Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Motivating My Kids

As a parent, getting the kids to do what they are supposed to do is the biggest challenge.  I can handle the birds and bees talks, the life and death discussions - but getting the kids to DO something they don't want to do has got to be the biggest challenge.

Tonight, I had a revelation from God and broke it down for Offspring #1.  The example at hand was cleaning the bedroom (a certified disaster area eligible for federal funds).   I taught 4 principles for tackling a seemingly insurmountable job that I thought were worth recording here for others.

Principle 1: Awareness.  You have to know what the job is, identify it's parts and take stock of what needs to be done.  Do you have the tools you'll need (baskets for misc toys, etc.)?  Never let yourself say "I can't" or "I'll try" because the first totally preempts victory and the second allows the possibility of failure.

Principle 2: Discipline. You'll need to keep reminding yourself of what the task consists of until it's done.  It's the only way you'll know when you are done and it is essential to keeping your mind focussed on the task.  If you need to make a list, do that.  If you need to break the work up into visual chunks, you can do that too.  A strategy I teach everyone here for attacking a messy room is to categorize.  Pick the biggest category of item and get all of that first.  It optimizes your time and frees your mind from the dullness of thinking about each item one at a time.

Principle 3: Motivation. Make a game out of it.  A favorite game here is "mail" where things get picked up into a bag and then "delivered" to where they need to go.  "beat the clock" and "i spy" work well too.  I also pointed out the value of tackling the low hanging fruit first (and what that meant) and how small victories encourage you to tackle larger items, so organizing your work from smallest to largest can work too.  Celebrate each small victory.

Principle 4: Endurance.  The most important thing to achieving total victory over a task is to complete it.  That last fraction will be tempting to put off until later, but do it now while you're still motivated and have momentum.  It's the hardest thing besides getting started but the biggest victory because victory over the last fraction of the job is victory over the entire job.

Brilliant Offspring #1 (we'll name this one someday) added Principle 5: Celebrate!  When you accomplish a big goal, it's time for a big celebration.  Cookies and milk, having a friend over to play, whatever is suitable to the work accomplished.

As I was typing this, my little ward came down with a crayon written version (from memory, with some adaptations) of the above in short form and asked me to type it up and print a copy.  So we did and now it's officially a tool for use in the Carter house. :-)

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