Monday, January 30, 2012

What's My Motivation?

In this age of lessons, our children don’t learn how to ice skate by going to the local pond.  They don’t learn to swim by going to the beach.  They don’t hit a tennis ball against the school wall a million times until their coordination and timing are learned.  No, they take lessons.  Diligent suburban mothers, fathers, nannies, babysitters, grandparents, and anyone else who is recruited to take part in this chauffering of small children era drive little Johnny to the local rink, pool, or courts where he takes lessons.  I admit that I did fall prey to this phenomenon myself.  My favorite memory, though, is the swimming lessons.  Living in the south, I wanted a backyard pool, but my husband I agreed that we would not build one until our children could swim.  That seemed reasonable.  Immediately, I signed them up for swimming lessons.  My older son sat on the side of the pool for several lessons, barely getting his feet wet.  As the other children splashed and paddled, floated and submerged their faces, blowing bubbles, he sat and watched.  Then one day he swam.  A gifted child.
A different gifted child:  Meanwhile, my younger son sat on the side of the pool and flatly refused to enter the water throughout the entire series of lessons.  I explained why he needed to be able to swim.  I pleaded with him to do it for me.  I bribed him with a new toy if he would learn to swim.  Nothing.  The next session was scheduled and again I signed him up.  Again he sat.  Again I explained, pleaded, and bribed.  Nothing.
The third time lessons began, I reluctantly signed him up and asked him to PLEASE try at least getting into the water. After all, Mommy wanted a swimming pool.  By this time I had no shame.  We arrived at the pool for the lessons and an adorable blonde pony-tailed, blue-eyed, tanned teenaged girl was his instructor.  Midway through the first lesson she walked through the water over to the side of the pool and cooed, “Will you please swim with me?”  That little three-year-old stinker grabbed hold of her hands and allowed himself to be lowered into the pool, never taking his eyes off her face.  She held onto him as he paddled and coaxed him to blow bubbles in the water.  By the end of the first lesson he was paddling across the pool with her.  The sun rose the next morning and before I was even out of bed he bounded into my room in his bathing suit begging to go back to the pool for more lessons.  Motivation.
Regardless of what you are trying to persuade your child to do, finding the right motivation is key.

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