Getting into the back-to-school routine can be hard for everyone in the house. In the morning, parents are faced with groggy kids who won’t get out of bed and get ready for school no matter how much you nag, bribe and scold. Homework time can be even worse, with nightly fights and accusations echoing off the walls of your home. So how can you get your child to be more motivated? The important thing to remember is this: your child is motivated—they’re just motivated to resist you. Keep reading to find out how you can turn this negative motivation into a positive one.
Q: When a child becomes unmotivated and won’t get out of bed, do homework or participate in activities, what is he trying to tell the parent through this behavior?
=========================== “You have to have the courage to let him experience the natural consequences of his behavior.” ===========================
Answer: When we’re talking about kids not getting out of bed, not doing their homework or school assignments or not wanting to get involved in family activities, it’s important for parents to realize that there is motivation in the child. But the motivation is to resist. The motivation is to do things their way, not yours, and to retain power.
When people feel powerless, they try to feel powerful by withholding. A child or teenager who feels very powerless will stay in bed, not go to school, avoid homework, sit on the couch and withhold overall involvement because it gives them a sense of being in control. To the parent, the behavior looks completely out of control. But the child sees it as the only way to have power over what’s going on around him.
“You have to have the courage to let him experience the natural consequences of his behavior.”
The child who uses resistance to control lacks both social skills and problem solving skills. It’s important to define the difference between the two. Social skills are how to talk to other people, how to be friendly, how to feel comfortable inside your own skin and how to deal with people’s kindness. Problem solving skills are the skills that help kids figure out what people want from them, how to give it, how to deal with other people’s behavior, expectations and demands. Problem solving skills are needed to help a child handle being criticized in class. Many times the real reason kids don’t want to do their homework is because they’re simply lazy about the work or they don’t want to be criticized in class and held accountable for their work.
I want to be clear about this point: everyone is motivated. The question is, motivated to do what? If a child looks like he’s not motivated, you have to look at what he’s accomplishing and assume that this is what he’s motivated to do. So part of the solution is getting him to be motivated to do something else. To assume that the child is unmotivated is an ineffective way of looking at it. He is motivated. He’s simply motivated to do nothing. In this case, doing nothing means resisting and holding back to exercise control over you.
You’ll see it when you ask your child a question and he doesn’t answer, but you know he heard you. What’s that all about? That’s a child withholding an answer to feel powerful. When he says, “I don’t have to answer you if I don’t want to,” you see it as a lack of motivation. He sees it as a way to win control over you.
Q: As parents, we tend to respond to this unmotivated behavior by coaxing, arguing and screaming at the child. Or you just give up and do the child’s tasks for him because you don’t see another way. It doesn’t work, but it’s all you can do, it seems.
Answer: Very often these kids are motivated by a power struggle. They find different ways to have that struggle with their parents. The job of the parents in this case is