“Have you ever thought about trying some positive motivation?”
My friend’s words were spoken gently, with a hint of hesitation. Even so, I bristled. Spouting off some lame excuse, I ended the conversation, hung up the phone, and nursed my stinging pride. Positive motivation? What did she think I was, some screeching harridan, oppressing my children with my negative parenting? Harrumph!
My friend’s sage suggestion was offered in response to my admission that I was plumb out of ideas. I had been whining to her of my parenting woes, mainly, children who simply weren’t doing their chores, cleaning their rooms, doing their schoolwork in a timely manner. My issues weren’t with defiant or rebellious kids, just with kids who couldn’t seem to remember what they were supposed to do or stay focused enough to do it.
I had tried everything from nagging to lecturing, revoking privileges to flat out grounding them, all to no avail. Instead of bringing about the desired results, my children continued to flake off, I continued to get angry, and we all were miserable.
The kids felt like failures, and so did I.
Once I got past my vast mountain of mama-pride, I knew my friend’s lovingly spoken advice was just what I needed to hear. So I tried it. Starting small, I put together a ‘treasure box’ filled with small candies and dollar store toys. If the kids completed their schoolwork with a great attitude they could pick from the treasure box at the end of the week. I wasn’t expecting much, after all, how motivating can snack sized treats and chintzy toys that break after three uses be?
Oh, me of little faith!
In fact, this simple thing worked like magic. It rocked my mama-world, shattering my previously held paradigms of what good parenting looked like. It is honestly no exaggeration to say this altered the course of my family’s destiny. (Okay, maybe that’s a touch dramatic, but it is true nonetheless!)
Tiny, tangible reminders of success brought out a much needed confidence in my kids. In their eagerness to win a concrete prize, they suddenly found ways to stay the course. They found that they could control their attitudes, they could accomplish more than they thought, and they could manage their time well. Who knew that dangling an incentive like a carrot in front of a horse would have such a marvelous effect? (Apparently my wise friend did!)
Pretty soon we were dangling carrots for everything. Our home became filled with charts, visual tools showing just how close they were to the prize. Words of affirmation and celebrations of accomplishments served to transform a home of defeat into a haven of encouragement. Interactions with my kids became flavored with anticipation, hope, the joy of working toward a goal, and pride in their successes.
Best of all, once they (and I) knew they were capable of achieving something, once they had tasted success, they no longer needed a carrot to spur them on in that area. Mission accomplished!
Ah, the taste of victory for us mamas is sweet indeed, yes?
Positive motivation is a mighty powerful tool, my friends. While there is a time and place for punishment and rebuke, they should be the smaller part of your parenting duties. Our goal is not to create mindlessly compliant, picture-perfect miniatures of ourselves. The larger aim is to lead our children into joyful obedience, personal successes, and ultimately, into young adults who are capable of making their own wise decisions.
Your turn: Do you use positive motivation in your home? What ‘dangling carrots’ work best for you?