Taking Initiative

Source: family.go.com

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest parenting endeavors is getting my children to take initiative. When our kids are motivated to please and when they’ve been taught what we expect, we can encourage them to take initiative. The biggest benefit in getting them to take initiative is that we don’t have to nag! But even more than that, working by internal motivation will serve them well through school and into adulthood.

I’ll admit that we aren’t there yet, at least not in all areas. But I will say that I’m seeing progress in school. On Wednesday, I talked about the reasons we homeschool. One of the reasons we left a private school was that it was too lax and William lost his internal drive to do well. In fact, his teacher noticed this drive and called him “industrious” early in the year. I attribute this industriousness to the rigid structure his Kindergarten teacher brought to the class. But by about mid-year in first grade, that industrious spirit was gone. I was very sad. No matter how little he may have learned that year, losing that internal drive was the most upsetting. However, I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten it back! William does his math and daily writing journal first thing in the morning, every single day, and he’s gotten so good at finding his own motivation to get it done.

Early last week, we took a day and a half off school to go to a water park. (Have I said how much I love homeschooling?!) Before we left, I told William I wanted him to finish his math and journal. As our friend was about to arrive to pick us up, I was running around to finish packing. Quickly, I looked into our school room and saw William writing furiously in his journal. He knew we were about to leave, and without me there even paying attention to him, he was working hard to get his work done. Not only did it fill me with pride, but it completely validated my reasons to homeschool.

But unfortunately, this internal motivation hasn’t carried over into every area. Until recently, I have had my boys do chores only when I needed their help. I didn’t have a very consistent approach. Well, we’ve started doing chores every weekend, and when they’re done, they get an allowance. Even with the money sitting on the table to entice them, my boys needed a little nagging to get their chores done. They’re still learning, though, so I completely understand why William was so frustrated that he couldn’t sweep. The only thing I can do to improve the situation is to keep prompting and encouraging and do the same thing consistently, week after week.

Take a look at this excerpt fromĀ Growing Kids God’s Way. It’s not only educational, but motivating:

“The highest and most desirable level of initiative is self-generated initiative. At this level, a child responds to needs without prompting or instruction. When Nathan saw the laundry basket filled with clean clothes, he began to separate his personal items, fold them, and put them away so Mom and Dad did not have to do it later. For a younger child, it may be as simple as putting away a toy left out after playtime. When a child responds without being asked, parents should give plenty of verbal and physical affirmation. In addition to affirming the child, parents may choose to reinforce the behavior with a reward. It doesn’t need to be expensive. What the child finds value in is the appreciation that the reward represents,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 128).

So as you give this idea more thought, think about the various chores you can assign to your child. Keep them age-appropriate, and make sure you are patient as he learns to do them. And always, throughout the day, be on the lookout for any time the child takes initiative. “Catch him in the act” and give huge praise!