The questions in Motivating Kids (1) provide a way to give your kids’ “wanting” muscle some good practice and to allow you as a parent to help your kids get what they want in life and be happy. The next step is to chunk each dream down to realistic, day to day pieces that do not involve genies, kings, fairies or lottery tickets.
When kids find it hard to get what they want, they go to “fairy land”, where magic and fairies (or other grownups) grant them their wishes. Unfortunately, they learn this irresponsible technique from the grownups around them. Even parents, when they do not get what they want, go to the “fairy land” of wishing for a winning lottery ticket, drawing a big prize and having more luck, so it is really no wonder their kids do exactly the same. They justify their unhappiness as bad luck or blame someone else for it.
I agree there is some benefit in developing the imagination with wishes and dreams, but it is very important for kids (and parents) to understand we have the responsibility to create our own luck by actively working towards our goals. If kids want to have friends, they need to do something about it. If kids want to be successful at school, they need to do something about it. If kids want to be able to swim, they need to do something about it. When kids do not wait for things to fall from the sky onto their lap and know they have to go actively looking for them, they are empowered. And their parents are there to help them succeed.
Ask your kids this question:
“If I could help you achieve 3 things in the next 3 month what would they be?”
The “magic 3”
The list of dreams is a good place to start. The task of focusing on 3 items out of a long list is not easy even to my adult clients. However, kids (and grownups) cannot deal with too many things at once.
The idea is to get your kids acting and moving towards something they want as quickly as possible and gain success experiences to keep themselves going. Since kids have little practice with goals, we need to make things easy at first. In fact, for kids under school age, start with only one goal.
Usually, 3 months is the best kids can manage. Their perception of time is so limited that it is better to talk to them in “sleeps” – 3 sleeps, 7 sleeps, 30 sleeps and so on. Many times, they are so overwhelmed they can only think one or two weeks ahead. In that sense, the younger they are, the harder it is for them to wait. If your kids are young and restless, help them focus on the next one or two weeks and chunk their goal down so they can achieve something in that short timeframe.
- Adjust the question to the right age. Remember the emphasis is on “helping you get what you want”
- Make sure your kids ask for something they want and not something they believe you want to hear. If you suspect this is the case, ask them “Why did you choose this?” or “What will you get if you do this?”
- Do not belittle any desire or they will keep some desires away from you
- Hold yourself back from doing the job for them. Remember you are not the genie. You are just helping them move towards something they want
- Every process of going forward has some setbacks. You want your kids to learn the process. Talk to them about the progress, the movement, the improvement, not about being 100% successful. As long as they are moving forward, they are successful
- Encourage your kids to write their current goals down somewhere to allow both of you to see them and read them in the next 3 months. If your kids are too young to write, they can draw or cut and paste pictures from a magazine
- Remember to write the date on each of the goal statements, drawings and collages and keep them as memorabilia
Many kids translate overwhelm as “too much”, “too hard” and even “impossible”. In this case, chunking down to something you can help them with can make life very easy for them.
The next step of chunking down is using the “magic 3” again. Every problem, every challenge, every desire is chunked down to 3 things.
Ask your kids the following question about each one of their top goals:
“To achieve this goal, what are 3 things you can do that will help you get it?”
Notice this question is not about what you can do to make your kid get it but what they can do for themselves. When you ask it, you help your kids a lot by facilitating their thinking process. You are transferring the responsibility over the goals to the kids and empowering them.
The reason this question is important is because kids often feel helpless and do not have many ideas and options. In their perception, they are young and do not know enough. Thinking about options is a very good mental exercise and develops the kids’ confidence. Remember it is not your responsibility to come up with ideas. Before you suggest anything, make sure you have given your kids enough time and a “safe space” to come up with their own ideas as this will give them ownership of the solution.
Only if your kid gets too frustrated, teary or angry should you suggest something and even this should be done after you ask “Would you like me to suggest something?” and should be phrased as a question – “How about …? Would that be a good idea? What do you think?”.
- When kids are overwhelmed, they transfer responsibility to bad luck and blame other grownups in their life
- Focus makes perfect. Help your kids start with their top 3 desires at most
- Start with short term desires (3 months maximum) to help kids cope with their limited perception of time
- Focus on 3 things your kids can do – action, action, action!
- Emphasize the process, not the end result
- Suggest only when your kids are feeling lost and helpless and ask them to approve your suggestions and accept their choice.
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)