Most of us don't mind doing things we are good at or with which we feel some degree of success, much of the time we even enjoy doing these things. It is quite different when we are involved in doing something that we are not so good at doing. It is in our evolutionary nature to compare ourselves to others. This is likely something we have learned when we first started gathering together in groups for the purpose of hunting and personal safety. We needed to fit in so we would not go hungry or be alone and unprotected. There was safety in being a part of the group and eventually we learned to compare ourselves to others so that we fit in, and were not forced out of the community or tribe. Like many things that worked well at one time to protect us may not work as well at this stage in our evolution. Today as we compare ourselves to others, we frequently come up short and feel inadequate. When a child compares themselves to others in their class they get some sense of how they are doing comparatively. When we are not doing all that well, we likely feel some sense of shame, and this may be reinforced every time we make an effort, and continue not to do as well as others. Unfortunately both parents and teachers often interpret this as the child being lazy or irresponsible. If your child is not motivated to do schoolwork, you might at least consider this as one possibility or reason for their lack of motivation. Can schoolwork, or homework, compete with Xbox, Mindcraft, or some other computerized game that is fun and incredibly entertaining ? Of course not, and for this reason we need to establish some structure and give thought to these competing forces. We need to develop a well thought out and effective strategy. If we don't, our children will simply outsmart us. We can use the things they love as motivators and not as competing forces. In place of thinking of technology as your enemy, consider the possibility of reframing your thinking towards technology, and enlist them as your allies in helping your child develop motivation to do their work and become successful. We always need more leverage! What keeps many children from doing schoolwork is shame. Yes, shame again, that dirty word, that undermines much of our effectiveness, and that many of us don't even want to mention, including myself. I heard this phrase a couple of months ago by Weiyang Xie, and mentioned it in another post. "If you want to debilitate yourself, shame yourself, if you want to debilitate others shame them. Shame reduces our ability to focus and problem solve effectively. In addition it increases impulsive behavior. I am a strong believer in behavior modification. I also believe that positive reinforcement, or rewards are ultimately more effective than negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement has less side effects than negative reinforcement or punishment. Sometimes it is necessary to ground children or implement some consequences, but it is better to rely more on positive reinforcement, when we can. When our child gets a good report card we might take them out to get ice cream. Awesome idea! What if they were to get a bad report card and we took them out for ice cream. Sounds very bazaar doesn't it? Let's take a deeper look. Most times when children get a bad report card they already feel bad, they are embarrassed and ashamed. I was talking with my good friend today and we both agreed that there "are times", when we might take our child our for ice cream when they did get a bad report card. What if you said to your child, "you must be feeling really bad about this report card, then take them out to get ice cream. While we are having ice cream we might then create a dialogue around what it is like for them, not to be doing well in school. ( I can imagine that I already lost half of my readers), It could be a moment when we really get their attention. We generally don't want to reward negative behavior, and yet there are times when empathy and compassion become primary. Particularly when shame is involved! How do we decrease shame and increase accountability? We have hundreds and hundreds of studies that prove that shame decreases motivation, and we have the potential to use this information to our advantage. There are times when shame is not the underlying issues and this strategy would not be used. We absolutely want to reinforce positive behaviors, and we absolute "do not" want to reinforce negative behaviors in most situations, however, when shame is involved we need to look closer, and if what you are currently doing is not working, then you need to do something differently. These ideas that I am presenting can easily be misunderstood, and it might be helpful to talk with a professional to develop an effective plan. Sometimes it is worth the investment, to protect yourself and your child from a life of suffering. It would be helpful to take a look at your language, quite often when our children are not doing what we want or expect of them, our language may become shaming. It is not that you would ever do anything intentionally, or consciously to hurt your child, it is just that this tends to be a cultural norm that we may blindly accept. Dr. Shauna Shapiro a researcher in mindfulness, makes this simple but profound statement, "shame shuts down the learning centers of the brain".
Motivating Children for Academics
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