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Published on October 21, 2020

3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively

3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively
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It was August 2007, and I was in a corner coaching my 8-year-old son. We were inside the Modern Sports Arena in Karlsruhe, Germany. Sam was in front of hundreds of people cheering, fighting for his first “World Kickboxing Title” in the under 25KG weight class.

Our journey getting to this point was a twisty road of arguments, tantrums, and growth for me and my son, Sam. On reflection, there were some motivational nuggets that, fortunately, I was able to apply in time to help our relationship grow positively.

From our journey, I’m going to share three key takeaways in motivating your child.

As a martial arts coach, I want to help my students improve their skills, techniques, and mindset. There’s a popular strategy for doing this. When you see a mistake in a student, correct it and help the student build good habits through repetition.

This sounds logical and straight forward—so does good parenting, but the approach is majorly flawed. Publicly correcting someone is the lowest form of human emotion—shame. What we are doing is publicly shaming the student and putting them into a negative mindset.

At home, we are privately shaming our kids and putting them into a defensive mindset. Our first strategy has to be the polar opposite.

1. Constantly Catch Your Child Doing Something Right

This reinforces the positive behavior you want to see. It does not mean you should never correct your child because there’s always going to be a need for this.

Think of your child as a bank account. If you constantly catch them in the moment of doing great things, you make a deposit. Every time you correct them, you make a withdrawal. It’s easier to swallow the withdrawals if there’s already a healthy balance in your kid’s emotional account.

If Sam had already heard “great effort on the pads” or “that kick was 100% accurate”, he was much happier hearing “keep your hand up when punching” if this was a key coaching point.

Tony Robbins has a great quote for this:

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Energy flows where attention goes.

Once you start looking for the great stuff your kids are doing, you’ll start to see more great stuff and this builds positive energy while interacting with them.

Being a parent is hard, but being their coach as well makes the relationship a lot more complicated. You have two hats to wear. So, on the days that they don’t feel like training, it can hit you two times in the face.

The secret here is to empower your child with choices, not ultimatums.

2. Choices, Not Ultimatums

Ultimatums come so very naturally to us when we’re tired. “Sam, grab your kit bag and get in the car or you’re banned from Nintendo for a week” is so easy to say when they do not want to train.

We are parents. We know what’s best for them, so we use ultimatums to reinforce our control, right? However, it’s usually our inner monkey voice that speaks when we give these ultimatums, so we’re not really in control at any point.

Instead, I’ll take a deep breath, clear my head, and say “Sam, we’re off training in 15 minutes. Do you want to get your kit in the car now or finish your game first?” It’s a subtle difference but with a choice like this, you’re taking “no” out of the equation and empowering your child to make a responsible decision.

You probably think that using your authority keeps you in control, but it’s a thin illusion. Nobody appreciates being told to stop what they are doing to do something else. It discounts their opinions as worthless, and they’ll resent your instruction.

The chore may get done, but you can feel the negative energy, and the task is never performed in a way that would make you feel satisfied.

There’s an opportunity to implement this approach all the time, and it builds a healthy relationship.

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“Would you like broccoli or cauliflower?” “Would you prefer to do your homework on Saturday or Sunday?”

When coaching my son Sam, I was getting much better results from applying this strategy. It could be as straightforward as “Do you want to work on your punching or kicking today?” or “Do you want to train on Saturday or Sunday this week?”

This could make all the difference to how the session started, with lots of positive energy right from the go.

The last tip is the hardest one to swallow as a parent. It’s all about us.

3. Monkey See, Monkey Do!

Kids mimic their parents—from how they talk to how they behave and act. We have a much bigger influence on our kids on what we tell them to do.[1] They’ll copy our attitudes, mannerisms, and so much more. This means that what motivates our children involves what we do as parents.

At first, we might think this is great. The big “but” is that they do not copy the characteristics that we want them to. They seem to focus on our bad ones and magnify them by a factor of 10.

I’m always learning how to be a better parent and coach. Just because I’ve been driving a car for over 25 years does not mean that I’m good at it. Many drivers spent a few months learning to drive, then repeat the same driving mistakes each year ongoing. If you’ve ever tried to teach your child to drive, you’ll understand how many changes there are from when you learned and how many mistakes you make that your kids are very happy to point out as well.

Telling them to ”do what I say and not what I do” is not going to win that discussion. If you want your child to be more confident. What have you done lately that demonstrates your confidence?

If you want your child to grow their self-esteem. Do you complain about wrinkles, waistline, or something else consistently within earshot? If you want your child to be a world champion in kickboxing, what are you doing to demonstrate excellence to your child?

The point here is that we all have room for improvement. You’re reading this article, so you care about developing as a parent.

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Laura Markham, Ph.D., author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, says that kids “may not always do what we say, but they will always, eventually, do what we do.” So, most of what children learn about how to behave is from what we model. That’s why regardless of what you consciously teach your child, they will learn more from what they live with.

My challenge to you is to list 3 ways you can be a better role model for your kids and take action to follow this plan.

4. Bonus Tip: How to Supercharge These 3 Tips

There is one old school method of positive motivation that is much debated by scientists and parents: the power of extrinsic motivation or rewards.

Every parent has their opinion on this. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “You can have your dessert when you sit still and finish your dinner.” Did the child sit still?
  • “You can have a happy meal after we visit the doctor for your booster”
  • “You can play on your console if you do your homework”

The idea makes sense—reward a less appealing task with a more pleasurable experience. This is known as extrinsic motivation.

The problem with this approach is what Vanessa LoBue Ph.D. refers to as the “what will you give me for it” or “what’s in it for me?” attitude that we’ll develop in our kids.

But there is a subtle difference that makes all the difference that came out of the study made by Lepper, R. M., Greene. D., Nisbett. E. R. This was a study on preschool-aged children using a fun drawing activity. This is an activity that kids would be happy to perform without being instructed to do so.

Kids were encouraged to play with markers. One group was told they would receive rewards like gold certificates if they played with the markers. The other group was not told about any rewards, but some of the children still received them as a surprise for their efforts.

The outcome was that the children expecting the reward was significantly less motivated in performing the task than the children who were not told about the rewards or received one as a surprise.

Within this study lays the magic ingredient for motivating our kids to learn and grow positively. Promising rewards can actually reduce the joy of performing a task or intrinsic motivation.[2] But like the kids in the study, receiving an unexpected reward can positively reinforce the behaviors that we want to see.

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When you combine this with the above strategies. You’ll supercharge the results.

For me, when coaching my son. He was always going to get a happy meal after training. I’m a cool dad and like to treat my kids, but the timing of the treat makes all the difference.

When I stopped him immediately after performing a skill well that we’ve been working on and said:

“Sam, that punch was world-class. It was like the Bruce Lee Back Fist in ‘Enter the Dragon,’ and it helped me fall in love with martial arts all over again”. “Your choice—happy meal or subway, after class. You’ve earned it”.

I saw a smile on my child’s face that is priceless.

    Here, I’m combing tip number 1—constantly catch your child doing something right with an extrinsic reward. This is a powerful parenting tool. You just need to find a good compliment and match a good reward with the right timing.

    When it came to Sam’s last round in the world championships, fighting for a World Title in the under 25kg category, he did not win the Gold Medal. However, we both learned more about good parenting and Sam has some great lessons to pass on when it’s his time to raise kids of his own.

    Final Thoughts

    Someone once told me that when you read a good book over again, you don’t find anything new in the book—you just find something in you that you did not notice before.

    Just taking the time to read an article like this will help you look deep within yourself and learn how to motivate your child positively.

    It’s now 18 years since I started this journey with Sam to become a world champion. He never quite managed to win the title but took national champion and an international bronze medal for kickboxing. But by the age of 21, he is leaving university with ‘no debt,’ owning his first house and a pet axolotl called ‘Boba’.

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    If you can successfully find the right approach to positively motivate your child, it will be transformational.

    More Tips on Motivating Your Child

    Featured photo credit: Mike Fox via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Psychology Today: How Do Children Learn Right From Wrong?
    [2] Psychology Today: Motivating Children Without Rewards

    More by this author

    Lee Douglas

    Martial Arts Coach and Self Protection Expert

    20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids 3 Positive Discipline Strategies That Are Best For Your Child 7 Positive Parenting Techniques to Raise Happy Kids 3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively

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    1 20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week 2 Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide) 3 20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids 4 35 Easy And Healthy Dinner Ideas For Kids 5 50 Single Mom Quotes On Staying Strong And Loving

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    Published on July 22, 2021

    20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

    20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week
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    It’s 5 p.m., and you’re exhausted. The kids are hungry, but no one knows what they want to eat for dinner. With very little energy, you force yourself into the kitchen and look through every cabinet, hoping for a spark of inspiration. Eventually, you toss a few ingredients together and hope for the best. It won’t win any prizes and falls short of what you consider “healthy,” but it fills everyone’s stomachs.

    Feeding a family can be stressful, even tiresome. It’s hard to find the energy and creativity needed to cook healthy but simple family meals. It’s easy to fall into the “anything goes” mentality. When you’ve got a busy lifestyle, meals become more about survival and less about nutrition.

    Here are 20 quick and healthy—but tasty—recipes followed by tips on making these family meals more nutritious. These recipes can help you have a healthy family meal on the table in an hour or less. Remember, swap ingredients out if someone in your family has dietary restrictions or if you avoid certain foods.

    1. Mini Meatloaves With Green Beans and Potatoes

      These miniature meatloaves come together quickly and cook faster, too. You can have a family favorite on the table, paired with seasoned potatoes and fresh green beans, in just 40 minutes.

      Get the recipe here.

      2. One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta

        This classic will taste like you spent hours cooking, but the preparation and clean-up couldn’t be quicker. One-pot cooking makes this dish practical, while fresh basil, parmesan, and garlic add a special touch.

        To try this recipe, go here.

        3. Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas

          Skip the restaurant and make fajitas at home. The ingredients go on one sheet pan, meaning you won’t spend all night cleaning. Zesty chicken, bell peppers, and warm tortillas can be on the table in 40 minutes. Add sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato, and any other favorite toppings.

          Check out the recipe here.

          4. Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

            Lose the carbs but keep the cheesesteak flavors with this quick family meal. Kids will love the pepper “bowls,” and you’ll love giving them a meal full of veggies and protein to keep them healthy.

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            Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

            5. Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl

              This veggie-packed meal adds an extra boost by using the superfood quinoa instead of rice. Flavorful yet simple, this meal makes an excellent packable lunch or dinner for your whole family.

              Find the recipe here.

              6. Spinach and Chicken Skillet With Lemon and Parmesan

                The complex flavors of lemon and parmesan come together nicely in this gourmet-like dish, but you don’t have to exert the effort or spend as much as a gourmet meal.

                Get the recipe for this dish here.

                7. Oven-Fried Fish and Chips

                  Fish and chips can also sometimes be healthy as evident in this oven-fried version. You won’t miss the calories with this favorite family meal.

                  You can find the recipe here.

                  8. Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

                    Tangy pineapple and sweet teriyaki will have everyone coming back for seconds. Frozen vegetables make this simple family dish even easier to make and enjoy.

                    Find the recipe here.

                    9. Mozzarella, Basil, and Zucchini Frittata

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                      This egg dish is usually served for breakfast, but a frittata can make a fantastic dinner, too. High in protein, packed with zucchini, and delicious, there’s no reason to wait until morning.

                      Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                      10. Chicken and Sweet Potato Grill Packets

                        Skip the pans and throw everything into foil with this fun family recipe. Kids will love loading ingredients into their pack, and you’ll love its versatility and simplicity.

                        The recipe for this meal can be found here.

                        11. Chicken and Spanish “Rice”

                          Cauliflower takes the place of rice in this low-carb family meal, but it’s so flavorful and filling, no one will miss it.

                          Find the recipe here.

                          12. Honey Chicken Stir Fry

                            This honey chicken stir fry is the healthier version of a restaurant favorite that can be served up quicker than you can order it.

                            Find the recipe here.

                            13. Chicken Skewers With Tzatziki

                              Greek chicken and tzatziki sauce will have you yearning for the Mediterranean, but you can make this recipe at home for your family to enjoy.

                              This easy recipe can be found here.

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                              14. Healthy Walking Tacos

                                Traditional walking tacos are a party favorite, but they’re not usually healthy. However, this recipe keeps it fun while making it more nutritious.

                                Find out how to make it here.

                                15. Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

                                  This classic comfort meal can be ready when you walk in the door. All you have to do is add noodles, and it’s ready to serve.

                                  The recipe can be found here.

                                  16. Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

                                    This usually takes a little over an hour, but the preparation time is only 30 minutes. You’ll love how easy it is, and the cheesy rice is sure to please.

                                    Find the recipe here.

                                    17. Crockpot Rotisserie-Style Chicken

                                      Skip the checkout line and have a rotisserie-style chicken ready at home. A staple in many quick meals, you might find this family meal recipe among your most-used.

                                      Get the recipe for this flavorful chicken here.

                                      18. Santa Monica Street Tacos

                                        Named after a simple taco found on the streets of California, you’ll be surprised that something with only a few ingredients can be so flavorful. Your kids will surely enjoy them.

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                                        Find the recipe here.

                                        19. Pizza Pasta Salad

                                          Enjoy the flavor of pizza without the hassle of making a crust. Use a fun pasta shape to make this even more appealing to your family, especially kids.

                                          Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                                          20. Slow-Cooker Lasagna Soup

                                            Everyone loves lasagna, but it can be time-consuming and messy to make. However, this soup version has the taste you want but with the ease of a crockpot.

                                            Get the recipe here.

                                            Bonus: 3 Simple Ways to Make Meals Healthier

                                            Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of money, time, or thought. Any improvements are a big step in the right direction.

                                            Here are three easy ways you can make meals healthier for your family.

                                            1. Lose the Sugar

                                            Are you looking to improve your health? Cut processed sugars from your diet—the more, the better, and that includes artificial sweeteners.[1] Why? Studies show that sugar increases the risks for weight gain, heart disease, acne, type-2 diabetes, depression, cancer, fatty liver disease, cellular aging, and low energy levels.[2]

                                            2. Avoid Highly Processed Foods

                                            Many processed foods are fine to eat. Even fresh fruit and vegetables go through some processing to stay fresh longer. However, highly processed foods have added salt, sweeteners, saturated fats, preservatives, and artificial colors. These types of food have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[3]

                                            3. Replace Simple Carbs for Complex Carbs

                                            Lowering daily carbs can do wonders for your health. Studies show that low-carb diets lead to lower insulin levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, visceral fat loss, weight loss, reduced appetite, and can be therapeutic for many brain disorders.[4]

                                            When eating carbs, choose complex carbs over simple carbs. Simple carbs, such as white flour, rice, and degermed cornmeal, lack nutrients and spike blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as sweet potato, brown rice, and oats, are usually more nutritious and aren’t digested as quickly, giving more sustained energy and less of an insulin spike.[5]

                                            Enjoy Family Meals With Less Stress!

                                            Dinner can be enjoyable again now that you’re armed with simple and nutritious recipes for your family. These healthy and tasty family meal recipes can help you feel even better about what you serve. Best of all, you’ll have the extra time and energy you saved from cooking and spend more time with your family.

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                                            More Healthy Eating Tips

                                            Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

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