Permission to Motivate
Sometimes, the hardest thing for parents is to get their kids to accept their attempts to motivate them. Kids may treat parental attempts to motivate them as nagging or forcing when they have not given their permission to help them. Whether you like it or not, help is something that needs to be accepted.
I often say “Parenting is not about what I give my kids, but about what my kids choose to take”.
How can I help?
Before any attempt to motivate your kids, make sure this is something they want. Ask, “Would you like me to help you?”, “What would you like me to do when I see that you’re upset?” or “What do you suggest I do when you forget/come home late/fail Math?”
Many parents say they are not comfortable asking these questions because they are afraid the answer might be negative, but I think it is better to know than to pretend. Yes, there is a risk of your kid saying “No, I don’t want your help”, but it gives you the option to leave the door open, in case they change their mind, by saying, “Well, if you ever need me, I would love to help”.
The permission is a non-verbal contract between you and your kids that allows you take part in their life. It includes an acknowledgment that it is your kids’ life and they will be the ones suffering or enjoying the consequences. It is an opportunity for you to make sure that motivating your kids does not create pressure on you and serves the kids’ own definition of success.
Many parents fail to get their kids’ permission to help. I hear parents say, “But I only want what’s best for him” or “But she is the most important thing to me”. Yes, I know, most parents have lots of good intentions and lots of love, but intentions and love are not enough to convince your kids to do something.
In all my parenting workshops, I parents ask when supporting and helping their kids turns into nagging. The answer is simple. When you rate what is important to you higher than what is important to your child, you are nagging. Although your motivation techniques may be the same, the outcome will be totally different.
Supported and encouraged kids blossom while nagged kids misbehave, lie, hide and develop low self-esteem.
Do you nag?
To understand the emotional reaction to nagging, try to find your interpretation to nagging by answering these questions:
- Who nagged you as a kid?
- Why did you consider this person a nagger?
- What was that person’s intention?
- When this person nagged you, what did you want them to do instead?
- What did this person nag about?
- Who do you nag?
- What do you nag about?
- Why do you nag?
- Finding what nags you will help you understand your kids better. Everything you try, try on yourself first.
- Find more than one person who nagged you. This will help you find a pattern.
- Find correlation between those who nagged you and the people you nag.
Kids who are nagged develop a fear of being nagged. Unfortunately, this fear makes them avoid getting into situations in which they might be nagged. They minimize their communication with their parents to avoid being nagged.
While mild nagging is a very common communication technique between parents and kids, nagging is a form of bullying. The nagger puts pressure (by saying something repeatedly, often in a whiny tone) to do or not to do something and this creates an unpleasant experience for both sides.
Kids learn to nag from their surroundings. When they see nagging that works, they try it too. However, if their parents do not consider nagging a valid form of communication, the attempt will not be repeated. Kids do not invent anything. If you nag, they will nag too. If you respect other people’s desires, they will do that instead. As with anything else, nagging comes back like a boomerang and nagging parents raise nagging kids.
Remember, help without being asked may be considered an invasion.
What if they say “No”?
Whether kids welcome your offer to help and motivate them or not is an indication of how strong a relationship you have with them. If you have established a supportive relationship after getting permission, you may not need to ask again. In many homes, one parent has a relationship that permits this help and the other does not. Permission may be divided into topics. For example, Mom is good with math, so she can help with math and Dad is good with technical gadgets, so dad can help with that.
It is very important to understand that although your abilities and talents in a specific area attract your kids’ requests for help, nagging overrides this very quickly. If your kids come for help and you nag, even if you are the best person in the world to help them, they will give it up.
- Kids say “No” when they are afraid that by giving permission, you will start nagging. Be specific about the area in which you would like to help and the type of help you are offering and you may get a “Yes”.
- Kids say “No” when getting your help means they are weak or inadequate. This may be because you are offering your help too soon and the kids want to try for themselves first. Be patient and you may be asked to help later.
- Kids say “No” when they think your offer is not sincere and you want to manipulate them. Take a hard look at the history of your offers and do your best to win back your kids’ trust.
Check your relationship with your kids
When offering help your kids or motivating them, it is important to examine yourself and your relationship with your kids and try to predict what their reaction will be. If you suspect they will reject your offer for help, find ways to gain their trust first.
Think of something you want to help your kids with and answer these questions:
- Will he or she accept my help?
- If so, what should I offer?
- If not, why not (see the reasons your kid might refuse above)?
- What can I do to get a “Yes” (no, nagging is not a good idea)?
The door is always open
When kids choose to reject an offer, make sure they know they can come back any time. Sometimes, this is all kids need to feel motivated. They need to know they can rely on your help if needed.
As a parent, never close doors. Always leave an opening for them to come. When you offer you help and your child says “No”, always say, “I accept your choice and I want you to know that if you ever need help, I am here for you”.
Kids sometimes regret having rejected an offer to help. Sometimes, they think about it later and realize they need it. Other times, they try and find out they cannot do it by themselves or they realize they do not have enough experience to come up with the solutions themselves. Inside, all the kids know Mom and Dad are the people who love them the most.
When your kids get to this understanding and come back, you need to be willing to help and motivate them to the best of your ability.
I once wrote a poem for my kids to make sure they fully understand the open door policy. Print it and give it to your kids.
- Permission is a sign of good communication between kids and parents.
- Permission is essential in your desire to help your kids
- Help without permission may be rejected
- Permission keeps the motivation to succeed in your kids hands
- When they do say “No” leaves the door open.
This post is part of the series Motivating Kids:
- Motivating Kids (1)
- Motivating Kids (2)
- Motivating Kids (3)
- Motivating Kids (4)
- Motivating Kids (5)
- Motivating Kids (6)
- Motivating Kids (7)
- Motivating Kids (8)
- Motivating Kids (9)
- Motivating Kids (10)
- Motivating Kids (11)
- Motivating Kids (12)
- Motivating Kids (13)
- Motivating Kids (14)
- Motivating Kids (15)
- Motivating Kids (16)
- Motivating Kids (17)
- Motivating Kids (18)
- Motivating Kids (19)