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Finding that Motivation - Issue 325
December 06, 2013
Hi there! ....

Last week our family had a little holiday visiting friends who live about 11 hours driving away in a town called Derby. We drove back last Saturday (which is why there was no newsletter, cause I completely forgot to do it ahead of time). It was great to be a part of their life for a week and see the things that they are involved in, in their community. Jessica was born in Derby (I was flown in for medical reasons as in those days it had a bigger, better staffed hospital) so she got to see where she was born. It was also an opportunity to see a part of this country that the kids and I haven’t seen before. We came back in time for the community Carols by Candlelight which is hosted by the combined churches in our town. It was a great night, one that our whole family enjoyed. Josh though went on from Derby to the Gold Coast, via Broome, Perth, and Melbourne. He had an adventure of an early bus trip, delayed and cancelled flight, unexpected overnight in a motel, missed connection due to lack of information, and a very late arrival at his destination. But he has been enjoying the week with a group from Compass – an organisation that is supporting and encouraging Uni students in applying their Christian worldview in everyday life. We’ve put up our Christmas tree and hopefully will put up the rest of our Christmas decorations this weekend.

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Finding that Motivation

This week the girls and I had an opportunity to go to a breakfast and listen to a team of Australian Olympic swimmers talk about motivation. As they shared fairly casually, they talked about what motivated them, their goals, and how they overcame unexpected roadblocks to their dreams.

My ‘take home’ point was –Motivation is dependent upon our motive. What is your motive?

I’ve been thinking about this during the week. I have heard parents say: My child is so unmotivated! Whether it is to do the chores, or practice their musical instrument, to study, to get along with their sibling, to be helpful, etc… So I wonder, "What is their motive?"

Motives can be drawn into two groups: internal or external.

External motivations are rewards or penalties.
Internal motivations are our values.

I personally like to use the words consequences rather than punishments. Consequences, if chosen wisely, can teach our children, where punishments are more often than not, disconnected with the wrong choice or the preferred right choice. I found it interesting this morning to see that penalties was the thesaurus’ antonym for rewards. Penalties and consequences are also more reflective of real life. If I do the wrong thing, as an adult, I don’t get punished, but there are certainly consequences and penalties. For example, I ignored the laundry this week, and now I have a huge pile to get on top of. This is a consequence of my choices. Parenting needs to make sure that our kids are working through the consequences of their choices.

So when our child is not motivated to do what we have taught them is the right thing to do (for example, their chores) they are either missing the value that makes chores important, or they are choosing to ignore that value. Unfortunately we as parents cannot make our children instil values in their own heart. We can influence, but ultimately it is the child’s choice to accept a value as their own.

This influence takes place in two ways:

  1. Instruction – we need to continually teach our children and help them understand what our values are, and what they look like in life.
  2. External motivations that encourage our children to think about the values and make choices accordingly. (rewards and consequences)

Parents often stop with this influence (both aspects) because they feel the kids ‘should’ have it by now. But reality is, if the kids are not acting according to the values you uphold in your family, they still need instruction and encouragement in these areas.

Think of it this way, if a person had an accident, and lost the ability to walk, though the doctors etc said that they could learn to walk again, but it would be a slow process. So they start their exercises, they have a walking frame, they have helpers walking along side of them to support them and catch them when they get weary. No one would ever take away that frame until the patient is strong enough to walk without it. It is the same for our kids – don’t take away the external framework that keeps the kids doing the right thing until they are strong enough to do the right thing on their own.

The flip side of this is that if the doctors kept insisting that the patient use the frame when the patient knew he was strong enough to walk without it – it would be very frustrating and possibly even unmotivating. This is what happens when we continue to remind our kids to do the right thing when they have already determined in their heart to live that way.

We need to know when to stop with the external motivations and let the internal direct our kids’ lives. This is a tricky transition for parents, but one we have to be aware of. What makes this even more tricky is that it isn’t an across the board development – our children will be driven by internal values in one area and yet still need the external motivations that parents can give in another.

We also need to have our own motives very clear. Our motive as we interact with our children needs to be based on our desire to see our children grow and flourish – in their whole person: their physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, moral, and practical. We need to guard this motivation because if anger or tiredness for example, steps in, our motivation quickly becomes more about making the kid feel bad for inconveniencing us. When these things motivate us our actions are more like a punishment towards our kids and nothing about training.

I have found that when I am tired or distracted with other things than my family, I look for the quick fix in training my kids: a telling off, a punishment, or simply just being very very annoyed at them. None of these things are very effective at training them towards an internal motivation – training them towards living from the values they themselves hold dear. Sometimes I feel that the words of Jesus to pray for my enemies (Matthew 5:44) applies to my children!! Not that they are my enemy in that sense, but they pull against everything that I hold dear (or so it would seem at times). In these times, taking a deep breath, removing myself to a quiet spot, and praying for them, helps restore my motives.

As Matt Welsh said, our motivation depends on our motives. What are your motives, what drives you and your family, to do the right thing? Is it external? Or is it internal? We can feel discouraged that our children only operate with external motivations…. Don’t be… our children are growing and what is an external motivation today, can grow into an internal motivation in the days to come. So as the parent, be aware of these things, work towards these things and look for the change in your kids in days to come.

During the week I blog at Live Life with Your Kids! This week I've posted:

Or maybe you'd like to read something from my website:

  • How to Read Aloud Do you feel awkward reading aloud to your children, do you get the feeling that your children would rather be some place else? Learn to improve your skills.

Check out other homeschool and parenting issues over at my website, Lifestyle Homeschool

My Bookshop

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

Restoring the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas Do your Christmas celebrations line up with what you believe? Do your celebrations help your children learn more about Jesus?

This e-book is based on a workshop I held for a couple of years to help families see that Christmas can be a significant tradition in our family life. If we are intentional about how our family celebrates we have the opportunity to use this time to teach our children about Jesus, and his love for each one of us.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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