How Do You Inspire a Work Ethic in an Indifferent Kid?
I would like to start this article with a disclaimer. My son is in sixth grade. We are at the very beginning of this whole middle school/ adolescence experience. Knock on wood, so far it has been great. But even the best kids go through some funkiness during this time–it’s just part of the package. So how do you keep these in-betweeners motivated during this time (and ideally, not drive yourself crazy!)?
Three Practices to Try: Turn that Teen’s Apathy to Zeal
1 – Make Your Expectations Clear
This is crucial to parenting in general. Your children MUST know what you expect from them and what happens when they do and don’t meet your expectations. Is your child responsible for cleaning his own room? Is he responsible for packing his own lunch? Is he responsible for doing his own laundry? (By the way, the answer to all of these things should be yes!) Does he know the consequence if he does not complete a chore?
I often hear from parents how frustrated they are that their child doesn’t do certain things. If your expectation is unclear or inconsistent (for example, sometimes you go in and pick up all of his laundry off the floor for him and other times you yell at him when he doesn’t), he will not feel especially motivated to do it on his own.
2 – Recognize Your Child’s Hard Work, Effort and Perseverance
We all know it’s important to compliment our kids. But are you complimenting them for the right things? Your kids want to please you. (Yes, I realize they don’t always act that way…) Whether it’s schoolwork, house work or personal hygiene, it is super important to recognize their efforts. This in itself is motivating for them.
Extra incentives or rewards can be a good thing, too. To a certain extent, we all enjoy or even depend on some additional incentive. If you did not get paid to go to work, would you still go? I love my job but if I did not get paid anything to be there, I probably would not choose to still go. And even though I love the people that I work with, if I did not get compliments, appreciation, great working relationships, and funny stories from my colleagues, I would not be so motivated to go every day. Are you catching my drift?
As I have mentioned in other articles, we do give our kids allowance. We also take our kids out for dinner to celebrate good report cards. I believe those small “rewards” help our kids understand what we value. And it motivates them to do the right thing.
3 – Focus on What You Can Control
You can’t make anyone do anything, it’s true. Even as parents, aside from physically moving your child from one place to another, you can’t make your kids do anything. We all operate by our own free will. That being said, one important thing to remember as parents is that you do still have a lot of control over your children.
Please don’t misunderstand my use of the word control. I am not a control freak or an overbearing parent. However, my husband and I are in charge, and my kids know that. We own the house that they live in, we purchased most of their belongings, and they are dependent on us for food, shelter, transportation, and a number of other things. They need us.
So what can you control in your kid’s life? In general, middle school aged kids are driven by friends, technology, and freedom. As parents, you have (or at least you should have) quite a bit of control over all of those things. If your child’s grades plummet for lack of appropriate effort, bye-bye privileges. The same goes for not carrying out family responsibilities and the like.
If their actions are purely a matter of laziness, irresponsibility, or low motivation then it’s time to get tough.
I’m sorry you cannot go to Amazon and purchase some motivation for your middle schooler! But hopefully, this article provided you with a few “a-ha” moments.