Friday, January 14, 2011

Creating Motivation

It seems that as my children are getting older that a large part of my responsibility as a parent is to create motivation in them.  They need motivated to do their chores, use good table manners, have good hygiene, etc.  Some would say these are achieved through discipline and that is true to a degree.  I find the word discipline has a negative connotation though.  I've found that if I can light a fire under my children and give them a motivation to work on something, it gets accomplished much more quickly.  Let me explain by sharing some examples.

I have one son who continually leaves his dresser drawers hanging open.  It's not necessarily a big deal, but it bothers me.  I tried to explain to him reasons like, "It looks untidy and the corners of the drawers would hurt someone if they ran into them," but to no avail.  A ten year old boy doesn't think these things matter much.  Having no desire to make a big deal out of it, but wanting a change I created motivation for him.  For every dresser drawer I found left open he had to do ten sit-ups.   We've had two great results.  The dresser drawers are shut more frequently, and he's developing a great set of abs.

Another of my boys has had terrible table manners.  We've tried some discipline measures, games, and lengthy discussions about why there are manners.  Twelve year old boys don't buy into lines like "you'll never have a girlfriend if you eat like a pig."  In fact, that just gave him reason not to change.  He's thinking, "Yes, keep the girls away!"  I've been thoroughly embarrassed as food has flown out of his mouth and landed on our company, or as he crams  food in his mouth with his fingers.  How in the world could I motivate him to want to change?  It finally dawned on me.  He's been wanting two bowls of cereal for breakfast for a long time.  We've told him to eat toast if he's still hungry.  However, I would happily give him another bowl of cereal if he would just have some manners.  Well, I found he's been just as happy to work on his manners to get that extra bowl of cereal in the morning.  Awww, the power of motivation.

 I am not good at bedtime.  I'm tired at the end of the day and have little patience left.  When the children were little, I could put them to bed at 8:00 p.m.  Now they are older, and I can't exactly put them to bed when I'm tired of dealing with it.  What things do I not tolerate well after 8:00?  Loud wild games, fighting, and having to remind children to do their bedtime routines before getting in bed.  So, thus developed the responsible bedtime routine.  When they turn 9, they can stay up until 8:30 if they have been staying in their beds and quiet when they are sent.  When they turn 12, they can stay up until 9:00 if they have responsibly done their bedtime routines and gotten in bed by 8:30 without being told each night.  Part of being responsible is finding something quiet to do after 8:00 at night.  We had two boys turn 12 this past summer.  One had earned his 9:00 bedtime.  The other had not.  I'm happy to report that after proving over the next four months that he could be responsible, he now has a 9:00 bedtime as well.  The boys have been motivated to be responsible.

I do have one problem though.  I need to create some motivation in myself to exercise.  I haven't found the answer yet.  Any ideas...  Thought about bribing myself with dark chocolate, but then I might just undo any good I accomplish with the exercise.

Perhaps some of you who follow my blog might have some fun stories to share about motivation.  Please do share in the comment section.  I'd love to hear from you.  


  1. Natasha: Melissa Miller has sent me several of your blogs. I am the 51-year-old mother of 7: 4 birth, 3 adopted. The 4 are now all adults - the 3 are in middle school and below. About exercise - I've sporadically exercised on and off over the years. I've not been as consistent as I would have liked. (3 months exercising, 4 months not, repeat cycle). I've struggled to find time to exercise consistently. But here's the good news. I just beginning to realize the great benefit that even my sporadic exercise has been. Although I've walked thru 2 cancers and and working on being 5-years clear yet, I realize that the exercise I have done has left me in much better health than that of 3 of my sisters and better than that of those in my cancer survivors group. Last fall I was given a exercise DVD and have started working out with it for about 40 minutes each morning and 80 minutes on Saturdays. I don't have to go anywhere or have any special clothes - this works well for me. I listen to upbeat Christian music and just follow the (now silent)lady on the exercise DVD. I am thoroughly blessed by my exercise time. For me, working out also helps me deal positively with the stress of my challenging, somewhat troubled 14-yr-old son.

    I would challenge and encourage you to find an exercise routine that works for you - even if its just for 15-20 minutes a day. I believe that you'll find out that your exercise routine will not only pay off now, but will also provide great dividends in the future. I think the key is finding a routine that works well for you.

    I appreciate your comments on how you deal with your child-rearing challenges. They help me re-think ways to choose to respond to my kids' challenges.

    Myrt Falk
    former homeschooler
    now a GED instructor

  2. Myrt,
    I'd be interested in knowing what exercise DVD you use. I did get myself in gear and exercised for 30 minutes after I wrote yesterday. Need to try again today. I do feel much more energized when I do.