By Zara Maqbool
As a working mom of three kids one thing that has become a constant in my life is how to balance the two roles in my life. How to focus on my career and personal growth without any guilt and at the same time raise three fully functioning, healthy and kind human beings. It becomes over whelming at times to fulfill these two roles. It’s even harder for me because after becoming a counselor I always judge myself if I am harsh with the children. Or when I am in a typical mommy mode where I am either bribing my kids or threatening them with consequences. I realized this model of reward and punishment wasn’t working and I started feeling a loss of control with them. My internal critic would shame me for being so empathic and understanding with my clients and being so impatient with them.
A few weeks back I came across a Ted talk ‘ The secret to motivating your child’ by Jennifer Nacif and it was an eye opener for me. The ted talk highlighted how most parents’ condition their children to be like them or do what they say by manipulating them through rewards or punishment. A common mistake that we make as parents is that we cast all our children with the same dye. The same set of instructions is given to them and a similar set of consequences and expectations. In this process we forget that we are dealing with real human beings here who are individuals with their own very unique set of feelings, thoughts and behaviors. They can all be manipulated because a child is vulnerable and wants to identify with the parent but can you motivate them with the same thing?
With my three children I switched from manipulation to motivation and more importantly started treating them according to what they needed. I realized how taking power and control motivates my elder one who is fourteen. I would always complain about her not being responsible or procrastinating and I would constantly nag her and scold her for it. After seeing this ted talk I realized, for her to take ownership of her chores and duties I first need to give her the ownership. I realized how I was coddling her in some areas and refusing to let go of my control as she is my first-born and seeing her grow up so fast was making me anxious. I started making her feel what an important role she has to play in the family, as she is the elder one. Doing simple things like leaving my little one with her to baby sit and praising her for doing such a good job. I started learning how to trust her with areas that I was being a control freak about and that are how she started trusting her inner resources to do well in class and in other places.
With my middle one who had been acting out since time and no matter how many Xbox games I would promise or threats of taking the Ipad away, his acting out was not stopping. I realized that manipulation was not the key and Rayan could only be motivated and for him clarity and consultation was the key. I saw how I would give instructions to him without taking his input on it. I changed that. I started asking him how and when he would like to do things. For example with homework he started making the timetable himself and even if it was an hour later than my time clock I swallowed my need to control that and let him be. It worked!
Different things motivate our children, for some its power, for some its clarity or fun and creativity. So lets stop manipulating our children and find out what motivates them as individuals and not treat them as a herd of goats that should follow the line we have drawn for them!