How to Motivate Your Unmotivated Child


“School is so boring.”

“I don’t feel like doing anything.”
“I don’t want to go, I’d rather play Xbox.”
“I just don’t care.”
“It’s too hard. I’m quitting.”
I’ve heard some of those things from my kids over the years. Have you?  Words like these indicate a lack of motivation. So, what should you do? Well, author Joe White provided me some invaluable insight in putting together this list. Here are the first 5 ways to motivate your unmotivated child.

  1. Have realistic expectations of your child.  Not every child will make straight A’s or start on their sports team. Not every child will go to college and get their MBA.  “Type A” driven moms, and dads like me, need to be really careful not to impose their personalities on their children and expect they will be just like us. Also, we should not try to make our dreams, their dreams.

  1. Be a model of motivation.  Your personal example is key to motivating your child. If you are glued to the tube, you can’t expect your child to want to go out in the back yard and play sports. If you constantly complain about work, what message is that sending to your child? Your child needs to see you loving your work, exercising, and celebrating goals achieved.   Parents Can Be a Role Model for Kids will help you to be the best model you can be for your kids.

  1. Make sure your child breaks a mental and physical “sweat.”  Your child may think, “Why do chores when the housekeeper will do them?” Or, no need to mow the lawn. We’ve got a lawn guy to do it.” Or, “Why should I write the paper when mom will do it for me?” A well-developed and motivated child needs to do some physical labor around the house. He also needs to learn how to think on his own.
4. Choose which door you want to enter. Imagine two doors. Door number one is for the parent who wants to get their kids motivated and do the right thing in life: Get up, go to school, get their work done, be successful. Door number two is for parents who want their kids to be self-motivated to do those things. They want to influence their child to work toward the things they’re interested in. To not only do the right thing but to want to do the right things?
Which door would you enter? If it’s door number one, then the way to achieve that goal is push, punish, beg, nag, bribe, reward, and cajole. If you decide on door number two, then you’ll reach that goal by asking different kinds of questions. Rather than, “Did you get your homework done?” you might say, “Why did you decide to do your homework today and not yesterday? I noticed you chose not to do geometry yesterday, but you’re doing your history homework today. What’s the difference?” Be an investigator, exploring and uncovering, helping your child discover his own motivations and sticking points.

5. It’s not your fault. Remember, your child’s lack of motivation is not your fault, so don’t personalize it. When you do this, you may actually contribute to the underachieving by creating more resistance.
Look at it this way. If you look too closely in the mirror, you can’t really see yourself—it’s just a blur. But when you get farther away, you actually see yourself more clearly. Do the same thing with your child. Sometimes we’re just so close, so enmeshed, that we just can’t see them as separate from us. But if you can stand back far enough, you can actually start to see your child as his own person and start to find out what makes him tick—and then you’ll be able to help him understand himself as well. When you step back and observe, you’ll know what works for him, why he’s reaching for certain things and what really gets him moving. There will be things he’s never going to be motivated to do but is still required to them. He may hate doing his chores and try to get out of it, and that’s when you give him consequences.
The goal is to influence your child when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do, and get to know him well enough to figure out what his own desires might be. As a parent, you want to strengthen his skills in defining what’s important to him. You want to help your child define for himself who he is, what’s important to him and what he’s going to do to make those things happen. Our responsibility is to help our kids do that, not to do it for them. We need to stay out of their way enough so they can figure out who they are, what they think and where their own interests lie.



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