. Yelling seems natural if you are in a hurry to get something done and the kids are dragging their feet. Maybe the verbal jolt is just what they need to get motivated and put their pajamas on, clean their rooms, or pile in the car. It may work at first but, remember the problems associated with yelling. One, it can be demeaning. Two, like anything that provides a jolt at first, it loses its power and effectiveness when it is overused. To get the desired results yelling will need to be amped up. Finally, yelling promotes an angry and dysfunctional environment. Even if it gets the immediate results, is it worth some of the negative long term affects?
Secondly, do not curse at them. Cursing is much more likely to bruise than motivate.
Thirdly, do not threaten them. Some of the threats parents use are: “If you don’t do what I say I’m going to skin you ... I’m going to knock you in the head ... I’m going to beat you senseless.” Are you really going to do these horrible things to your kids? Really? If your answer is, “Yes,” then you are being abusive. That isn’t healthy motivation. If your answer is, “No,” then you are lying. How can your kids respect you when they learn you are lying to them? Not only will your empty words lose their threat, they will lose their meaning, and with it, your integrity and standing.
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To motivate our kids to do something it is far better to follow the three principles already mentioned for healthy communication. First, speak to them calmly. Simply tell them what it is you want them to do. Secondly, be respectful. No cursing, name calling or threatening, but a simple expression of what we expect for them to do. Thirdly, be firm. We don’t have to say, “Mommy would like for you to take out the trash. Please, oh please, will you do it for me?” We don’t have to beg and plead. We can say calmly, respectfully and firmly, “You is your turn to take out the trash.” And, with that, we can expect them to comply.
Why might our kids buck us at this point? One, because it is human nature to assert our will. Two, as they get older, they develop minds of their own and will say to themselves, “I don’t want to clean the kitchen.” Then, they will stall, argue, and even adamantly refuse. You are now on the spot. What do you do? Is it time now to yell, curse, or threaten? No.
One thing you can do is give them a swat. That’s not the same as beating, and it can be effective very quickly, especially when they are younger.
When they are older, and they refuse to cooperate with you in household chores or getting ready on time, you can simply refuse to cooperate with them on something they want. “Son, I need you to mow the yard this afternoon.” Then, you get home to find out the job isn’t even started. Now what? When it comes time for your son’s football practice, it’s time to teach him what a lack of cooperation looks like. “Mom, its time to take me to practice.” Now it is your time to ignore him. If you respond simply say, “I’ll be glad to take you. As soon as the yard is mowed.” Expect a very unhappy young man right then, and hold your ground. If he talks disrespectfully, go on the offensive by responding with, “And for speaking disrespectfully, you are not going to practice tomorrow, either, and you are grounded.” In my home, it was also occasion for a firm spanking.
I’ve had people tell me this approach doesn’t work, but it may be because they haven’t used it consistently over time. Started early, it ingrains in a child that they better listen to the voice of mom and dad, even when that voice is calm and respectful. And, it sure contributes to a more peaceful home environment.
Adults like to be treated with dignity. Children are no different. Though young, they can tell the difference between treatment that demeans or honors. With a little extra thought and care, we can speak calmly and respectfully to our children and when the occasion warrants, even firmly. Practiced over time, we'll find this to be a better way to motivate.