The Science Behind What Motivates Your Child to Succeed and Achieve Their Best

how to motivate your kids to succeed

We’ve all been there, you ask your kid to sweep up the floor after dinner while you go into the kitchen to start loading the dishwasher. You come back to see that your very capable child chose to use the “spot-cleaning” method under your dining room table.

how to motivate your kids to succeed

You take one look and know full and well he was rushing so he can get back to playing Fortnite as promised. Point blank – he didn’t even come close to trying his best. And moms have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when our kid did their best at any moment.

I have one simple request in my home and that is when my kids put their hands to doing something, that they do their best. Notice I said their best, not the best. As your kids get older you tend to know when your kid is rushing or fluffing something off and when they’re actually struggling and need help… if you’re paying attention, that is.

Beyond our “mom-sense,” this is where having a strong relationship and connection with your child plays a huge role in parenting. Asking lots of questions helps you to see where your child is to figure out how you can actually help them do their best.

Why Should Kids Do Their Best?

It may seem like there’s a lot of emphasis on doing their best which as I stated earlier shouldn’t get mixed up with doing the best. That’s because the result of a person’s individual effort isn’t nearly as important as the process of effort they put in to actually achieve those results.

For example, it’s more noteworthy when a student works diligently to learn and stays accountable to do their school work and still brings home C’s on average. In contrast to a student who barely studies beyond glancing at a few pages prior to his tests and doesn’t take school seriously but still manages to bring home straight A’s.

The second student is likely to have a bent where learning and memorizing materials come more easily. Whereas the first student may not and might even be struggling with a learning disability or concentration issues that make learning more challenging.

Which child should be praised? The straight A student or the C student?

It is my personal belief and how I chose to parent my own children that praising results is a huge mistake over placing effort front and center.

The Dangers of Results-Driven Parenting

I remember growing up and having friends who did very well in school and also worked very hard but were scared to go home if a B showed up on their report card. This type of results-driven parenting can produce harmful stress in children which can contribute to depression in kids and teens.

When we focus on our child’s results – their grades, accomplishments, and whether or not they win in the game we are setting expectations for our child. And expectations are actually a really good thing. In fact, they’re the keys to getting kids, or anyone for that matter, to do their best.

But result-driven expectations are focused solely on ability and outcomes rather than the effort the child actually put into the process to succeed. When putting the sole focus on your child’s natural abilities or the outcome of a goal, it can be frustrating because these things are hard for your child to control.

Another problem with ability expectations is that if children attribute their successes to their ability-“I won because I’m so talented”-they must attribute their failures to their lack of ability-“I’m failed because I’m stupid.”

Psychology Today

The Science of High Performance

An unfortunate side effect of performance and results focused expectations is that we often unknowingly put labels on our kids. They could be more positive labels such as smart, driven, and high achiever. Or they might be less positive labels such as picky eater, shy, hyper, or learning disabled.

Even if we don’t outright call our children by these labels, we do so in subtle ways. For example, if your child is extremely shy you may introduce her to her new teacher by saying, “this is my daughter Cassie. She’s very shy so she may need some time to make friends.”

This innocent introduction is merely a parent’s gentle way of protecting their child from rejection or judgment… Our way of “helping” our kids along. But we often do more harm than good because our kids consciously and subconsciously grab hold of these labels (good or not so good) and live up to them.

She’ll naturally find herself holding back when in the presence of new people and because she’s been wearing a label of being shy, she most likely won’t push herself to grow in the healthy behavior of building positive relationships in her life.

Dr. Robert Rosenthal did exhaustive research on the topic of expectations of others and labels. He was fascinated to see how humans functioned when given arbitrary labels and whether or not those labels could change a person’s behavior. His research was on experimenter expectancy effects and the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect is the scientific name for a self-fulfilling prophecy which is when a person believes something about themselves so strongly that they subconsciously work hard to make it a reality in their life, even if it’s not actually true.

This is so very important for us as parents to understand because it will help us set the right type of expectations for our children so they can most effectively achieve their best in life.

How to Set the Right Expectations for your Child

Whether we like it or not, we’re always establishing expectations for our children. They learn to anticipate our reactions to grades and performances and on a deep level work to meet those expectations. But setting the wrong ones can be detrimental to our children.

Focusing on their natural talents and gifting may seem like a good thing but if not guided properly can lead to an unhealthy sense of self-worth if their gift suddenly stops working or they’re prevented from using that gift for unforeseen reasons.

We need to be sure their identity isn’t wrapped up in their gifts and personal achievements.

Rather the healthiest and most effective expectations we can give our children are Effort Expectations. This is when we help our child focus on the process – the magic that happens in between the goal and the desired outcome.

When children (and adults) stay focused on the process of how we’ll achieve our goal we work harder and lean in at a higher level. The best part is, we know how hard we worked and if we come shy of that goal we still feel a high sense of satisfaction in how far we progressed.

When we only look at the endgame, we feel anxious and have a strong fear of failure. Those negative feelings are majorly reduced when we’re too busy putting the work in to achieve our goals.

An Experiment in Expectations

Now that we understand how to have the right type of expectations for our kids lets dive back into the science of why healthy expectations are so powerful.

Dr. Rosenthal conducted an experiment to test his theory on expectations. He had teachers give their students an IQ test that was labeled the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition which basically measured whether a child was “ready to bloom” or not.

To protect the integrity of the experiment the teachers had no previous experience with this test and no knowledge of the experiment itself. After completion of the test, students who scored in the top 20% of this test were labeled as “ready to bloom.”

The teachers were given a list of children who scored in the top 20%. But here’s the twist, they were actually given a list of completely randomly selected names that fell in all scoring ranges.

At the end of the school year, all the students were retested to determine if any changes took place in their IQ scores. The results showed a tremendous increase in IQ scores in one group. Can you guess which one? Yep, the randomly selected “ready to bloom” students scored much higher whereas the students who weren’t labeled remained the same.

This is profound because it proves how powerful expectations are in the hands of teachers, parents, and other leaders. These teachers were told these students were above average (even though most weren’t).

As a result, they began to teach them as above average. In turn, when these children were talked to and interacted with as “above average kids” they simply rose to the occasion. A powerful concept indeed!

This is why we as parents must be aware of the labels we give our kids and the words we speak into our children. The bible says it this way:

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

It also says that life and death are in the power of our tongue. In other words, we have the ability to speak life into our children through the words we speak and the labels we give them. We can highlight labels that hold our kids back or encourage them to rise above those labels.

When we expect the best from our kids, you better believe they’ll be inspired to rise up to them!

Final Thoughts

Let me close with a personal example. This understanding of expectations doesn’t merely effect children, it’s for us too. We’ve all been in a situation where a boss, a friend, our parent, or even our spouse didn’t believe we were capable in some way.

It can feel demoralizing and extremely de-motivating. On the other hand, when we have people in our lives that believe in us, even more than we believe in ourselves, it can help us feel powerful and inspired to rise to what they see in us.

If you’re reading this and know you’ve been putting labels on your kids or doling out tons of results driven expectations do not feel hard on yourself. We’ve all done it. What’s more important is taking steps to change the narrative your child has been hearing.

Also, a parent’s job is to protect our kids, so never allow others (grandparents, teachers, etc.) to put negative labels on your child either. Simply tell them nicely that we don’t want to label our kids so please refrain from using that term with our child. It’s that simple.

Let me urge you to look beyond the surface labels in your child like talented, shy, picky eater, class-clown. And help them discover their purpose and achieve their dreams. Work to inspire them to push beyond their safe place and discover a place of their own greatness.

They just need to be told they can!

What to know the secret to getting kids self motivated to succeed? This surprising study shares insight that you can start using with your kids today! #kidsandparenting #parenting101 #parenting

The Simple Solutions I Used to Overcome My Biggest Parenting Challenges!

Positive parenting solutions for your biggest parenting challenges

Parenting is literally the hardest thing we’ll ever do as people! There are so many questions, worries and concerns that keep us up at night and gnaw at our soul.

“Is my kid ever going to actually do what I say?”

“Is she ever going to get passed this phase?”

“I am ever going to feel normal again?”

And here’s the truth, the answers to those questions will look and feel different for every parent and every child. We’re all unique and there’s no one-sized-fits-all approach to parenting. And anyone who tells you that is mistaken.

That’s why I’m so passionate about using positive parenting with my kids. This approach to parenting isn’t a “do this” manual. It’s more of a “consider this” way of seeing myself and my kids.

It’s helped me go from a frustrated, overwhelmed and screaming-head kind of mom to one who can actually remain calm and effectively communicate with my kids even when I’m fuming. That’s huge for me! I still have bad days and mess ups but those are no longer my daily norm.

I want to simply share some of my own biggest parenting challenges and how I found solutions that actually worked. I’m a mom of a toddler, a school-aged child, and a teen. That’s a lot going on in my house and these tips work with all of them!

5 Simple Solutions for my Biggest Parenting Challenges

Positive parenting solutions for your biggest parenting challenges

1 – My Kids Never Listened to Me Until I Yelled

This is such a huge one for me. Like I said, I used to yell to be heard. It felt like the only way my kids responded was when I yelled and got angry. I got to a point where I started to believe that this was just how my kids needed to hear instruction.

When in reality, they didn’t like being yelled at anymore than any other human does. But I was undermining my own authority by not doing what I said and not having any consistency in my parenting.

I made a regular practice of throwing out empty threats like they were prizes at a sporting event. My kids came to NOT believe what I said and this caused my frustration, followed by lots of what I thought was necessary yelling.

All this changed when I started to only say things I was absolutely going to follow through on and no fluff. In addition, nagging and barking orders constantly never helped either. I found that treating my kids with respect and like people goes a long way.

2 – Mom Guilt was Consuming Me

As a mom, there are so many choices we have to make in a single day that can totally shape the life of our child. This person we’ve been trusted to take care of and lovingly raise into a good human being.

Along the way, the pressure, doubts and mistakes we make can smother our joy and confidence as moms.

I watched the movie BirdBox the other night and all I kept thinking was how Sandra’s character had to keep those precious children alive in the most horrendous of circumstances. The stress of just watching it unfold on TV was almost too much for me!

Here’s what I’m learning about mom guilt. First having it at all means I’m a great, loving, and caring mother. The fact that I even care about how good I’m doing says volumes. There are many moms out there that don’t.

And second, praying to constantly seek God’s direction for my home and also writing down my concerns helps me make the best decisions for us. After that, I’m intentional about NOT obsessing about my choices or my mistakes (because we don’t always get it right) so I can live in peace.

3 – I struggled with balancing work and kids

I’ve always been a working mom since my first daughter was born. I’ve just been blessed to have been able to work from home all these years. I started out doing work I hated and have shifted over the years to doing work I love.

Along the way, I struggled a whole lot with balancing the work load I was responsible for and taking care of my kids and home. The process wasn’t easy and never looked pretty but I found my own version of balance.

I don’t really know if there is such thing as true balance between our families and work. And it doesn’t matter if you work inside the home, outside the home or something different entirely. The key is creating healthy boundaries and being intentional about how you spend your time.

Oh and not trying to do it all by yourself!

Take time to find a system that works well for you and your family and be intentional about working that system. And my biggest piece of advice is to learn to ignore that nagging internal voice that says you’re a bad mom for not being with your kids 24/7.

The fact is, our kids don’t need our presence every minute of the day but they do need our heart. If we make connecting with our kids our biggest priority, we’ll all be just fine.

Try spending at least 10 minutes a day with each of your kids just talking and having eyes on me time. You’ll be surprised how effective this is in forging a wonderful bond with your kids.

4 – I was too Punishment-Focused Vs Heart-Focused

I was raised, like so many other kids, that when you did something wrong there was a punishment attached. It was a very simple approach to parenting.

There’s only one problem with that. The need for the parent and child to be deeply connected gets missed. It’s not that parents shouldn’t discipline or dole out appropriate punishments when they’re needed, but when we focus only on the action and punishing that action we miss something.

Our biggest goal as parents should be to win our kid’s heart. When we do that, parenting gets a whole lot easier. You have access into their biggest struggles, concerns and questions. We get to actually help them make decisions and choices that strengthen their ability to make better choices on their own.

This way when they do make a mistake, there’s more communication about why this happened, what they learned, and how it can be avoided in the future.

Punishments have their place, but communication and asking questions are much more effective parenting tools to raising great kids who are ready for real life. In our family, we rarely even have to give out punishments with our kids and in the process, they’re learning how to be more responsible and accountable for their actions and choices.

5 – Not Handling Back Talk, Tantrums and Whining Calmly

When we’re adulting all day, we can be downright exhausted. And when our kids start whining or talking back it can be very frustrating.

We just want our kids to comply without complaint and when they don’t we can feel backed into a wal. This dysfunctional communication cycle isn’t healthy for us and it’s not teaching our kids how to effectively handle conflict.

It’s so much easier, in the short run, to shut down our toddler’s whiny complaints or our teenager’s back talk. But it’s more helpful to engage positively in the conversation or interaction with firm and calm action.

In the case with a tantrum, our toddler is usually overwhelmed by their big feelings. Getting down on their eye level and calmly talking to them or even giving them a firm hug can help calm those emotions.

Ultimately feelings cannot be punished away; they must be worked through. It comes down to determining why a tantrum is occurring and giving children the knowledge and skills needed to move beyond tantrums.

– Susan Newman Ph.D.

As for dealing with conflict with older children, asking questions for understanding is really helpful in defusing negative emotions and helping our kids feel heard. Dr. Newman also says that being too permissive or being too controlling can bring on back talk in our kids.

This has held true for me and my kids!

hildren need a firm but fair leader who takes their opinions respectfully into account and also knows how to stand firm when needed.

Susan Newman Ph.D.

Final Thoughts on Overcoming Parenting Challenges

This isn’t an exhaustive list of parenting challenges and we all struggle in different areas. A lot of our issues depend on the uniqueness of our own families.

These are the challenges I struggled with for far too long. But I know so many other moms feel overwhelmed by these as well. It’s important for me to share my parenting journey with you in the hopes that my struggles and victories will help you!

The most important thing to remember is perfection is the enemy of progress so give yourself tons of grace along the way. When you make a parenting mistake forgive yourself, make it right and move on.

Tired of dealing with endless back talk, toddler tantrums, kids not listening, and mom guilt? Stop struggling and get these positive parenting solutions to your biggest parenting struggles. #kidsandparenting #positiveparenting #parenting101
There's no batch of honor for struggling with parenting challenges. These parenting tips and positive parenting solutions will help you overcome your biggest parenting struggles! #positiveparenting #kidsandparenting #parenting