Motivating Kids When They Are Unmotivated

With thirteen kids, I can tell those of you looking for the One Best Way To Raise Kids – there IS no one best way.  Just like all of us adults have unique personalities, so do our kiddos who come wired with a personality we sometimes feel is familiar and sometimes have no clue where they came from.  Little alien’s we’re supposed to raise by doing all the right things the right ways.  A best way doesn’t exist and neither does the manual. I”m far from perfect.  I raise my voice too often, I have high expectations, I like to keep our home clean and I’m not always great at being lazy or relaxing.  But I’m good at a lot too and I give my family my all every day.

I wished I was enough, I hoped I made a difference, I love you more than I have words to express, I questioned every decision, I regretted a lot of them too, I want you to be happy and love your life, I wish for you strength, but I hate that you struggle to gain it. And so much more......

I wished I was enough, I hoped I made a difference, I love you more than I have words to express, I questioned every decision, I regretted a lot of them too, I want you to be happy and love your life, I wish for you strength, but I hate that you struggle to gain it. And so much more……

Regardless of the kids and their personalities, the biggest motivation lies in what they like.  When doling out consequences, I hit below the belt.  Whatever they like the most gets removed.  I play tough, I mean what I say and I follow through.  The best form of discipline happens before a slight is committed, though, so it’s important to attempt to stay ahead of the game.  Rewarding good behavior is the best form of motivation.

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I have a 17 year old son who is autistic, a 13 year old son who is in special education due to speech, a 23 year old who went to college at the age of 12 and everything in between.  Supporting  your children’s passions and interests and motivating through the times they feel defeated is tough but not impossible.

When that 23 year old was 12, bored, crying and unmotivated, I met with the school to determine what we could do.  They allowed college credits to count as her 7th grade requirements and the local community college let her take the classes if I sat and waited for her.  She learned that how she feels is important to me and to the teachers that truly care about education.  She also learned through supporting her, she could do anything and graduated high school with 47 college credits.  She’s a strong, capable, hard working woman and when we meet for lunch or coffee I still support her in every way I can.

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Recently my 12 year old son, his 7th grade teachers and team and myself met to discuss his progress and goals.  This kiddo can’t read much above 2nd grade but he can build a working gun out of legos.  Motivating him to read when he is discouraged, angry and unmotivated was difficult until I told him that for every grade level he goes up in reading, I’ll buy him a lego set.  Not the $15 box, the $75 and up box.  I can’t tell you the shift in his work ethic and drive at school.  A couple days ago, he was pretty rude to his brother.  OK, he was a total jerk.  When he got home from school his lego container was in my room until he earns it back.  It was a good lesson in earning for a job well done and consequences for attitude.

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My autistic son needs more constant redirecting and is the most difficult for me behavior wise. I don’t always have the answers. Tough to admit, but true. I have been an aggressive advocate for him, though. Think lioness and cub. I’ve been able to secure opportunities for him to give him the best in life. I’m constant, direct and hard on him because that’s worked to damper his anger and keep him focused. Rewarding behavior works very well with him as does removal of privileges and I stick with what works.

Just like I enjoy having a review at work where I’ve done an outstanding job, received a bonus or gotten kudos of some kind, our kids like to be told they’re awesome. Motivate with a big dose of love and lots of rewarding praise.  They respond – even kids in a military type program – to earning and being rewarded. Then, when necessary (and it will be), dole out the consequences.

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