We are at that point in the year where everyone is tired… teachers, faculty, students and parents. Glimmers of summer are right around the corner; however, there are some hurdles to cross before we get there. For those of us with older children, there are final projects, papers and exams. For younger kids it may be equally as daunting battling the homework every night. So why is it worth fighting the battles at this point? Why do we want to instill in our children that finishing strong is so important? Well, this is a very valuable life lesson. We want our children to “run the race with endurance that is set out before us.” We want our children to learn that we don’t just quit or throw in the towel when things get hard. These are oh so important lessons as they face seemingly insurmountable work deadlines in their future or marriage difficulties. We want to teach them that mantra, which was often quoted to me growing up, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
So what do we do to motivate our child through these last few weeks of the school year? We need to first take the time to learn what motivates our children.
Every child is different, and there are different motivational triggers for each person. Make sure that you are taking the time to know your child well enough to know what will motivate them. That being said, there is one thing that tends to motivate everyone no matter what the personality. That is positive reinforcement.
We all want to hear that we did a good job or that someone is proud of us no matter what our age. Make sure that you are not only trying to push your child to do well but that you are positively reinforcing even the small things. Most of the time when children know they are going to be praised for a job well done, that is enough motivation in and of itself. There are many types of positive reinforcement: things such as verbal praise, giving a hug or even taking the time to be there with your child when he is doing something. All of these things communicate that what they are doing is worthwhile. Make sure you are taking the time to praise effort not just performance. Taking time to simply praise the positive may be all the motivation your child needs.
The “we factor”
Another important thing to remember is the “we factor.” Especially at this point in the year, we are all in this together. A child, or anyone for that matter, will have an easier time being motivated if he or she doesn’t feel alone. You need to communicate to your children not that this is “their problem” that needs fixing; but that this is our problem, and we are going to work on it together. Some children just need a little bit of extra help in an area of study. Maybe they have fallen behind a bit and just need some help sorting through it. Make studying for finals a fun game or help with study breaks. There were times during testing at the Sheridan House residential homes where we would surprise the kids with water balloon fights. Remember that the most important thing to your children is not to feel like they are alone dealing with a problem, but that they have their family on their side!
A positive tone
Choose to focus on the positive. It is easy for all involved to get frustrated because we are tired. Parents can set the tone by being a cheerleader. Cheer effort! Praise and affirm your child. Our cheering must not solely be outcome based. They may not have gotten an A on that book report they spent so much time on, but be sure to praise the hard work put in! When your child is in the midst of working through something, we can be there with consistent affirmations. “I know you can do this!” or “you are doing a great job,” should be a constant mantra. Our children’s belief in themselves comes from our belief in them!
“…and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12, NLT).
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.