Inside: How to motivate kids to make thoughtful choices and bring out their best. It’s the most powerful way to encourage your child’s sprit and inner voice.
Two words: Oatmeal. Everywhere.
Two more words: Kids. Screaming.
Three more words: Mama. Not. Happy.
Fifteen minutes earlier my kids scurried down the stairs with messy bed head, sleepy eyes and blankies trailing at their feet. I looked at them and thought…Kids look so darn cute when they first wake up. They’re so happy and bubbly. This is going to be a good day.
I asked the kids what they wanted for breakfast. My son shot his hand toward the ceiling, stretching it as far as it could reach. “Oh. Oh. ME. ME. I want french toast. Can I help mom? Can I help?”
I nodded, then looked to my daughter. “And what would you like for breakfast, my love? Oatmeal?”
Brushing her hair gently from her eyes she nodded, and then spoke in the tiniest voice. “Yeah.”
The kids both wanted to help, and even though it is more difficult, kids benefit from the experience. Especially because research shows that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20’s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.
But things started to get…heated.
My son insisted that he needed more room to cook his french toast. My daughter insisted that she needed more room to pour the oatmeal into the pot of boiling water. I’m all for kids helping, but not at the expense of sanity…or a trip to the ER.
“Guys. Guys! GUYS! Everyone calm down. Let’s take this one step at a time.” Except they didn’t listen. What happened next was messier than the oatmeal now blanketing the floor.
“Go. Both of you. OUT! All you do is yell and fight with each other.”
Oh, the irony, right? I’m yelling at the kids to stop yelling.
How to motivate kids to behave.
I always love the quote by Peggy O’Mara that says, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
It affirms the idea that all kids act according to who they believe they are.
When kids hear, “All you do is yell and fight,” and a parent connects it to something the child did, it solidifies their belief that “yelling and fighting” is simply who they are.
Without realizing it, you can motivate kids to act in all sorts of ways that you really don’t want them to.
Learning how to talk to kids changes their inner voice for the rest of their lives, all while bringing out the behaviors you both love and want. It’s simple really.
If children believe all they do is yell and fight with each other, they will act out of that belief. On the other hand, if children believe they are considerate, they will become aware of other’s feelings. If children believe they are smart, they will persist in learning. If children believe they are tidy, they will pick up after themselves.
This is how to motivate kids.
Acknowledgment affirms who the child is. So when you Say What You See® and you tell a child, “You picked up the mess. That shows you’re responsible,” you anchor the strength in a way that they can identify with it. It becomes who they are and their future actions are based out of it.
By watching for and acknowledging children’s successes, we can help children recognize their inner strengths, so they can define themselves accordingly.
It works in two simple steps:
- When you want a child to see a particular strength, watch for it in everything your child does.
- Say what your child is doing, thinking, saying or feeling, then name the strength to prove to a child it’s there.
Helping kids see their strengths.
Walking up the same stairs my kids scurried down only a short time earlier, I looked around. Then stepping into my son’s room I noticed the corner of a blankie peeking out the closet door.
As I opened the door, both kids looked up at me…waiting. I could tell they weren’t sure if they were in trouble or if I was coming to affirm what really happened.
I knelt down, cracked a smile and looked around for a moment.
And then, six more words:
“You were only trying to help.”
The kids smiled back and I continued. “You were each trying to get enough room at the stove so you could help. Hmmm. Right now, there’s a bunch of oatmeal on the floor downstairs, and you still need to eat. There must be a way you can help!”
Without another word, the kids ran back down the stairs, grabbed the dust buster and started vacuuming as fast as their tiny feet could move. Naturally, the kids version of clean left half the oatmeal on the floor. But their helpful intentions were always present.
It takes a collection of little moments to build up a child’s strengths. But the moment a child sees their own strength, it changes their inner voice.
Instead of a child’s inner voice saying, “All you do is yell and fight. It’s who you are.”
The child’s inner voice speaks with a strong and deliberate confidence and says, “You are helpful. You are a helper. You know how to help others. It. is. who. you. are.”
Want more on parenting?
- How to Communicate With Your Toddler (And Get Your Message Heard)
- Boundaries, Routines and Early Bedtimes: 13 Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids
- How to End Screen-Time Without a Struggle
- The Most Important Thing You Can Do After You Yell at Your Kids
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