We have amazing children, don’t we? Each one is this special, unique individual who is constantly growing and changing and BECOMING. I was just noticing the other day how my almost 9 year old has suddenly found some things that she is really interested in and passionate about. They are becoming part of her identity. She is working hard at these things, and though she doesn’t always get them right, she doesn’t give up. Because of this, she is constantly getting better. WOW. As a parent, I love seeing this, and it makes me proud.
I want to support her and encourage her, but I don’t want to get in her way. Unfortunately, as parents, we have a tendency to get in the way. We see the beginnings of an interest or talent in our children and we want to see it grow so we start pointing out how good they are or start rewarding them for it. Or maybe we want our children to show more interest in something so we do the same thing. I do not want to do this to my daughter! Because right now her motivation doesn’t come from me, and I don’t want it to. If I pour a ton of “good jobs” or rewards all over her then I suddenly make it about me, and I rob her of the joy of finding out what it is like to do something simply because she loves to do it. In fact, there have been multiple studies that show that praise and rewards may increase external motivation for a short time, but in the long term they decrease internal motivation. Thus, when the rewards and praise aren’t there then the interest is gone, too. Or there is just the pressure to please others, but the fun has gone. I don’t want that!
So how do I provide encouragement for my daughter without making it about me? I just keep on noticing, and tell her what I see: “Hey Love, I noticed you practiced three times today all on your own. You must be enjoying that.” “Wow, all that effort and you are learning so quickly.” “Ooo, that one is tough. You seem determined to figure it out.” “You are really proud of yourself.” “Looks like you are having fun.” “I love watching you do something you love.”
See, I get to be a part of this amazing phase that she is going through, but I let it belong to her. She gets the satisfaction of knowing that I am noticing her world and that I care about her, no strings attached. That is what she really needs from me.
So, what if you are struggling with a child who is lacking motivation? (I have been there, too.) How do you encourage him or her to find a passion, to put in some effort, to care? Well, there is encouragement for that, too, and we can talk more about it next month. Until then, step back and take a moment to just notice… They are just AMAZING, aren’t they?