Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Finding a Strong Motivator for Your Child

At lunch today a friend told me about the motivation “scheme” her husband had devised for their son in his senior year of high school. The son had a D average in physics although he really understood physics concepts. He just didn’t study.

The parents hired a tutor, a young man who needed money. The son worked with the tutor two or three times a week for a few months, and he raised his physics grade to a B+ by getting As on all his remaining tests. What made the student actually try so hard to accomplish such a difficult task?

The parents told their son that, if he raised his grade to a B, the tutor would get a bonus of $1,000. Liking the tutor and knowing how much he could use the bonus, the student was invested in working hard – and he pulled off the deal. (I’m pretty sure the student also got a bonus.)

Finding a reason that can truly motivate someone can be very important. Long ago a newspaper reporter colleague of mine smoked. His young daughter asked him to quit smoking for his health, but he didn’t. Then one day his four-year-old son said, “When I grow up, I’m going to smoke just like my daddy.” My friend stubbed out his cigarette – and never smoked again. His own health wasn’t enough of a motivator, but the health of his young son was a very strong motivator.

If you’re a parent reading this post, consider what you may have offered in the past as incentives (maybe an iPod) or punishments (maybe grounded for two weeks). These things may not be strong enough motivators, especially as both options are in the future. Then consider what you could offer to, say, help your child reach his/her potential in a particular high school subject. Something that would be a very strong motivator – something in which your child would be invested in achieving.

Each person is different. Yet, by considering what could be a strong motivator for your child, you may have a better chance of helping your child on the way to finding his/her path in life.

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