Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Many parents want their kids to stay in shape while their teams are on hiatus. We can encourage our kids to run, bicycle, stretch, do yoga or other activities while our pools are closed. But how do we motivate them to do these things?
The best way to encourage our kids to put down video games and phones is not by bribing or threatening them — but by inspiring them. We can be good examples ourselves with our routines and physical activity. Also, paint a picture of what they can accomplish in the future with hard work now. Remind them of how much they’ve improved and how far they’ve come along in their journey. If we tell them they “should” go running or do pushups, we’ll most likely get push back.
I learned these ideas from a webinar by David Benzel of called “Solve the Mystery of Your Child’s Motivation and Distraction Issues.” Benzel discussed how we often miss the difference between inspiration and motivation. Motivation is the result of an unmet need. If there’s no need, we won’t see increased activity. Benzel said that motivation is “an inside job.” As parents, we can inspire our children, but we cannot motivate them.
“It does little good to want something for someone more than they want it themselves.” That’s a good point Benzel made. If we want something more for our kids than they do, we are going to be disappointed and our kids may feel stress and pressure.
What motivates people to do their work well?
- Pride in their work
- Sense of accomplishment
- Enjoyment of the work itself
- Recognition and praise
- To make a difference
What motivates our kids in swimming?
- Because it’s fun
- To be with friends
- To learn new skills
- To receive attention and recognition
- The enjoyment of competition
All those reasons are unmet needs that are internalized and they are equally valid. We can’t motivate our children to work hard if it’s not an unmet need of theirs. What we can do is encourage and inspire by setting a good example, recognizing their hard work, and creating a safe environment for them physically and emotionally.
What are you doing to encourage and inspire your kids during COVID-19 shelter in place?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.