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Self motivation, motivating yourself, is a key ingredient to your child's future success. How can parents instill self-motivation in an unmotivated child?

Parents write, "With the new year upon us, we would like to retire from our jobs as motivaters, negotiators, and full time rule enforcers for our children. Our kids have become too dependent upon us to push them to fulfill their responsibilities, and turn off the tv, computers and video system. Whatever happened to self discipline? And what can we do to coach it in our three unmotivated children, ages 8, 11, and 15?

Why Do I Have an Unmotivated Child?

There are many reasons why today's children behave more like consumers of life's riches rather than producers of life's work. The average American home is filled with multiple entertainment sources that provide immediate rewards, rather than foster delayed gratification. Schedules are so packed with after school sports, lessons, and activities, that kids crave responsibility-free time at home. Parents' lives are similarly stressful, leaving us less inclined to set up and manage systems of household accountability. This results in children being conditioned to pursue goals governed by parents, teachers, and schedules, rather than from a vital internal source: motivation.

Parenting Tips for Cultivating Self-Motivation in Your Child

The ability to motivate oneself to pursue desirable goals and refrain from interfering temptations is a key ingredient to future success. Here are some suggestions for cultivating self-motivation in children who have become dependent on others pushing them:

Consider motivation as the composite of many emotional strengths. Motivation springs from pride, willpower, resilience, confidence and determination, among others. Some children who lack self-motivation are also lacking one or another of these traits. For instance, it may be hard for one child to be motivated because he doesn't receive pride from accomplishments. Consider if your child may need some further skill building in these areas. If so, weave these concepts into your discussions, explaining how they build the "mind muscles" necessary for kids to become more self-directed and self-confident.


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Use real life examples to demonstrate how these concepts come into play. Practice self-talk scripts and self-pledges to lay the groundwork for motivation.

Position yourself as a motivational coach not a motivational source. Parents, as a motivational coach, can look out for those areas where you might implicitly reinforce or even encourage your child to rely upon you to lead them towards a goal. For example, accepting the child's insistence that they do not know how to work on a goal, or allowing attractive distractions to be so easily available that parents must frequently intervene to pull a child away from them. In these two cases the child may not develop sufficient pride and willpower to fuel their inner motivation. Sometimes coaching involves showing a child that they can tolerate the frustration of pushing themselves, or alternately, removing the obstacles in their way.

Create household systems that reward self-motivation. One of the primary fuels for motivation is the satisfaction that comes with completing a chore on one's own and doing a good job. Parents can tap into their reservoir by setting up a home-based program where children earn reward points for initiating work, reducing their reliance upon outside forces, and requesting help only after they have exhausted independent sources for resolution of their questions or problems.When children ask for help in a certain household or homework area, parents may sometimes suggest it is an opportunity to build more fuel to push themselves ahead in life. "Have you tried giving yourself directions before you asked them to be given to you?" is the coaching refrain.

About Dr. Steven Richfield: Known as "The Parent Coach," Dr. Richfield is a child psychologist, parent/teacher trainer, author of "The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today's Society" and creator of the Parent Coaching Cards.

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