Children and Motivation

Homework hassles

This is a very popular question. Unlike what most parents think, because it is counter-intuitive, power-struggles do absolutely nothing to improve academic achievement or discipline. A parent that wins in a power struggle promotes only obedience. Later, when the child can no longer obey, because they are out there in the big wide world, they have to re-learn motivation and self-imposed structure. It is much better, in my view, to learn about motivation and act on your inspiration to learn, starting when you are about three or four years of age.

Starting from when children are three or four, you take a back-seat to their learning, and see what they can do. Some children are more inspired than others. Some children love the piano, others love to roll and tumble. Some children take to math, while others want to read only comic books. Giving your child the room to find something that they are good at, however, is fraught with anxiety and worry for most parents today. The future, highly technological world feels so unknown, and the dangers of the world so great, that under the auspices of this greater anxiety to want our children to be prepared. We want to arm them for the future, with rigor and excellence.

Forgetting our anxiety, and tolerating the grey zones where our children have yet to discover their own excellence, is not easy. It most certainly mans taking a back seat to their homework. One of my daughters, although extremely intelligent (not a biased view) was most definitely not into doing her homework. Her homework never seemed meaningful to her. One day, she realized that she was not doing as well on math drills as other children, because she did not do her homework. She began begging me to drill her. Now this was a motivated student. I had to tell her that sometimes I would and sometimes I wouldn’t be able to do homework…  

Creating a motivated student means coming to terms with the terrible reality of seeing an unmotivated student. I really made sure I could accept that my daughter would perhaps not go to Harvard, as I had, and prefer instead to find other things in live to feel good about. Once I let go of my expectations, and let her emerge as she wanted without criticism or disappointment, fully embracing her own interests and motivation, she surprised me by emerging into what I had always wanted. I can guarantee that if you just watch your children grow, that alone will help them find their own excellence.

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