Personality: The Unmotivated Child
Unmotivated children are generally passive, cooperative, flexible, easygoing, and accommodating. These children may be easier to get along with because they lack the drive of strong-willed people. Still, even unmotivated children can be strong willed sometimes; it's just not their general tendency.
Marcus is content to let others lead. When his friend George comes over to play, Marcus lets him pick the game and decide when they'll move on to something else. George tells Marcus what to do, and Marcus seems content to follow along. Mom, who's rather strong-willed herself, feels uncomfortable with the situation. She wishes Marcus would be the leader. Marcus needs to learn to lead at times, especially if George wants to do something that is wrong, but Mom need to let Marcus be Marcus. She may need to adjust her expectations, recognizing that her son's personality strengths are different from hers.
Unmotivated children may seem easier to raise, but parents also struggle with these kids at times. They may not have the fortitude to stand up for themselves, withstand temptation, or push hard to complete a task. They're sometimes people-pleasers and may be easily directed in positive or negative ways, depending on who they're with. Interestingly enough, when it comes to defiance, these kids may be just as stubborn as strong-willed children.
One day, Marcus decides he doesn't want to play with George anymore. As Mom discusses the issue with Marcus, she discovers his frustration is motivating him to give up. In fact, he does this regularly. If he doesn't get what he wants easily, he moves on to something else. Mom helps Marcus understand he should challenge George sometimes. She begins to equip her son with strategies and ideas and even coaches him to gently stand up for himself while George is over. Once Marcus puts his mom's ideas into practice, the boys play nicely more often and Marcus has a good time.
In the same way strong-willed children need stronger fences in their lives, unmotivated children often need the brush cleared off their paths of life. Children who tend to give up easilyneed help to see the path more clearly so they can take steps necessary for success.
Motivating the Unmotivated Child
Sometimes people who are unmotivated to take action are quick to complain. It's much easier to criticize, whine, and point out the problem than to offer constructive advice and become part of the solution.
Eight-year-old Martin had a lot of complaints. Problems were never his fault, and he seemed to be able to point out others' weaknesses rather easily. Dad challenged his son one day by saying, "there are two kinds of people in the world: whiners and solvers. People in our office at work have complained for weeks that the office schedule disappears and people can't find it. Today I created a red folder for the schedule and a place to keep it. People are pleased because this will help solve the problem of the missing schedule." Dad was trying to get Martin to consider his on whining and complaining and teach him to take action instead.
Even unmotivated people wrestle with issues and questions in their hearts, although you may not see it as clearly as in the strong-willed child. Some children process things more internally and aren't as transparent. These children appear compliant, allowing others to make decisions or take the lead, but their anger may be growing inside. The child may not know how to respond and choose to brood instead.
Fear of failure may keep an unmotivated child from taking action. Some kids want everything perfect before they'll take the first step. Unlike the strong-willed child, who often learns by jumping in and making mistakes, the unmotivated child will hold back until more parts of the plan become obvious.
Hannah, age nine, is shy and rarely tries new things. She is hesitant to take on an instrument at school, doesn't want to play on a sports team, and won't attempt the extra credit project for science class. Hannah is not a behavior problem, but Mom is concerned because Hannah lacks initiative and isn't going anywhere in life.
Mom realized Hannah had a heart issue that was keeping her from many good things in life. Mom began to challenge her daughter in some positive ways. They talked about the benefits of initiative, and Mom required that her daughter do the extra credit assignment at school. Mom also shared Scripture with her daughter about people who stepped out of their comfort zone. Mom praised Hannah for small steps of initiative with her friends at church. Mom knows that Hannah has a long way to go in this area, but she's not allowing the lack of behavior problems to prevent her from moving forward with her daughter.
Sometimes parents overlook the unmotivated child because she isn't causing any trouble, generally gets along with people, and appears easygoing. It may be more difficult to know what's going on in this child's heart, requiring extra work and effort. Give your children the opportunity to test out new things without criticism. Failure is often a good teacher. Making mistakes is part of the growth.
Used with permission from the book Parenting is Heart Work by Scott Turansky, D.Min. and Joanne Miller, R.N., B.S.N (Effective Parenting, Inc.).
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