This article was originally published by Nicholeen Peck on Teaching Self-Government.
A mother recently asked me how to help her daughter feel motivated to do anything besides sit around the house. She isn’t alone.
With the new quarantine lifestyle, many families are thriving with the increase of family time, personal time, and relationship-building. But, even the most involved parents can still find that their child might not be looking joyful or feeling motivated. There are multiple reasons why this could be happening. This article doesn’t present an exhaustive list of reasons. But, the following, most common possible causes for lack of motivation and simple solutions to those causes are a good place to start for increasing motivation at your house.
1. Many children and adults in our modern society are dependent upon stimulation. Stimulation means that we are interested, enthusiastic, or excited. Our fast-paced society doesn’t allow us much down-time. We essentially go from one interesting or exciting thing to the next. Even school or work, which may have their mundane moments, are full of people and conversations, and engaging projects. If we are used to full schedules and steady streams of stimulating experiences, then being home each day while socially distancing can seem difficult for some people.
2. Another reason people might not feel motivated at home right now is that they lack good social skills. When people constantly move, they don’t necessarily allow themselves to fully open up or bond with people around them. And the often-superficial social media outlets, which many people use for social interactions, are not great for bonding, either. Some people just aren’t practiced in family bonding.
3. Some children stop feeling motivated because parents tolerate too much down time. Without activities and appointments to go to, some families are mistakenly allowing children to get stuck in the unmotivated state. Parents don’t need to be entertainers all day long, but they do need to point their children toward useful activities and not tolerate laziness.
4. One of the most common mistakes might be that the child doesn’t have a plan for how to find fun things to do. If the child doesn’t have a plan, then they’ll default to assuming it’s someone else’s responsibility to entertain them. My father used to tell me, “Boredom is a state of mind. You need to change your mind.” I was grateful for that simple truth. He reminded me that I couldn’t lose my boredom unless I chose to let it go and enjoy everything in life.
5. If the family doesn’t deliberately make plans for the child, the result of the boredom is oftentimes too much media time. Media time can be fun to look forward to, but it can also be a trap. Media time kills creativity. If media time happens too early in the day, the child will not get in the habit of thinking of useful or engaging activities for herself.
6. Finally, depression or anxiety could be a factor in the lack of motivation. There are multiple reasons people suffer with the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but one big reason might be staring us right in the face. Youth of all ages are looking at screens for more hours than they usually do. Many youth are doing online school work now, contacting friends online, playing more online games, posting more on social media, and watching more videos since the pandemic restrictions took effect. And, parent lives aren’t so much different.
Dr. Rick Nauert wrote about the 2018 study done by psychologists from San Diego State and the University of Georgia. He stated, “New research finds that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in those aged 2 to 17, with the association larger for adolescents than for younger children…The National Institute of Health estimates that youth commonly spend an average of five to seven hours on screens during leisure time…The World Health Organization has recently included gaming disorder in their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.”
These six causes of children not feeling motivated these days are easier to fix than you might imagine.
1. Plan for times when the child is in charge of his own activity. Don’t be afraid of a bit of boredom. It will pass. After a person sits for a little bit, not knowing what to do next, they soon start using the creative/inventive part of their brain. Be patient. Don’t save them from boredom. Allow them to feel empowered by solving their boredom problem themselves.
2. Nurture family relationships. The family is the basic social unit for each of us. Most social learning should happen within the family. Friends are primarily for practicing the social skills we’ve mastered at home so that we can apply them to all of life’s relationships. Don’t worry about not seeing friends. Family can and should be the best friends.
3. Parents shouldn’t tolerate too much time wasting on phones, television, eating around the clock, and sleeping. Teach the children what it means to be useful. Many activities fall into the useful category. If children aren’t doing something useful, then ask them, “What are you doing that’s useful?” If they don’t seem to want to do anything useful, and it’s not a good time for down-time, then give them an instruction to help you with a task or to do a task on their own.
4. Make a plan. Many people suffocate with their lives by being too planned out, and there certainly needs to be a balance. But, during this quarantine time most people are not planning to have fun. Make big lists and do them! Sit down as a family and make a list of parties you want to have, things you want to make, sports you want to try, and hikes you want to go on. Do the same thing for each child individually. The family list is for regular family fun, and the individual lists are to help the children think of things that are useful to do during the boring moments that might come.
5. Decrease media time for overall health. When less media is viewed, people are more active, they talk to each other more, and they become motivated by undertaking new projects.
6. Bonding is essential for overall wellbeing and to counter the effects of depression and anxiety. Set aside times to look into your child’s eyes; talk to them about their thoughts and hopes. Go for a walk or take on a project together. Working and playing together gives you something to talk about. And, if they don’t want to do those bonding things, then just help them step out of their comfort zones and do them anyway. Give them an instruction. They need your leadership. Doing things we don’t want to do empowers us because we stepped out of our comfort zones. Empowerment is motivating.
Each of us must motivate ourselves. A parent can’t motivate a child, but they can take actions to prepare the environment and conversations so that the child is more encouraged to choose motivation.
Most importantly, parents need to remember that they are the biggest key to their child’s motivational success. Parents who engage, bond, instruct, plan, talk, and don’t tolerate time-wasting can rest assured that their child will eventually choose to motivate themselves. A parent’s motivation is usually contagious!
Learn how to teach your children more self-mastery skills with these resources.