Why We Fail at Motivating Our Kids

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My daughter was motivated to swim.

Do you know why we fail? Because motivation is an “inside job.” I heard that yesterday in a webinar by David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life, called Solve the Mystery of Your Child’s Motivation and Distraction Issues. Benzel is a sports parenting expert who works with USA Swimming and other youth sports organizations. I’ve been following Benzel for years now. He pointed out the difference between inspiration and motivation in this talk. My takeaway is that inspiration is external while motivation is internal.

Here’s one thought I wrote down from the webinar: “It does little good to want something for someone more than they want it themselves.” That’s a good point for parents. If we want something more for our kids than they do, we are going to be disappointed and our kids will feel stress and pressure.

An analogy that Benzel used to talk about motivation was “What makes a mouse run a maze? Is it the cheese?” I thought so, but the answer is hunger. Without hunger, the mouse will not go through the maze for cheese. (Of course, if it is a pug or a Labrador retriever, the correct answer would be the cheese.) Motivation is the result of an unmet need. If there’s no need, you won’t see increased activity. A person can be inspired, but not take any action. They could read a book that inspired them about climbing Mt. Everest blind (example used in the webinar) but it doesn’t mean the reader is going to put down the book and work on climbing Mt. Everest. That’s the difference between motivation and inspiration.

Here are some things motivate people to work well:

Pride in their work

Sense of accomplishment

Enjoyment of the work itself

Recognition and praise

To make a difference

What motivates our kids in their athletics?

Because it’s fun

To be with friends

To learn new skills

To receive attention and recognition

The enjoyment of competition

All those reason are valid and it’s obvious that those are unmet needs that are internalized.

During shelter in place for what seems like an entire year (but it’s only been 68 days, but hey, who’s counting?) many parents want their kids to take advantage of the time and work on intellectual activities or stay in shape for their sports. It seems like with our pools and teams closed, we can encourage our kids to run, bicycle, stretch, do yoga, or any other useful activities to keep in shape.

The best way to get our kids off their video games and doing what we’d like is not by bribing or threatening them — but inspiring them.

According to Benzel, here are a few things we can do to inspire our kids:

We need to be good examples ourselves. Paint a picture of what you can see them accomplishing in the immediate future with hard work. Remind them of how much they’ve improved and how far they’ve come along their journey.

If we tell them they “should” go running or take an online class, we’ll most likely get push back.

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My son was motivated in academics and music. Here he is at graduation with a friend. The ivy wreaths were awarded for taking four years of Latin.

What are you doing to encourage and inspire your kids during COVID-19 shelter in place?

 

Can illness increase negative self talk?

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Hoping to dive in again soon.

I’ve noticed a correlation between how I feel and negative thoughts. I’ve been battling a nasty cold since I got home from my Seattle trip. With my body feeling weak, achy and my head stuffed through and through, I’m catching negative thoughts entering my brain.

Maybe it’s because my brain isn’t up to speed that I can stop them in their tracks? Or, maybe because I’m not feeling well, my brain is producing more negativity than usual? I feel like my weak body is a target for the negativity swirling in my brain.

It reminds me of a webinar about “managing thoughts” that I heard lately and wrote about here. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. He talked about how your brain is a tool and it’s not who you are. A summary of what he said was if you don’t use this tool called your brain, it will use you. He explained how we’re bombarded with 55,000 thoughts per day. If we can separate ourselves from those thoughts, we can evaluate them. When a negative thought pops up, like “Who am I fooling?” or “I’m really not very good at this,” I can stop it and say, “Where did that come from?” or “How is this helpful to me pursuing my goals?” After separating ourselves from the thought, it is less likely to get inside and take over our psyches.

Benzel talked about living in the now. He said worry and anxiety are based on thoughts about the future. Our regrets are thoughts about the past. There is only one here and now. That’s all we have control of. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t dwell on the future. Take advantage of the now.

I’ve spent two days mostly in bed, trying to get over this cold. I don’t feel much better today. But, I’m guarding myself against negative thoughts taking over. I know that I will feel better soon because I’m taking good care of myself. I also think that when people get older and are in pain, or if someone isn’t feeling well, they may be filled with negative thoughts. Maybe that’s why they are grouchy or may bite your head off. It’s something to think about, isn’t it? I can empathize with their hurt bodies being inundated with negative thoughts from their brains. They may not realize it, but their physical condition is allowing their negativity to take over.

On another note, what are your secrets to recover from a nasty stuffed head, runny nose and cough?

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My constant companion while feeling sick.

 

 

 

The Four Agreements

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

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Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”

 

How to improve happiness in 10 minutes a day

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A view from our “Wellness Park” in Palm Springs.

Is it possible to make yourself feel better and happier by doing a simple 10-minute exercise daily? In a book I’m reading called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I learned about a simple practice called What-Went-Well Exercise or Three Blessings:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance. (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

The book Flourish is written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. bestselling author of Authentic Happiness. He’s world renowned for his work on Positive Psychology and is the Zellerbach Family Professor Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. I heard about the book from David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life, who is used as a consultant by USA Swimming, and holds monthly webinars about Sports Parenting.

Here’s why Seligman says this Three Blessings exercise works:

“We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.”

I’ve only begun reading the book, but this simple exercise seems like something not too difficult to do. If it increases a sense of well-being then why not give it a try? Yesterday, I was thankful for more than three things. They included having a pedicure and glancing at my daughter in the seat next to me–because it’s a mother-daughter tradition we’ve done for years and I cherish our time together. Second, was working on a book proposal. The reason why is because I’m making progress and accomplishment is satisfying. Third was a phone call with a friend I’ve had since my oldest was in kindergarten. We met in the women’s restroom after dropping our oldest kids off on their first day of school! It’s so nice to know I have supportive friends in my life that will come to my aid when I need them.

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What are your thoughts about what you’re thankful for today? Do you think you’ll give the Three Blessings exercise a try? If you do, please let me know if you notice any changes in your sense of happiness and well-being.

What is the purpose of parenting?

robert 1Isn’t that an interesting question? I heard this asked and answered during the recent David Benzel seminar that I listened to last week on whether parents should push their kids. Benzel is a sports parenting coach and he’s written several books including From Chump to Champ and works with many youth sports organizations.

Benzel said this question has been answered by Madeline Levine PhD, who is the author of two books I ordered today from AmazonSmile. (FYI, AmazonSmile gives a small percentage of purchases to whatever nonprofit organization you choose. Mine goes to the Piranha Swim Team, which we’ve been affiliated with for more than 18 years.)

Here are the books by Levine:

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

After I read them I’ll report back to you on what I learned.

Back to the question, “What is the purpose of parenting?” Another way to phrase this is what do we want for our children? How does parenting serve our highest purpose? Here are the three objectives Levine expresses in her book The Price of Privilege that we should help our children achieve:

ONE
Lead independent lives.

TWO
Maintain loving relationships.

THREE
Enjoy a sense of competence.

Isn’t that impressive? In order to become functioning adults, we want our kids to be independent of us. We desire them to have loving relationships because that is the essence of happiness in our lives. Also, we want them to be good at something they enjoy. That’s another area where people lead productive happy lives. How do we go about helping our kids become independent, loving and competent people?

According to Benzel, our style of parenting makes a difference. There are four parenting types. The two worst are Tiger and Helicopter parents. Next is the Supplier and the best, which we need to aspire to be, is the Hero.

Here’s a breakdown of the four parenting types and the consequences:

The helicopter parent hovers and protects. We—yes I’m using the word “we”—aren’t allowing our kids to experience life without us making sure they never fail. They become too dependent upon the opinions of others and risk hurt feelings if people don’t think they’re the best. They also may develop a sense of superiority.

If you’re a tiger parent, you’re in command and have total control. Your children will grow up believing that they are how they perform and therefore a project. They will believe that if they aren’t performing, they are worthless in your eyes and aren’t loved.

Supplier parents are more concerned with their own lives than their kids. They pay the bills, sign kids up for sports and make sure they go to school, but they aren’t spending much time with them. They’re waiting for those 18 years to be over. The child may feel like an inconvenience, but actually, they’ll learn to be independent and self-reliant. However, how awful would it be to feel like a circumstance and a problem?

The best option is to be the hero parent. According to Benzel, the hero gives their child the message “you are a beautiful creation and therefore valuable and full of potential.” They give their children unconditional love with no strings attached. The children grow up accepting themselves and able to rise to challenges. These parents encourage their child’s interests. They don’t worry about performance and they let their kids learn from their mistakes.

It sounds simple, right? Knowing how we should parent is the first step in becoming the best parent we can be. Now, if only I had learned this years ago. I can still apply the hero parent approach today. Better late than never.

What is your goal as a parent?

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FYI: I discovered Benzel from USA Swimming, which is our national federation for swimming from first-time beginners to Olympians. His sports parenting website where you can join and get his newsletters, webinars and books is called “Growing Champions for Life.” Yes, I’m a big fan. I wish I discovered him about 15 years ago instead of after my kids were done age group swimming.

From their website “Growing Champions for Life Inc.® was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the youth sports experience. We nurture the bond between sports parents and their children by providing parents with positive and practical strategies for playing their role as a sports parent effectively through the gift of unconditional love and the pursuit of personal excellence.”

 

 

What are the worst sports parenting mistakes?

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I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.

Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.

I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.

I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.

The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. 

Here’s the list:

ONE
Exhibit an outcome orientation.

TWO
Are critical, negative and overbearing.

THREE
Apply pressure to win or perform.

FOUR
Make sport too serious.

FIVE
Are over-involved and controlling.

SIX
Compare child to other athletes.

SEVEN
Distract child during competitions.

EIGHT
Restrict player’s social life.

NINE
Too much sports talk.

Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.482023_4501677623832_667860262_n

How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?

“I’m Getting Better Every Day, In Each and Every Way”

 

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What are we doing every day, to get better in every way?

I listened to a webinar this weekend by sports parenting expert David Benzel called “From Good to Great in Four Steps.” He has a link on the USA Swimming website to his webinars and website called “Growing Champions for Life.” I enjoy his material because it’s so well researched, he has real-life experiences to share, practical advice, plus several good resources of books to do further study.

Although the webinar focused on four ways we could help our kids achieve in sports and life, I listened to the talk through my own unique lens. Some of the areas Benzel hit on were Citius, Altius Fortius, the Olympic motto which means Faster, Higher, Stronger. Benzel pointed out that it doesn’t say, Fast, High, Strong—because we constantly want to get better.

It comes down to–what are we doing every single day to get better? That reminded me of a saying my mom and aunt often used: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” That is a famous positive affirmation by French psychologist and pharmacist Émile Coué, 1857-1926. His autosuggestion method has been met with positive acclaim as well as cynicism.

My own daughter has pointed out that I often have very negative self-talk. I’m sure her work as an athlete with the university team’s sports psychologists has educated her in the importance of positive self-talk. That’s something the entire team works on together. If we are continually doubting ourselves, or think we’re not good enough, then it should be no surprise that we’ll prove that negativity to be true.

I’m taking the four steps I learned about in the webinar to work on–not only my health and recovering from my injury–but in my daily writing, too. What are the four steps, you ask? Number one is to “dream big.” I won’t share my big dreams here today, but I do have them. Second, “aim accurately.” That is taking specific actions to reach goals that lead you on the path to the big dream. Goal setting is another way to look at it, but they need to be goals that lead you in the right direction. There can’t be too many of them either, or we can lose our focus. Third, use “visualization” as a tool to reach your dream. Many successful athletes and people generally in life spend years living in the movie inside their brain how it feels, smells, and sounds like when they finally reach their dream. Once it happens, it’s not foreign but feels familiar and right. The last of the four steps is “to believe” passionately in ourselves and our ability to make it to our big dream.

With those four steps in place, then every single day, we can improve in some small way to reach our dreams.

12745503_10209017757384931_7005852646538628157_nHow do you approach your goals and life dreams?