Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Get Your Children to Want to do Their Homework and Other Thoughts on Willpower

Many years ago, when our now much older children where around 4 or 5 years old, I took several courses on how to motivate our children to have will power and to be proactive, but I was not aware then of how important this would be in their lives. Now that our daughter is living by herself and studying away in college, she has to wake up early in the morning without anyone telling her to do so, she has to go to school with a ride or in a bus, because she has no car, she has to do the work in school, she has to cook and clean up after herself - she is on her own, and she is thriving. 

This is a result of years of training, training her on the correct use of her freedom, training her will power, training her to overcome difficulties, it was not something that was achieved from one day to the next.

We are all subject to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is the one that moves us to do things because we will have an external reward like a trophy, public recognition, money, etc. This kind of motivation usually requires us to be supervised, to have someone around to tell us to do something. When things get done this way, it gives us satisfaction but not joy, moves us to do things at the beginning, but after we receive the reward it may not necessarily make us happy. It doesn't help us mature. 

With intrinsic motivation the reward is in the achievement itself, because we did the right thing, we overcame a particular difficulty, etc. and this kind of reward is different, it gives us joy, makes us a better person, helps us grow and mature and gets us closer to God.

Every decision passes through intelligence and willpower, first you think about what you need to do, what your options are, the consequences of each option and then is the willpower that will make you do things. Just like our intelligence, willpower needs to be trained too

Our job as parents is to help our children by making an effort to train their willpower by helping them overcome laziness and short cuts in life: waking up everyday at the same time - living that heroic minute of waking up right away without giving it much thought- always being on time, learning how to wait for their turn, to be patient for the rewards of the efforts, to be strong, to have courage... it is an ongoing natural process that takes most of their childhood. 

Focus on mentoring your children so they can find the intrinsic motivation when doing every task.  It could be fixing their room, doing homework, getting home on time, not doing drugs. 

Train them from a young age: 
- 3 year old toddlers can be tremendously happy just putting their dad shoes inside the closet.
- 6 year old children will feel proud of themselves when picking up their plates from the table as well as those of the rest of the people at the table.
- 11 year old preteens can feel happy when helping a friend in school with their homework, especially if they notice themselves that their friend is struggling and needs help.

Always remind them that they should not need a policeman watching over them to do the right thing; to always act facing God, not out of fear, but out of love. Tell them to be truthful with themselves: they will know in their hearts if they put in their greatest effort in completing the task, finishing their whole homework, cleaning up their room, etc.

In the beginning, they will need our supervision and our help, but after a while (years that go by too fast!) they should be able to do well on their own and feel great about themselves. Good luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Family First - Always!

Author Tom├ís Melendo gave the opening speech at the "Family as a Social Paradigm"Congress in Europe back in 2008. In his speech entitled "Family, Primordial Place of Happiness" he, very interestingly, rejected the idea that the family is the cell of the society.  His argument was that the cell is a part of an organism and is subordinated to it, so the wellness of the organism is above the priorities of the cell and the the family then, by that logic, is subordinated to society. 

For Mr. Melendo, the family has its own sovereignty and it can't be subordinated to any other association;  it is the other way around: society should be subordinated to the well-being of the family. He also posed the idea that if each person is not considered as an absolute value, then there is no reason to prevent its extinction. If the dignity of each person does not come first, then he could care less if the society turns into a chaos.

The family is fundamental and it has to be defended and supported because it provides happiness. If a family approaches what it is supposed to be, something that depends 99.9% on each member of the family - each one of us-  then it will always provide happiness to its members.  Think about it, the change begins within me, within my family, acting responsibly, improving myself with education, instilling good virtues and values to provoke a change in the world.  Family first!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Choose to be Happy!

Joy and happiness:  like all the other virtues, you have to work on acquiring it. Thankfully, we have the freedom to be owners of our state of mind.  We can choose to be the kind of person whose emotions are directly related to Wall Street gains and losses, or to the performance of our favorite team, or not.  

When you see clouds, you might think that they have the freedom to float up there in the sky, but they don't, they go wherever the wind sends them. We are not like that, we have determination, we can choose where we go, or how can we approach any situation. We can seize the moment and take control of what is going on. We most also recognize the fact that we are God's children, and God is almighty, so with a strong faith and Him on our side, nothing can defeat us.

We need certain qualities to be able to find happiness:
  • We must be strong to look at life facing the facts. 
  • We must optimistic, but have our feet firmly planted in reality; achieving balance between illusions and capacities to get to the point of maturity. 
  • We must know ourselves and how things are, objectively. 
When something is not perfect and it doesn't provoke joy in me, I must stop and think: "is this really that important?" Some "tragedies" are not necessarily tragedies because we learn from them, they take us to a different place and if manage ourselves, to greater things.

Serve others, make yourself useful without exhibitionism, without showing off, make someone happy directly because you care. Choose to be happy!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The 6 Things You Need to Tell Your Children Participating in Sports

Experts that studied college athletes and asked them what their parents said that made them feel great and brought them joy while playing sports, have made things incredibly simple for us parents with kids that participate in sports.

Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as kids perform are:

Before the Competition:  
Have fun.
Play hard.
I love you.

After the competition:
Did you have fun?
I’m proud of you.
I love you.

And, get ready for this, the six words that our kids want to hear us say the most:

"I love to watch you play"

This is genius! Memorize this for their next game!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Curfews Dos and Don'ts


Don't allow them to just walk out the door and say I'll see you at such and such a time. They still should tell you where they are going and call in if their plans change.
Do allow some lead way on special occasions such as proms
Don't allow them to call half an hour before they are to be in to ask if they can sleep over at a friends. This is generally a red flag saying 'something is up'.
Do set a reasonable time for all involved. If you would like to get some sleep before midnight on a Friday evening, then set the time for 11 pm.
Don't get sucked into the 'what everyone else is allowed to do' conversation.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prayer of a Teenager's Parent


Our daughter's Catholic high school posted this prayer today and we just had to share it with our readers. Really well done!


Dear God,
Help me remember the strongest influence
I have on my teenager's way of life,
Is the example I set with my life.

Help me enjoy these years as they question everything,
Explore their growing independence, 
and discover themselves.

Help me focus on the person my teenager is on the inside,
not on the outside appearance.

Help me give attention to the "little things" 
so they will come to me with the "big things"

Help me teach them accountability
and resist the temptation to protect them 
from the natural consequences of their actions.

Help me whisper 
when I feel like yelling
and hug when I feel like pushing them away.

Help me show them that,
even when I don't agree with what they think or do,
I will always love and accept them.

Help me know when a problem
 is too big to be handled within our home,
and not be afraid to reach outside for help.

Help me allow my teenagers the room to expand 
their experiences while still providing them the security
of well defined boundaries.

Help me truly listen by focusing on their priorities
and how they see the world. 

Help me remember that when I was a teenager,
I made mistakes and had to find my own way.

Lord, help me remember the best gifts
I can give my teenager are 
my time, my love, my attention
and my approval. 
Amen.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Take Photos of Your Kids Before Heading Into Crowds


No parent wants to think about losing track of their kids in a crowd, but it's best to be prepared just in case.

Reddit user Ozstriker has a simple and excellent idea: use your iPhone or Android phone to take a picture of your children before heading to the beach or amusement park.  If you get separated, you'll be able to show good samaritans a very recent photo of your kid wearing that day's outfit. 

This is one of those tips you hope you'll never have to use, but it can make a huge difference if you do.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Do We Want To Accomplish As Parents?

I always say it... it is a miracle that we made it to adulthood in one piece!

Show this excellent video to your children and try to help them grasp how the world was before they where born just a few decades ago. Use it to help them understand why we want them to go out and play, to explore, to take risks (according to their age, of course).

We have to always remind ourselves that we are not raising children, we are raising confident, centered and independent adults that,  in just a few years, will have to fend for themselves in this complicated world.  We can only hope and pray that we do a good enough job, so they can lead a fulfilling and joyful rest of their lives.

Enjoy!


Sunday, May 5, 2013