One of the frequent questions we get asked is how to get kids motivated. How do you get them out of bed, off the couch, and taking care of their responsibilities?
The negative answer is obvious, and most of us have probably said something like this, one time or another:
“You can’t get on the computer until you finish your math.”
“No, you’re not going to the movie with your friends – not until you’ve done your chores!”
“I’m fixing ham and eggs for breakfast, but if you don’t get out of bed and downstairs right now, it’s toast for you!”
That’s the hard reality of life – when you have a responsibility or assignment, your duty needs to come before your pleasure or your comfort. And we all have a tendency to shirk when we can; consider that part of the judgment for Adam’s sin was increasing the difficulty, discomfort, and general drudgery of our daily work (Genesis 3:17-19). Our children need to learn to embrace their work even when they don’t feel like it – just like we should!
But “motivation” isn’t just about warnings and punishment. There are some other things which you might consider, to make a more positive approach to encouraging your kids’ work habits.
Are they disorganized? Face it, when you tell your 8-year-old “Go clean your room,” often it’s a daunting task. When your stuff looks like a tornado hit a thrift store, where do you even start? Suggest a way to make the task simpler. “Why don’t you get all the books up on the shelves first, then get the dirty clothes in the hamper? That will go quickly, and after that, you can sort the toys back into their sets and boxes.”
Even better, pitch in and work alongside them, at least to get them started. It’s a great time to talk, too.
Are they disheartened? Sometimes you have a task that seems so awkward and unpleasant, you procrastinate. After a couple of delays, it becomes a big, ugly monster – and even harder to get started.
We read a motto somewhere that said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and the rest of the day will be an improvement.” Is there something on your list that you really, really wish would go away? Then consider doing that thing first, absolutely first – and then it will be done and things really will seem brighter.
Are they distracted? Productivity expert David Allen recommends that whenever you look at your to-do list, ask yourself, “Can I finish this item in two minutes?” If so, then go ahead! And if not, don’t just put it back on the list – decide when to do it, and put it on your schedule. In fact, sometimes our desire to dodge the job takes longer than just doing it. “Son, you just spent longer arguing with me than it would take to actually carry out the trash like I asked. That’s not efficient, you know!”
There are lots of reasons your son or daughter may seem unmotivated. Sometimes, if it’s truly disobedience or defiance, you may need to give some negative consequences. But there are a lot of reasons your child may have trouble getting started, and honestly, some of them are the same reasons we struggle with! We talk about these things and how you can press through them to help your guy “get off your seat and on your feet!” on this week’s podcast. Listen here.
Hal & Melanie
For more on getting your guys to be diligent, read our award-winning book, Raising Real Men!