Friday, January 18, 2013

What Motivates Them?

We headed to gymnastics for the second time and I am very proud to say my oldest only got in trouble seven times instead of twenty. We are making progress. I think it's because of the gum ball. Or maybe something bigger.

We were a bit early and I went next door to get a cup of coffee. They had a gum ball machine and he really wanted one. I told him I would get it in anticipation of him being an amazing listener. If the teacher said he did a great job listening, he could have the gum ball after class. He lit up with the thought of the possible treat and I thought it was the perfect moment to try a bit of advice I got from a woman at church.

I adore her and she always has wonderful things to say about raising children. She told me a story about her daughter who wanted to quit dance lessons after the first day. She had wanted to take lessons so that she could wear a costume and be on stage during the recital so my friend reminded her of her goal. She said, "You need to stay in the class if you want to wear a costume and be on stage." Her three year old did end up toughing it out and when she came off the stage she said, "Oh I really really loved that!" My friend asked me why he wanted to take the class in the first place. Would reminding him help keep him motivated?

"Remember how you wanted to learn how to do all the cool jumps into the foam pit?" I asked him. "Yeah, that's why I just want to do that instead of all the other stuff," he replied. I told him that the other stuff will make his muscles strong enough to do the cool tricks. "Oh. OK," he said. It seemed too easy.

And yet, he worked really really hard to listen. He would begin to wander then pull himself back into line. He didn't question the teacher at every turn and even began to make sure the other kids followed the rules. "She said we have to stay here!" he would whisper to a wandering comrade. Near the end, his resolve faltered and he asked the teacher repeatedly when he could just go home and have a snack. Still, his effort impressed me. He did get his gum ball and I got a good lesson. Motivation has to come from within. It doesn't matter why I want him in gymnastics. It matters why he wanted to take gymnastics. That will keep him going more than anything else.

How do you keep your kids motivated to listen and learn?

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