Saturday, June 12, 2010

Because I Said So

How many of you have heard this phrase from your parents?  And how many of you have said it to your own kids?  I know I have.  I thought at the beginning of my parenting journey (before my kids started talking back) that I would never say those words.  I thought that I would explain to my children the reasons behind each command for obedience and that they too would understand those reasons.  HA. HA. HA.  It's okay you can laugh at me too.

So most of you know that it just doesn't work that way.  It sounds nice and yes there is some explaining but there is NO negotiating.  I'm not saying I don't give my kids choices.   I am saying that I try not to let them give me choices!  One of the things that my hubby and I have struggled with lately is our Wii.  Our Caleb is a gamer.  He would play ALL day if we let him.  So because we know how much he cherishes his Wii time, we have used it to our advantage.  For example: when we would like him to sit and listen to a story and he doesn't want to, then we just threaten to not let him play Wii.  When he needs to eat supper but he doesn't like what is on his plate, we just threaten to not let him play Wii.  There are many more examples of this and I think you can see the pattern.  Fortunately, we began to see it also.

So we realized that Caleb was being rewarded for doing things that he should do because he is a part of our family, things that he should do to stay healthy, things that he should just be doing basically because "WE SAID SO".  Why should Caleb be rewarded and what was that teaching him?  The answer is that he shouldn't be rewarded for everything and that it was not helping him to achieve internal motivation.

I have been in the process of reading The Price of Privilege How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine, Ph.D.  Wow, that is a long title isn't it?  I have to admit it's been a slow read.  Back to point though.  So after Troy and I had this enlightning parenting moment, I get to a part of the book that is talking about just the thing.  Here is what it says about Internal and External motivation.

"Internal motivation is the generator that propels children to figure out their particular interests, ablilities, and passions.  Internal motivation is not tied to rewards; it is what drives kids to engage in activities that are satisfying for their own sake.  It is the basis of all true learning.  Think of the child who pores over history books, skateboards for hours on end, or works diligently in the garage fixing his bike.  Think of the experience we have all had of 'getting lost'-what researchers call 'flow'-in something we found compelling and challenging.
External motivation, on the other hand, drives kids to participate in activities not primarily because of the activitiy itself but because of some associated gain-a grade, a trophy, a mention in the local newspaper.  It strips learning of excitement, since what is most valuable is not the learning experience per se but whatever perks accompany it.  Externally motivated kids tend to confuse performance with learning and as a result have lower grades, lower achievement scores, less interest in learning, less ability to think creatively, and greater psychological impairment than children who are internally motivated."  (pages 55-56)

Well, ain't that a kick in the head?!  I definitely want Caleb (and my other kids, of course) to be internally motivated.  Relationships are more important then objects and that is what I want my kids to know.  They need to know that I value my relationship with them and they need to see that I value relationships with others.  Most of all they need to see my relationship with God.  So maybe when they say, "I don't want to brush my teeth.  Why do I have to?"  and I reply, "Because if you don't your teeth will rot and fall out of your head and BECAUSE I SAID SO."  I really shouldn't feel that bad. 


  1. I am greatful that you and Troy are on the same page. Being parents is a learning experience and since your parents have been through it - don't forget to ask us ( Troy's parent too)-for any advice- what worked for us and what didn't . The only trouble will be is if we can remember:)

  2. I thought this was fantastic. Very good post... as I'm getting into the toddler stages with my daughter. Very good post. And, thanks for following me. ;)


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