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Title: Motivating Our Children for Success in School and Life

Category: Positive Parenting


      In motivating our children for success throughout their school years and throughout life, we must first build a solid parent-child relationship.  This relationship begins with providing them with unconditional love.  In other words, we love them despite all the little things they may do that upset us and we love them under all circumstances and at all times.  We do hundreds of things for them without second thought such as getting them the proper school clothes and tuition for sports or art activities of their interest.  We shuttle them back and forth to these sports events or piano lessons and generally provide for all of their many sundry needs as they are growing up without complaining.  Mothers usually end up doing this and it is usually a labor of love because they want to provide as much as they can for their child. 

      One of the best ways in building a solid parent-child relationship is to share special time with each child.  By special time, I mean, time doing things that the child enjoys and ideally something that the child and parent enjoy sharing together.  These activities are great for building closeness and good communication between parent and child.  This may be something different for each individual child and usually is.  In our family, our oldest daughter loves watching movies and reading good books.  My wife and I have enjoyed sharing many great mysteries and reading books to and with her since she was an infant.  Now as a teenager we can watch more complex thought provoking movies together and really enjoy them with her.  Our second daughter gets super charged over plays, music, camp and Girl Scouts.  Fortunately, her mother and I also love sharing these things with her.  Finally, our youngest, a son, loves sports with a passion.  My wife and I have enjoyed immensely the many laughs and lasting memories shared with him over the past few years at LSU football and basketball games, Saint's games and Sugar Bowls and best of all neighborhood pick-up games.  I believe the sacrifice of our time (I've played a lot less golf in the last fifteen years) is well worth the lifelong memories and bonds made with our three children through these activities.

      A second good way to motivate our children is by being good role models.  If we are good readers and are active and involved in our profession, our church, and our community, our children will follow our example in their school work and in their involvement in all the other aspects of their life. 

      A third way to motivate our children is to emphasize learning for the joy and importance of learning's sake and not to get carried away with grades.  We should teach our children to do their reasonable best but not push them to always make straight "A's" or feel like they have to be perfect in everything they pursue.  Life is like a marathon run with a burning torch.  If we run so fast that our torch burns out before the race ends we really don't win the race.  Likewise, school children pushed to achieve at an overly stressed pace will develop learning and emotional problems.  Certainly we are seeing this much more today in America than ever before.  For this reason the American Academy of Pediatrics is against formal preschool reading and math programs, baby exercise programs and any formally structured organized classes which push children to achieve ahead of their age appropriate developmental levels. 

      The fourth important way of motivating our children is to express to them positive realistic expectations.  As parents we are like a mirror to our children.  We must be careful to mirror the best in our children as they read us for expectations of their potential.  If we believe in them and their ability to be good students with a fine character and special unique talents, they will try hard to live up to everything they can.  Unfortunately they will also fulfill negative expectations if we label them  "dumb, lazy, bad, clumsy, etc.".  For this reason we must be careful not to send out negative expectations.  Finally, if we expect too much of our children, in other words, unrealistic expectations, they may be over-stressed and find failure and discouragement because of the inability to come close to what we are expecting of them.  This unfortunately is seen in too many families who are  gung-ho  about  sports, academics, arts or any other field.  Remember to allow each child to be their own unique self and build on their God-given talents even if those talents happen to be very different from those of the parents. 

            A fifth way of motivating our children for life long success is to be patient with them.  Some children are late bloomers and have difficulty at early ages with reading, writing or math.  If we can give them the support and patience that they need, usually these things will fall into place and begin to click all at once.  If we have been patient during all this time, the child's self image will still be strong and they will ultimately be successful.  If on the other hand we have been constantly berating them and comparing them to other children who may mature at a faster pace, their self-image may be broken, and hurt and irreparable damage may be done.  The same applies to sports.  Some children are gifted and can take part in sports at a young age and some require much more understanding and patience before they can actively participate in a given sport.  Good coaches and teachers know the importance of patience and parents should too.  Along with the patience, constant praise for each positive step forward in the directions of the child's goals is a good way to keep their self-image boosted and help them ultimately to mature into the winner that each child can be and should be.