2+ weeks into school, Summer has clearly come to an end! Already pulling your hair out when it comes to homework? Frustrated that Chores go undone? Room a disaster? Chicken nuggets are the only acceptable menu choice?
Bribes, debates, threats, and punishments aren’t working. Lecturing, screaming, begging,… are turned off! Games, candy, toys…. Even Bill Gates would run out of money. Last resort= calling on God and prayers, pleas routinely ring out to survive the ordeal. What’s a parent to do?
There is a better way!! What if I were to relay a “no more tears” routine, and strategy? It’s not 3 easy steps; rather, its tapping into a basic psychological element: intrinsic motivation. Embracing 3 components quickly taught by the acronym “CAR”, your child’s movement will only be upward and onward!
So you said Intrinsic? What in the world is that?
Why do we go to work? Why do we fall in love? Why do we seek God? There are built in motivations that we have long since accepted. It’s amazing when the incentive comes from INSIDE of us vs. being forced. Is a “shotgun” wedding appreciated, or avoided at all cost?
As humans, we can do anything for the short term. Over a lifetime, actions with positive outcomes stimulate our soul, resulting in life purpose. Kids will respond, not by manipulation; but, by positive stimuli that create an effortless inward drive.
So what are you waiting for? Give me the secret!
The 3 part SECRET is: Competence, Autonomy and Relevance (C.A.R.).
These 3 components were developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, two renowned psychologists and the founders of the self-determination theory. Applied to 10s of 1,000s of students, family, even adult staff… 3 things done consistently reveal magic over time!
This method also reflects biblical insight when we consider “Train a child in the way they should go, and they will never depart from it.” Sure there are the commandments to guide us; but, who hasn’t stepped across the line on occasion? Did we survive? Yes, but did we THRIVE? Not!
NO. 1=COMPETENCE. Aren’t we more confident and comfortable, when we are sure that we can do something?
To encourage your child to do anything on their own, make them feel like they can do it. Tell them specifically what they can do (multiply fractions, sort blocks, make a salad…), and get them to say aloud that they can do it. Build on past successes, or testimonies of others.
This is NOT about empty praise or OVER complimenting! Competence comes in achieving. It’s why an apprentice system has worked for centuries. Model how it’s done.
Ernest Dempsey, who has been a school counselor for 10 years in Tennessee, encourages parents to play a game with their kids called "Make the Student the Teacher." He says parents should, "sit down and ask the child to show them what they learned at school that day."
Allowing them to teach the material (even difficult subjects for them, where you can only highlight aspects they know) slowly and thoroughly. Applaud only when they don’t GIVE UP!!! Persistence is more important, than mastering a subject.
This process takes MORE time and effort. Serious involvement in whatever the task is, reaps benefits in understanding. This investment of time emphasizes to your child what is important, plus you will know 1st hand, what they are learning or struggling with.
They may have a goal of being the next Babe Ruth…. 10,000 pitched & hit balls at a batting cage can turn even a mediocre player into an expert. It’s not in the saying, but in the doing!
NO. 2 – AUTONOMY Freedom to choose is not just an American virtue, but a basic human need to have power and control over our lives.
Instincts tell us when a child is rebelling to “tighten the grip”. Parents who force a child with screams, can break their spirit or create resentment. RESIST, do the opposite, or at least try!
So let my child run the show? Absolutely NOT! In some cases (teenage driving years), a parent has to establish boundaries to ensure safety and security. Yet, there are always aspects that can be explored through the lens of autonomy (even a “grounding” can lay a foundation in choice).
In reality, children are NOT in charge; making them feel like they have some control or choice in the matter can reap tons of reward. Parents battling in a “no win” situation is sad.
Total independence is equally as hurtful. Running completely wild and free results in anarchy. Degrees of freedom are earned when tasks are done, trust is gained, and character is integral.
Give a few options that give the illusion of control. Reviewing their schedule (monthy, weekly, daily..) in detail takes time, and honors their thoughts. Who doesn’t like to be included? Ever have a boss that was a dictator? How fun was it always complying to the letter of THEIR law?
Where the “rubber meets the road” example, can be demonstrated in various ways.
If Food is the issue? Evolving into a short order cook will not solve the problem, just wear you out. Making them sit until they eat everything is worse! A child simply makes a choice to eat (or not... a child will not starve over a few missed meals=test of wills). State “This is what we are eating…. You might want to try it”. At first, a slight tweaking of the rules… an additional roll for an extra bite of Brussels sprouts; or dessert for 15 bites of vegetables…. Food fights are eliminated!
Let them choose the sequence of tasks (Snack first, homework, 20 minutes DS playing, … ). Remind them of the difficulty (if they prefer math over reading), the importance of the task, or helping schedule estimated time to complete the task (2 hours for football practice, 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of food preparation, 30 minutes of clean-up …).
Establish a priority listing from both perspectives. A Must & Maybe-Dog fed daily, homework, exercise .. Optional: computer, music, or TV time. Relinquishing to their request that their room is cleaned weekly, or “I’m starving when I get home, can I eat first…” , or Ï would rather mop the floor than take out the trash…” . Flexibility or method change can enhance your relationship.
Try their method first, then always follow up with questions rather than criticisms (tough to resist condemning their choices). How did the day work? Was everything done? What was missed? Would you have more energy to …. Keep thinking LONG term practice, vs. short term results.
Every child has currency, and a LOVE language! What do they value? Gaming? Playing with Legos? Barbies? Time with Friends? Words of Affirmation? … Take some time to brainstorm what experiential activities can be leveraged.
BIG note(s): Failure is an option (experiential learning is the best, & oftentimes unpredictable)!
It takes 21xs to establish a practice, don’t grow weary & give up after a few days.
If they feel like they have a little power, they are more likely to participate, and WANT to do the task!
No. 3 - RELEVANCE Your child will not value, what they don’t see as important, and relating to the “now”.
Tie their work ( work is not a nasty word :), character, and choices to their life. Decisions reap instant rewards and benefits, or struggles; as well as impact their FUTURE. Children can be creative, their futures often escape their consideration. Parents have to walk them through…
In a calm setting, diagram their decisions, work, strengths, weaknesses …. Then show direct outcomes. Example: I understand you hate math, so what can we do without math… from banking to working at McDonald’s looks like we need math. So what basics do we have to have? How can we learn these things? Is there a way to make it more fun? …. Be creative!
Tie your student's academic work to their life. When learning fractions, tie it into their favorite recipe measurements. If struggling with reading or math, remind them that reading and math skills are needed to be a lawyer, astronaut, doctor, construction worker or whatever they want to be. Give frequent reminders that today's schoolwork is essential for the future.
Reinforce that it’s okay that something is hard! “It’s too hard” is NOT acceptable language . Being told: Failure isn’t an option; Don’t get hurt, be bored, or be disappointed; It should be easy; Succeed at any price, will backfire! Lying to our offspring won’t allow them to escape!! Tough circumstances are essential parts of life, and shortcuts aren’t worth it. Allow them to fall!
Emphasize we want to be honest and trustworthy, living up to our commitments. If it is only reflected in “being fair” . Every child wants justice for themselves, broadening that to include others can be life changing. Relating your teacher or coach must have worked very hard to prepare your lesson, they care about your learning, don’t we want to honor their time by….
Reflecting the outcome of shortcuts, or utilizing teachable moments is great. Some examples:
--In a doctor or vet’s office, highlighting diplomas on the wall, even asking about their school process, …. Asking the child “Would you feel better about our doctor/vet, if you knew they cheated on their tests? To make us well, they had to study how long? Do they still learn?”
--At a store, would it be ok if the person in front of us said “Let the person behind me pay for my…” That’s why we don’t shoplift. Or… 20% off means that item costs what? Highlight that buying things on clearance saves how many $$? Work through saving for a goal.
--At a farmer’s market, ask questions: How long did it take to grow this beautiful watermelon? What is the hardest part of farming? Why do you like being a farmer?
It definitely takes more time and thought; yet, emphasizing admirable traits clearly defines expectations. Pointing out how current learning relates to the REAL world reinforces performance.
Raising children without any strife is impossible. With effort and thought, keeping the C.A.R. method in place, it can be much easier. Functioning day to day is easier said then done; but, priorities of education, work, and a reflection of your family values is worth the investment.
It's not enough to ask your child, "Did you do _______________?" Take a clear and serious interest in the process. Ensure that your child feels competent, has autonomy, and knows that the work is relevant.