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Mom's Time Out


Mary Angel

(June, 2012) Motivation means something different to everyone. A motivation is anything that influences us or drives us; an incentive. Even in a single household there are many different motivators at work. These motivations, if we can figure them out, can be extremely helpful in parenting. The problem, as I see it, is figuring out what motivates each of the members of my household, individually and also if there are any family motivators that everyone would agree on.

The family motivator, at least in our case, seems to be simple. My family loves to go to Disney. From the minute we return we start saving to go again. When the money is saved that is when we go back (at least for the time being). That is one part about motivation that I neglected to mentionÖit changes. But for now what motivates my family as a whole it Disney. They will take a little extra change and put it in the Disney Bank; they will change their tune about something if it might negatively affect our Disney savings. For example, when my kids were constantly asking to stop at MacDonaldís for sodas I put it in Disney perspective for them. "Letís say we got sodas for 5 of us every day of the year," I continued, "that would equal about $2920 a year". When I explained that this would cover more than half of the cost to go to Disney they werenít as motivated to get those drinks anymore. One day I know this will no longer mean as much to them. As they get older their motivations will change, as they do for all of us.

Through my life my motivations have changed greatly. I am way more motivated by the care and happiness of my children now that they are part of my life. Before kids the thought of children had no motivation for me at all (as most of you know it was merely a concept of sheer terror). As my hobbies change so do my motivations. At this point in my life I am very motivated to find time to scrapbook and be able to afford my scrapbooking supplies. A few years ago it might have Longaberger and Tupperware. My husband on the other hand has gone from golf to seminary. He would give up a lot of extras to be able to afford the latest set of seminary books. So you see, as your interests change so do the things that motivate you.

The kids are a little more difficult to pinpoint sometimes. For my oldest I know the consequence of losing video games is a great motivator but a little more unusual, but just as affective, would be the loss of his Kindle/books. Talk about having mixed emotions as a parent when the thing that makes the best punishment for your child is READING! My second son is way more social, so what motivates him is time with his friends. Whether it is a school dance, or a little basketball, or just having one friend over, he needs to be social. For my daughter who is almost 8 it is truly hard to say. Her motivations change daily if not every minute. One minute a particular doll is what she canít live without and then it is a stuffed animal. She is always motivated to spend time with my husband or meÖALONE! I guess when you have 4 kids time alone with Mom or Dad is a true commodity. The, just turned, 5 year old is motivated by Barbie and bacon. Yup itís odd but totally true. Barbie dolls, Barbie movies and anything that has bacon on it, in it, or just BACON!

When I take into consideration what motivates my kids, it can make life in our house a lot easier. If I place these motivators in front of the kids as an incentive then they are way more likely to accomplish what task is tied to that incentive. It is a simple concept, tell the little one to clean her room and we will have B.L.Ts for dinner and you have a reasonably clean room. Now, she may have offered her sister her best Pillow Pet for the evening to get her to clean the room instead, but itís clean. This is all the ideal scenario of motivating my kids. In an ideal world I explain to the kids that if they accomplish A, B and C then they will get X, Y and Z. This theory works really well most of the time. The rest of the time reality sets in and our hectic lifestyle turns these motivations into consequences and mostly likely disappointments (yes and tears). Then after crazy mommy breaks loose we all calm down and I realize that the motivation system works way better than the consequence system. This is not to imply that consequences arenít important, they most definitely are very important. It would just be nice if I could always start with the motivation system and be proactive instead of resorting to the reactiveness of the consequences.

The bottom line is, even when our motivation system is working top notch, something always changes when the kidsí motivators are switched to something new. Then we are starting at square one trying to determine the best motivator to get them to accomplish what needs to be done. Another key point to remember is, when you assign the motivator as a consequence you have lost that motivator for a period of time. What I mean by that is when I take video games from my son for a week as a punishment; I canít use the video games to motivate for that week. Unless the video games were removed for an undetermined amount of time, until such time that he brings up his grades, or keeps his room clean, etc. Like most things involved in raising children, it is a cycle and you have to learn to ride it out and adapt. But also like most things involved in raising children, sometimes you just have to learn to enjoy the ride!

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