When I was a child in school my mother used to sign my homework diary weeks in advance. It used to frustrate my teachers no end. They did not understand that my mom trusted me to get the work done and saw no reason to check up on my daily tasks. My mother had cultivated a conscience in her child and had given me the gift of intrinsic motivation. I often wondered how she did it. Coming across this book “Motivate Your Child” has been a blessing because not only did it answer some of those questions, but it also supported its claims with Scripture.
The book starts out by distinguishing between three levels of thinking 1) about yourself 2) others 3) God. Obviously a toddler pretty much operates on level number one, but we can start showing him or her to consider others, and even God, even at that early stage. I talk to Nicky about not hurting the dog. I expose him to church and we read our baby bible books. I’m “putting it out there” in the hopes that on some level he will absorb it.
The other main point they bring to our attention is the difference between internal and external motivation.
Colossians 3:23 contrasts external motivation with internal motivation: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Mom talked about what that meant for their family. She said, “When you do something with all your heart, it means that your motivation to get things done comes from inside you, not from Mom or Dad telling you what to do.”
Parenting has for far too long relied on behaviour modification, much like Pavlov and the dog. It might work, but it creates selfishness. It creates a mindset of “What’s in it for me?” It also doesn’t work for strong willed kids who will often go their own way no matter what you bribe them with.
But how do we instill that internal motivation? Here are the points I have gleamed from this book in answer to that question: (Sections in italics are taken from the book.)
1. Empowering Statements.
– When faced with sibling rivalry, say: “Remember, brothers love each other.”We would say it when they were in conflict. We would say it when they were having fun together. We said it when they went out the door to play with friends. ‘Remember, brothers love each other.’ We were committed to developing a belief in their little minds about how brothers were to respond to one another. The Bible, in Romans 12:10, says, ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.’ Our boys didn’t always demonstrate love to each other as they were growing up, but they knew that loving each other was the right thing to do. Today, they’re grown men and they really do love each other.
– For attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: As you might imagine, these children can be magnets for correction. Dad realized that his words to his son were strategic as he coached him in life every day, many times a day. He and his wife developed a list of things they would say to their son to help him stay on track. The list was made up of statements they wanted him to say to himself, and included things such as, “Slow motion.” “Quiet voice.” “Think before you speak.” “Maybe you need to take a break.” “Manage your energy.” Their approach provided a positive way to keep their son moving toward the goal of developing self-control in his life.
-When your child doesn’t want to work, and you’re always saying “Have fun today!” change your wording to: “Do the right thing” or “Work hard today”.
– A clear action point and instructions: instead of “I’m going out soon and you need to get your shoes on,” say : “Sammy, you need to get your shoes on now.”
THEN if he still doesn’t listen: “Sammy, you’re not obeying me. You need to get up now.” The close proximity raises the felt value of the instruction, and Mom’s presence makes Sammy feel uncomfortable.
It’s not the consequence that will eventually change Sammy’s heart. It’s the continual practice of associating an instruction with an uncomfortable feeling that produces conscience development.
-Showing how you live in God’s grace: You might say to your daughter who is headed out the door, “I’ll be praying for you today as you try to work out that problem with your friend,” or to your son as you leave for the office, “Son, would you please pray for me? I’m not feeling too well, and I have an important meeting at work.”
2. Kid’s Tools to Help
-Concrete reminders: If your four year old forgets to put his clothes away, put a piece of yarn on the doorknob. Then instead of referring to the clothes, you focus on the yarn. The idea is to cultivate that internal reminder rather than the actual clothes.
-For teens you can say “What’s your plan?” For instance when a teen doesn’t want to do chores then you can say:
“I want to give you some freedom to help decide your schedule, but if you can’t do what you said you will do, then you’ll lose the privilege of deciding when you’ll do it. If you give me a plan and stick to it, you’re demonstrating integrity by doing what you said you would do. That’s a sign of maturity. If you don’t do what you say, then you’re going to lose the privilege of helping determine when you’re going to do the job.” If the problem persists, then, as a parent, you may have to require that she clean up the kitchen immediately after dinner, with the understanding that if she does it with a good attitude, you may allow her to help determine the schedule next time.
(This ties into chapter six about the advantages of integrity that you can share with your child. Trust is earned and can allow you more freedom).
-For every put down, find three ways to build each other up. I liked this one.
First Thessalonians 5:11 says, ‘Encourage one another and build each other up.’ That’s a good verse for our family. We’re going to work on that. If you punch or put down your brother, then you’re going to have to do some building-up exercises. You’ll need to think of three ways you can build up your brother, write them down, do them, and report to us.”
– Teach them how to give a wise appeal if they don’t agree with you:
A wise appeal has three parts. First, start with acknowledging the parent’s concern by saying something like, “I understand you want me to . . . because . . .” Then express your own desire by saying something like, “But I have a problem with that because . . .” End by giving an alternative that somehow offers a solution for the parent and for the child in the form of a new idea or compromise of some sort.
3. How to handle mistakes:
I think we all hate being corrected and kids are no different. The key is to use it as an opportunity for growth, rather than shame.
I love the example they give of a card game. Using the card game pairs, every time you don’t get a pair you have to say “Oops. I was wrong. I can learn from that.” They also have “Ouch” cards for when you’ve hurt someone, and there you have to say: “Oops. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
The book outlines a three step process where you ask the child 1) What did you do wrong? 2) Why? 3) What are you going to do differently next time? If they don’t admit to any wrong doing you can ask what percentage of the problem was theirs and focus on that. The passage of how Peter betrayed Jesus three times and then how Jesus asked if he loved Him three times shows how Jesus wanted Peter to move on from the mistakes.
4. Parent’s Toolbox of Consequences
Parents these days have to have various options at their disposal to handle children. There certainly isn’t a “once size fits all” solution to every problem. What works on one child may not work on another. Here are some ideas from the book:
– Natural consequences: You left your coat behind, you’re going to be cold now.
-Logical consequences: This is when the parent sees the coat and wants to keep it, but still have some kind of consequence, so they make the kid wear the old coat for a week.
-Loss of privilege: This is an effective one as a teacher. Kid plays with stationery? Take it away. What I do with Nicky is take something away and explain to him that he can have it back only if he doesn’t hit the dog with it etc. Then I watch him.
-More parental control: Again, this ties into Chapter six with integrity (more integrity = less need to watch), but especially with little ones you just have to give them lots of time and attention.
(I’m going to add my own extra points here, not in the book, but what I’ve learnt from Laura Markham on Time Ins. Basically the idea is to spend time with your child and be there for them to help process the big emotions. Especially for toddlers who don’t have the ability to think logically, they just need you to be there and help manage them. I had a huge meltdown the other night because Nicky wanted to carry on playing with the IPad and I wanted him to come have a bath. I took him crying to the bathroom and explained to him how I wanted us to be on time to fetch dad later and all ready. He actually seemed to understand although he was still crying. To comfort him further I took him into the bath and played with the bubbles – he likes to use his feet to “draw” with the bubbles. Then we had a fun time in the bath.
Another technique I want to add from play therapy is ACT: acknowledge feelings “I know you wanted to carry on playing” Consider Limits: “But it’s bath time now” Target Alternatives: “We can play on the IPad after the bath, and until then we can have fun splashing in the bath.”)
5. Leading by example
The family is a great place to learn about faith when parents model a strong faith themselves. You can pass on your faith by building relationships, sharing scriptures and practicing your faith. Family Bible studies are suggested. If you share how the Bible has spoken to you, then you can get them to try and read and listen to God too. There are a lot of kid’s Bibles and prayer books out there.
One mom was helping her son deal with his anger and said, “I think God placed a passage in the Bible just for you.” When he gave her a puzzled look, she said, “Check out Ephesians 4:31–32.” He looked it up, and it said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” They discussed together the six different types of anger named in that passage, and Mom used that opportunity to help her son understand that when he chose to avoid anger and chose kindness instead, he was being like God. What an awesome thought for an eight-year-old.
Building relationship can be aided by taking initiative – find out what your child’s interests are and focus on them – and being responsive – being on the lookout for moments to connect. In today’s hectic life a lot of connection can happen in the car travelling around. Nicky and his dad have a great time in the mornings in the car sharing their breakfast.
There are a lot of ideas in this book on how to create that level three connection with God. One story I liked was when a family was having a meal at a table and dad was late. They spoke about the empty chair and one child piped up that Jesus was sitting in the empty chair because He is always with us. They actually went and hugged the chair and even sat on his “lap”.
There was no doubt, no question, no analyzing the situation. God came to dinner that night, and they welcomed him with open arms and taught their mom a thing or two in the process. Before I was a mom, I knew that I would have a lot to teach my children, but I’m learning more every day how much they have to teach me.
Purchase the book from any retailer. Send an email with MYC150 Promo in the subject line with a receipt of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org. Biblical Parenting will send you the link and a special code to access these downloadable video, audio and written products.
The bonuses are along a similar theme to what is in the book:
-the power of a clear conscience video, mp3, study guide (following on the theme of integrity)
-hero training camp lesson: for 3-12 year olds – a conscience development program for kids
-a toolbox of consequences video, mp3, study guide
-children’s program: correction is like buried treasure
-glorious speech talk
-strong willed child article
-make devotions fun audio
Get it on Amazon on the link at the top or on Kalahari.
*This post was sponsored by Motivate My Child through Business to Blogger.*