constructive motivators

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by klmno, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Could others throw out some ideas about what motivates difficult child's around the tween and early teen years?

    I've noticed that I'm wanting my difficult child to all of a sudden grow up and be responsible and turn his life around (get on the right track and stay on it) because I expect him to see the importance of being able to get into college, staying out of trouble, having a good reputation with adults in the neighborhood and others, his future all the way around, etc. But, I've also noticed that he doesn't seem to get that- and maybe that requires the maturity of an adult that he just doesn't have yet.

    He is motivated by the cute girl who is his age that noticed him and approached him at this day camp. He is motivated by other guys thinking he's cool. Things that I would consider to be typical teen and normal middle-school aged motivators.

    But, how do we use those tendencies to help them be motivated to do what we know is in their interest? How do we steer them without causing more conflict, yet keeping in mind that they don't have the maturity and understanding of what is important like an adult does?

    I can see in my son most of the time - not all the time- that he does care about doing the right things and being approved of by adults and accepted by his peers. He seems to care about having a good job and being married and having kids someday. He has so much potential and a kind heart and loves animals. I try to keep him involved in things where he is socializing with average kids, not the big trouble makers. Yet, he seems to have a "what difference does it make" attitude so much of the time. Many times, I think this is a result of an underlying depression- just like I feel if I have a good job but I'm just not happy. But anymore I don't know if I'm projecting my issues on him and I'm just in denial, or if this is the obvious answer. Really, sometimes I wonder if he is unipolar depression.

    Anyway, the main question was, how can we use what they care about at this age to help them see the importance of things and be motivated by it to make efforts to do what is in their own best interest and that helps build a better future for themselves, instead of breaking down the opportunities they might have?

    Does anyone have experience, ideas, suggestions, thoughts on this?
  2. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I have NO clue... but wanted to let you know that you have me thinking!!!
    I realized and husband and I have talked about this at length. I had no parental guidelines growing up, pretty much made my own rules. But I just had this thing inside of me, I did not want to get in trouble. My Brothers did not graduate from High School. I did, no one cared if I went, but I did.
    Now husband was raised in a respectable family, but they had very little rules either. But they are nice good people. he is such a good person. He follows the rules all of that, feels he needs to make everything right, but growing up, no-one monitored him either. We both went to college, we both worked hard and have all of our lives...
    So, I have no clue! LOL I think some people just want to do good and do well... it is inside. I think we can try and guide them.
    I look at the people on TV, the big famous people the rich the poor... some turn out good some bad. Some are motivated some not. WHY??? I just don't know.
    It will be interesting to see what others have to say... I have to go try and motivate 2 girls to brush their teeth!!!
  3. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    What is the girl interested in? Maybe she likes a particular musical group or food. Do they still do group things at that age, like skating or movies? Maybe he could earn some movie to go with a group to see a movie or something.

    One thing that helped when M started noticing girls was that I was able to get him to bathe more, and wear clean clothes. Woo hoo! Every little bit counts.
  4. ML

    ML Guest

    Computer time is about the only thing that motivates my difficult child. Sometimes money or food too. I will think some more about this.
  5. Christy

    Christy New Member

    Okay, this may be hard to find, but I am thinking a really cool college-age big brother (mentor). Someone who he can admire that is making the right choices.
  6. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Duckie isn't quite a tween, but I try to pair her up with other kids that have the sorts of qualities I'd like her to develop and she looks up to. They're usually a little older than her and more socially adept. I do it very casually, so she doesn't think I'm up to something.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I wasnt able to find this for my difficult child but for Jamie his motivator was having a goal for his life. He decided quite early that he wanted to be in the Marines and then go on into some form of law enforcement so he knew he had to keep his nose clean as a kid and teen. This kept him from following some of the peer pressure that was rampant around here. He had his eyes set on the prize.
  8. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    difficult child 1 is starting to want things like a cell phone, a laptop -- stuff most kids in our rather affluent area already have, but which up until now he has been neither mature enough for or deserving of in my opinion. I told him I'll get him a cell phone if he can give me a report card with A's and B's. That's also the condition for keeping it -- maintaining those grades.

    Last year was a tough year for him, first year in middle school and all, plus he's immature for his age. When I told him the deal for the phone, he seemed okay with that and I'm hoping it gets him to take things a little more seriously this year.

    He leaves for a week-long camp on Saturday for kids with inflammatory bowel disease, and last year it had a really good impact on him. The counselors are all older teens or young adults who go through a VERY thorough screening process. They are all great role models and he really had fun and admired them, so I'm hoping this is another good experience and maturity builder this year.

    As for my pre-teen and tweener, I'll have to think about them a bit...
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    difficult child 3's therapist strongly recommended we not motivate with material things, but try to use stuff that HE likes to do, as a combined activity. For example, we rewarded difficult child 3 for having a meltdown-free day, with fifteen minutes of me playing a computer game with him. This was really good - it showed me a window into his games, it gave both of us time together with something HE is good at, and in general it was really constructive. We did find ourselves having to "bank" game time, but by then the reward system was working well.
    We've modified this now, to buying Wii points cards. I'm trying to motivate him to do his schoolwork at a fast enough rate - he has 8 school subjects to do each week and some subjects can take him almost an entire day (sometimes longer) to do. Others are really quick. It depends on how well he's working and whether he's prepared to work outside school hours (ie do homework). So the incentive - he earns a credit point every time he completes two subject worksheets in one day. Any extra subject sheets completed in a day count as a single credit each. Subject sheets done on non-school days (or school excursion days) can be added to the next convenient school day of his choice.
    Credit points are worth the equivalent of a packet of Maltesers. I will spend the equivalent amount of money on a computer game or Wii points cards, as a reward. He has to save his credits for them. And he doesn't earn credits very often, he is very pleased with himself when he does. He will often work on weekends in order to earn credits.

    OK, it's bribery. But I don't care, it is working. He is also enjoying the schoolwork and slowly the enjoyment-because-of-bribery is turning into enjoyment-because-I-like-the-subject.

    The other motivating factor for difficult child 3, is recognition by his teachers. He gets good marks for the work he turns in, so the more he turns in the more they are happy with him.

    Otherwise - you need to find motivating factors that HE will value. You may need to sit down and discuss this with him - it's what we did with difficult child 3. We also did it with difficult child 1.

    If a lot of his problem is not remembering the list of self-care tasks he has to do, motivation isn't what you need. It's reminders. And the best reminders are the ones in writing. We gave difficult child 3 a list of evening tasks to do. We need to re-visit this because the list changes as circumstances change. If you have a check-list for him somewhere it's a lot better than you telling him each time, what he should be doing. You need to build his confidence in himself as someone who can look after himself.

    I was talking to girlfriend on Monday, when we were looking at bridal registers. She was chuckling about difficult child 1's poor hygiene and I said, "He's a lot better than he used to be, thanks to you."
    She acknowledged this and said, "Yeah, he's pretty good these days." For difficult child 1, having a girlfriend (now fiancee) has really pushed him to take notice of how he looks and how people see him. He has modified his appearance for the workplace (although with the black bandanna he wears to keep his long hair out of the machinery, his workmates call him "Ivan" after the Backpacker Murderer, Ivan Milat). He's got a way to go, but girlfriend and a job have motivated him a lot as well as made him more aware.
    girlfriend teaches Sunday School and eventually brought difficult child 1 into it. A lot of the little kids were scared of him at first because of his appearance, but now they think he's "way cool" and try to dress like he does (probably there are a lot of annoyed parents at that church). A local family that difficult child 1 has babysat for, has three small boys who all try to dress like difficult child 1, wearing black with leather armbands, a bandanna and shiny metal wherever they can attach it. difficult child 1 in turn is suddenly aware of the meaning of the term "role model" and around those kids, he is moderating his behaviour and appearance.

    Talk to him. Ask him what he thinks would help. That alone is showing him how much more grown up he is.

  10. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Excellent advice, Marg.
  11. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    There is some great advice and good points to think about here. Witz, his situation with the girl is very new since he just started the day camp Monday. It is a YMCA camp and he's gone for 2-4 weeks per summer for a few years now. The kids remember each other from last year. I wouldn't mind them going to a grooup event or speaking on the phone together. I thought I'd let it ride until next week to see if she is just being nice to him or if she is a little interested in him, then suggest that he ask for her phone number. He's only going to be in this camp until the end of next week, then he moves oonto another one. This experience has motivated him to get out of bed on time and comb his hair before he goes!

    Janet- Jamie did a great job! difficult child says he wants to be a vet often, but hasn't had the ddrive for it enough to think about much when it is tiime to do homework or study for a test! Like Marg mentioned, though- recognition from his teachers does go a long way.

    Bribery works sometimes for us, too. I'd like to find a good mentor for him- I tried that before but that is another post, LOL!

    I'll have to think about these responses some more - like totoro says though, some of it has to come from inside.

    gcvmom- it sounds like you've found a good thing for your difficult child. I hope he has another great experience this summer, too!
  12. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My difficult child is about your son's age. I have two points. The first is that I have always used what he loves as the "consequence". In other words, he pays for bad choices with that which he loves most.

    Second, find the passion. If this girl is his (temporary) passion, he will make the change on his own; or he may come to you and ask for suggestions. If a musical instrument is his passion, or photography, or skateboarding, etc., find ways to allow him to explore that passion.

    I believe Marg's advice is simple, straight-forward, and the best - ask him.

    I have a lot of exposure to teens - being the parent whose home is the gathering place for between 2 and 10 teens on a regular basis, and the best experience, being a Sunday School teacher of high-schoolers for the last seven years! I can tell you that finding the motiviational piece is what it's all about. Finding the thing they love and using it as a carrot. Nothing wrong with that.

    Finding their passion is the key, in my opinion.

    With our difficult children, I do believe mentors and role models are an important piece as well. In my son's case, with a father who spends little to no real quality time with him, we have found alternative ways to expose him to strong, inspirational men who care about him.

  13. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Great ideas here.

    Yes, girls and girlfriends really make a difference!

    Hey, motivating my difficult child to get out of bed and comb his hair is a major deal--I would be more than happy if a girlfriend took over that task.

    I think bribery can be placed in the fake-it-until-you-make-it category; as Marg pointed out, eventually they learn to like the activity for itself.
  14. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    If your son is interested in becoming a vet...and why is it that so many difficult child's are into that?....then maybe see about him volunteering at a shelter as a motivator. I happen to know that you have good Animal Control in I have talked to you about the Young Marines before so look into that program for getting decent men into his life. Also...check out local 4H programs. My boys loved them. How about sports? My nephews are on several teams up there including football, baseball and hockey.

    There are a lot of activities in the Greater Richmond Area.
  15. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Sharon & Marg- that is great advice!! I will have to re-read it several times and get a plan! A few things I have already been implementing, on a small scale- but I can probably find a way to use those techniques more. Asking him- yes- that is a good reminder to work CPS into this and that has worked well with him so far.

    The girl- well, he thinks she might not be there next week and that will be his last week there. But, he goes onto another YMCA 2-week camp after that, and then another one after that. The last one is at the Y closest to our house and I'm hoping there will be more kids there that go to his school- maybe even a girl!

    Janet, I looked at the marine program. I can't remember why I thought that wouldn't work right now, but might work in the future. I think it was because only one of them around us had weekend activities and I was still a little concerned if the PO would approve of that being out of town. Another concern I have over that is that he talks like he might want to go into the military- I don't think he ever can since he already has 2 felonies. I'm afraid for him to get passionate about something that he can never pursue right now. The 4H club is a great idea, too- I have never checked into them but I think I'll do that this weekend. Unfortunatley, he's not into sports at all. He tried baseball and soccer and didn't like them. He spoke a little about football and I really tried to encourage that this year, to no avail. He was on the YMCA swim team once and did excellent, then lost all interest, despite my efforts. He joined scouts in first grade and LOVED it until 6th grade- then he quit that. He is in band- he started last year and is staying in next year. I know that provides a lot of opportunity in high school, but he'll be in eigth grade this year, so it still doesn't offer much as far as outside acitivities.

    So, I started talking to him today about how bored he gets in the late fall and winter and that he needs to find something appropriate to do at the end of this year. I told him I don't care if it is a club, a sport, or whatever- school sponsored or not as long as it is constructive. Last year, we were still dealing with too much court stuff, but he should be planning ahead and can start looking into things now. Do the 4H kids do much through the winter?

    Oh- volunteering in a vet related area- our vet was going to let difficult child do that this year, then we found out that he has to be 14 yo (I guess it is a law) so difficult child plans to do that next year. Our vet offers 1 week opportunities to young teens interested in the field. I wish it could last longer than 1 week, but this would be a good way in, then maybe we could find another vet who would allow afternoons all summer or something.

    Thanks for all the ideas! They are all welcome and if one doesn't work right away, it might work at another point in time!
  16. OpenWindow

    OpenWindow Active Member

    My difficult child loves animals. A couple of years ago, we fostered puppies for a local stray organization. difficult child was very involved and loved it. It worked well because you get the puppies when they are about 4 weeks old and then they start to be adopted when they are 6 weeks old, so it's about a month-long process with each set of puppies.

    Now I work in a museum with an animal room and he volunteers in there.

    I also motivate him with video game time, or I agree to take them to the skateboard park for the day, because these are the things he really enjoys.
  17. MyFriendKita

    MyFriendKita Member

    My son had a felony conviction as a juvenile, but he talked to a recruiter with the Army who said it would not necessarily keep him out. We were also told by his p.o. that once he turned 18 and had stayed out of trouble for a year, he could ask a judge to expunge his juvenile record. The law is different in each state, of course, but you might check into it.
  18. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Thanks, rm! I was aware that misdemeanors were off the record after the age of 18- but I asked the court clerk about felonies and she said the law had changed a couple of years ago and that they would be there forever. I had thought that if by some miracoulus happening, difficult child was able to stay out of trouble now and turn things around, I would help him TRY to get these felonies off when he reaches 18 or 21 or something. But really, right now that seems like an unlikely event. It's just right now, I don't feel right encouraging him or persuading him to go in a direction that might "reject" him a few years down the road.

    Edited to add: I would hope that if a kid committed a crime while a young teen or even younger did succeed at turning things around, that most people (including the military) would forgive that and let it go. The laws for enlistment can change as much as the president, so you never know I guess. My difficult child would have to change before I thought it was a good idea- but then, he's only 13 yo. It isn't like I should expect him to be able to handle fighting in a war right now.
  19. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    These are some great ideas!!! I might copy them for when K and N start to get a bit older. Even now!!!
    Especially for me, I had no supervision for most of my childhood. So most of my stuff is from books, friends, instinct... you guys!!!

    I like the idea of 4-H. Even for us it might help K with her understanding how to treat ALL animals.
    I am looking into a cooking class for K that goes up into the teens in Tucson!!! It looks really fun.
  20. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Volunteering in a vet-related area is how difficult child 1 met girlfriend. Both were volunteers at the local zoo.

    Just working at the zoo helped difficult child 1 learn a lot of appropriate skills etc. When he first started there, they expected he wouldn't last more than six months. They have a long waiting list of volunteers and turn them over faster if they're useless. But after a shaky start, difficult child 1 turned out to be NOT useless; in fact they liked him so much they kept him on for a lot longer than they usually keep volunteers. They wanted him to stay, but difficult child 1 left in order to get a paying job somewhere.

    I also was so determined to keep difficult child 1 working at the zoo for as long as he wanted, that I was prepared to drive him there and back even though it was an hour's round trip, twice a day.

    Worth it.