Stretching for Motivation
Success depends on the ability to move forward and requires persistence. We succeed at work, in our social life, our parenting, relationships, love life, finances and health only if we can keep moving forward in spite any setbacks.
The movie “Touching the Void” takes this concept of moving forward, no matter what happens, to the extreme of a life and death situation, without the option of failure. There is a beautiful Zen saying defining success as “Fall 7 times. Get up 8”. Successful people do not fail less. They get up more.
Kids who learn to persist at an early age just keep going and going and going…
Challenges will always be there. Some say we summon them into our life to prove to ourselves that we are strong and able and to give us perspective. With every challenge, you have the opportunity to strengthen good beliefs about yourself, beliefs that you are capable, that you are strong, that you can and that you are determined. Welcome challenges! They build self confidence.
Kids master the art of pushing themselves just a little bit more. Whereas they naturally push the boundaries, adults will tighten them. Before they go to bed, if they want more of your attention, they will say, “I want to stay up just a little bit more. Read me just one more story”. If you think about it, this is a very wise and positive way to get what they want.
On the other hand, when adults need attention from someone else, they will lower their expectations to avoid failure experience. Funny, but if you want to be able to motivate your kids, you need to go back to feeling like a kid.
Emotional intelligence research has found that kids’ ability to persist in spite the obstacles reaches its peak at the age of 5 and starts declining from there. When given an impossible task, 5-year-olds made an average of 16 attempts to do it anyway. For them, effort was the only key to success (“If only I try this enough time, I will succeed”), while 9-year-olds tried only 11 times and 16-year-olds refused to even try, saying it was … impossible. It takes us only 11 years to kill our inherent persistence and when we grow up and start our personal growth journey, we need to re-learn what was a natural and healthy ability.
To motivate your kids, it is important to use their natural attitude towards obstacles. Start when they are young. It will make it a lot easier to motivate them.
Another thing you can do is to slow down the process of giving up by encouraging effort. If the aim is not just to succeed but to keep going, your kids are more likely to keep going.
Whenever I work with kids in special education who were labeled as “hyperactive” or as having ADD or ADHD, I can confidently change the diagnosis only by using the “just a little bit more” technique.
One of “my famous kids” was a 2 year-old boy (let’s call him Matt), who was brought by his mother to an assessment in my childcare center. I usually write down how long it takes kids to stay in each activity and Matt’s attention span was about 5 seconds! He moved from one activity to the next so quickly, I hardly had time to notice what he did. He was like a little tornado.
His mother was desperate and said his siblings had difficulties too and she was very concerned about his development, since he did not talk clearly and could not stay in one place long enough to absorb new information. Matt was most “hyperactive” child I had ever seen, but I knew it did not matter where I started, it only mattered how dedicated I was to the progress, so I said to her, “Give me 3 weeks and he will be all right”.
Every day, I worked with Matt on a few activities. Sure enough, 5 seconds after we started, he tried to leave, but I held his hand and asked him a question to keep him just a while longer. When he could sit for 10 seconds and wanted to get up, I held his hand and said, “Can you help me pack this up?” After 3 days, he was like a strong wind, but no longer a tornado. His mother said after a week he did not move as much anymore.
Every time I worked with him, I wrote on my chart: 25 seconds, 54 seconds, 3 minutes… People thought it was funny to count seconds, but I am a great believer in “Just a little bit more” and I used it with Matt until he reached what I thought was the best attention span for a 2 year-old – 15 minutes!
It did not take a year. Not even a few months. All it took was 3 weeks and Matt was able to concentrate for 15 minutes. A month later, we found out he had phenomenal visual memory when he also started recognizing words.
Matt came with a pacifier in his mouth and could not speak properly, yet within about 2 months, he became a different child. When people ask me how I did it, I tell them, “By counting seconds and being dedicated to ‘Just a little bit more'”. This “little kid” is now a large 20-year-old person who calls me on Skype from time to time.
When you want to encourage your kids, doing “one more” is an important factor of every change and progress. Kids understand when you tell them success is made up of single achievements, small steps that gradually reach critical mass and tip the balance from effort to success.
Think of things that if you help your kids do just a little bit more you will be able to improve their achievements – school, friends, time management, health, relationships, money, cleaning, organizing…
Just a little bit more
Here is a list of ideas to practice yourself that will allow you to put across the idea of “a little bit more”:
- When your kids are sad or disappointed (or, God forbid, depressed), encourage them to laugh just a little bit more. All they need is one more opportunity to smile about something. The accumulation of smiles and laughs brings more happiness.
- When your kids face a communication conflict, encourage them to stay in the conversation just a little bit more. Tell them to take a deep breath and show just a little bit more understanding to receive just a little bit more of it in return.
- When your kids want more love in their life, encourage them to express their love to their parents, siblings and friends just a little bit more than usual. If they say “I love you” once a day, encourage them to say it one more time.
- When your kids face eating problems, teach them to wait just a little bit longer before piling “seconds” on their plate.
- If your kids have self esteem challenges, encourage them to stand in front of the mirror and admire themselves. Every day, they need to stay a little bit longer and notice how their self confidence changes.
- When your kids feel lonely, encourage them to hug more. When they hug, teach them to hug just a little bit longer and feel connected.
- Whenever your kids want to feel good about themselves, encourage them to give a few more compliments to other people. It is a cycle: you give and you receive. Just a little bit more every day can add up to a wonderful feeling.
- When your kids want to get more rewards from their work, they need to increase their value every day just a little bit more. They can study something every day, be more efficient, improve, innovate and connect. Just a little bit more than yesterday, that is all they need.
- When your kids volunteer their time, encourage them to volunteer just a little bit more and see that if everyone gives just a little bit more, we all have a lot more. Abundance is everywhere. Giving is receiving.
You may be asking, “How early can kids understand what a stretch is?”
When my youngest daughter was only 3 years old, we counted our emotional stretches for the day every evening at dinnertime and she quickly learned to participate. Everything that is hard for us to do and we do it anyway is a stretch and a growing experience.
- Stretch is a slow movement forward
- “Just a little bit more” can go long way
- Motivation is encouraging stretches
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)