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Spiritual Parenting Thought for the Week..
by Mimi Doe, copyright 2002
Motivating Children to Change Behavior
I have learned over the years, through trial and
error, which approach for motivating behavior works
best with each of my children. Elizabeth, 11, has
been playing the piano for a year. I vowed to myself
that I wouldn't nag her about practicing as it might
clobber her inherent joy for music. If I've noticed
that she's been too busy with other activities to
spend time with the piano, I'll remind her how much
I love to hear her play while I'm making dinner or
ask if she remembers that song she worked on last
month with a Hungarian beat. I'll move into the
living room with paperwork and just "be" there and
pretty soon she will drift in and begin playing.
Motivating children and helping them identify and
change limiting patterns doesn't have to switch
you into an authoritarian taskmaster who controls,
punishes, or nags. Here are some alternatives:
Changing patterns and establishing new ground rules
can take time, but stick with it. Form a clear
objective, visualize the actions you would like
your child to take, and then be attentive and
vocal when you see movement in that direction.
A positive byproduct will be less stress and more
collaboration in your household.
- Change your own behavior
Notice what YOU are doing when your house feels
calmer, there's no whining going on, your teenager
is off the phone and talking to you. You are completely
responsible for your own behavior and I promise it
has a profound effect on the actions of those you
live with. Begin this week paying attention to your
child's positive behavior and make a note of what
your actions were at the time. You might begin to
see a connection.
- Rules for living
What are the set rules for living in your household?
If you haven't articulated them it's time you do.
These are the ground rules that help put the structure
in place for positive behavior. For instance, you
might believe in limiting television, phone calls,
and computer time so your kids have the opportunity
to read, talk to each other and focus on homework
and hobbies. As long as you are clear about why
the rules are in place and consistent with what
the rules are, ultimately they become part of the
fabric of your children's lives. If you begin to
bargain or compromise these rules, children will
feel the clarity begin to dissipate and their energy
will funnel into negotiation skills rather than
the behavior the rules were created to illicit.
- Gotta have your love
Children, no matter their age, want to please you.
They are love-seeking beings. Your love, attention,
interest, and authentic listening is the strongest
positive motivator there is. Be mindful of this
power and cautious not to withhold love when you
are less then delighted with your kids. My husband
recalls the harshest punishment he ever received
was when he was a small boy and his parents had
forbidden early morning cartoons. He snuck downstairs
one Saturday morning and turned on the television.
His father loomed in the doorway and crushed the
little boy with these words, "I'm so disappointed
in you. You've broken our bond of trust." Ouch.
- Using time thoughtfully
A recent study came out that says we spend on average
14-1/2 minutes per day with our kids, of which slightly
more than 12-1/2 of these minutes are spent in one-way
(parent to child) negative communication! Let the
little things go and choose to create an atmosphere
of praise and joy rather than criticism and judgment.
A soulful home builds the spirits of those who live
there. Set out to add more light and joy to your
home so the time you all spend together is fulfilling.
When the ground rules are set, praise is freely given
for positive actions, love guides your words, and
you spend time with your kids, then it doesn't matter
if the jeans are a little ragged, the bed isn't made
crisply, the test score is a B rather than an A,
or the blocks aren't put in the appropriate bin.
- Parental Goal
What one sentence sums up your goal as a parent?
Take a moment to write it down. Maybe you want to
raise kids who grow into loving people or nourish
your children to live out their dreams. Rely on
your goal when reacting to your children's behavior.
It makes your choices much clearer.
Copyright 2002, Mimi Doe
All rights reserved
Mimi Doe, author of "Busy But Balanced: Practical and Inspirational Ways
to Create Closer, Calmer Families" (St. Martin's Press)
Busy But Balanced is an essential guide for chaotic lives,
offered up with humor and love. It will inspire all parents.
--John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
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