There are many reasons why today’s children behave more like consumers of life’s riches rather than producers of life’s work. The average Ghanaian home is filled with multiple entertainment sources that provide immediate rewards, rather than foster delayed gratification.
Schedules are so packed with after-school sports, lessons, and activities that kids crave responsibility-free time at home.
Parents’ lives are similarly stressful, leaving us less inclined to set up and manage systems of household accountability. This results in children being conditioned to pursue goals governed by parents, teachers, and schedules, rather than from a vital internal source: motivation.
The ability to motivate oneself to pursue desirable goals and refrain from interfering temptations is a key ingredient to future success. Here are some suggestions for cultivating self-confidence in children who have become dependent on others pushing them:
1. Set goals
The simplest way to motivate a child to do something is to set goals for them. Goals give the child a purpose and direction, which make completing a task easy. Goals can be as simple as sleeping on time to wake up early and be on time for the class picnic or completing homework to go and play. They could also be long-term goals about career or relationships, which would be ideal when you are dealing with older kids and teens.
Remember that no goal is an end in itself. It could simply be a step you need to be at to reach higher or become a better person.
When you know where to go, what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, it means you have a plan. And when you have a plan, it is easy to achieve your goal. Planning can motivate your child to move towards a goal, for it gives you direction and guidance in every step of the way. Help your child to plan for little things that he or she wants to do.
3. Become a coach
Parents, as a motivational coach, can look out for those areas where you might implicitly reinforce or even encourage your child to rely upon you to lead them towards a goal. For example, accepting the child’s insistence that they do not know how to work on a goal, or allowing attractive distractions to be so easily available that parents must frequently intervene to pull a child away from them. In these two cases, the child may not develop sufficient pride and willpower to fuel their inner confidence. Sometimes coaching involves showing a child that they can tolerate the frustration of pushing themselves, or alternatively, removing the obstacles in their way.
4. Reward your child
Rewards are perhaps the most common way to motivate someone. One of the primary fuels for Confidence is the satisfaction that comes with completing a chore on one’s own and doing a good job. Parents can tap into their reservoir by setting up a home-based program where children earn reward points for initiating work, reducing their reliance upon outside forces, and requesting help only after they have exhausted independent sources for resolution of their questions or problems.
When children ask for help in a certain household or homework area, parents may sometimes suggest it is an opportunity to build more fuel to push themselves ahead in life. “Have you tried giving yourself directions before you asked them to be given to you?” is the coaching refrain.
No matter how much you say or explain, children will notice what you do as inspiration to do something or not do something. Lead by example and be an inspiration to motivate your child to do something. The logic is simple: if you want them to be good, to do well at school, be responsible, stay positive, or be respectful of other people, you need to show them how.
And if you want to tell your child the importance of being responsible or honest, say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want them to be courteous, you should always say please and thank you when necessary. And that, you must do even when they are not around.
6. Encourage your child
Your child may not always be successful in what he does, and failure can be demotivating. Encouragement can help the child become persistent and continue trying his best in spite of failing once or more. Encouragement is a form of positive reinforcement and recognizes the child’s efforts and progress.
Encouraging statements should be descriptive and not vague. Don’t just encourage the kid to do something he is already good at. Inspire them to try something that they have failed at earlier. When you do that, you let them know that you believe in them, which is enough motivation for them to try again.
7. Provide Choices and consequences
One way to motivate the child is to give them some control over what they do, by giving them some choices. For instance, ask the child if she wants to wear dress A or dress B to school. While she cannot choose whether or not to go to school, she gets to choose how she dresses for it. Likewise, you can give the children options wherever possible, making it seem like it is their choice. Kids are more likely to do what they choose to do rather than what we want them to do, which means having options can be motivating.
8. Don’t be pushy
Encouraging the child to do something is good. But nagging them to do it can make you seem pushy or a bully, which will demotivate the child. Being pushy is also bad for it can make the child rebellious and motivate them to do the opposite of what you want them to do.
9. Help them embrace their flaws
Everyone has a flaw or two. But your flaws shouldn’t determine whether or not you will succeed in life. Teach your children to embrace their flaws. For instance, your child may be short and not qualify for the basketball team. Encourage them to try baseball, cricket, or swimming instead! Help them find ways to use their shortcomings to their benefit, and motivate them.
10. Create a safe environment
One of the simplest ways to demotivate your child is to judge them. When you judge everything that your child does, and label them as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or ‘not good enough’, your child will become wary of trying anything new. When you stop judging and labeling, your kid will not be afraid to try something new.
How do you encourage your child to be a self-motivated and independent student? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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