5 Days of Insight From Motivate Your Child: Internal Motivation and Heart Parenting

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I recently reviewed Motivate Your Child, an excellent resource for helping your child develop their internal motivation. I loved the book, and you can read my review here. In my review, I wrote about some of the things I had learned as I read the book; but there wasn't space in one post to share all of the great things I've been learning. This week I'm going to be sharing each day some of the things that have really impressed me about the book. I'll use this post as a landing page, and I'll be linking all of the posts here.


 Day 1- Internal Motivation and Heart Parenting

Day 2- The Importance of Correction 

Day 3- The "Toolbox of Consequences"

Day 4- Internal Motivation When Kids Are Away From Home 

Day 5- Quotes From the Book 

In today's post, I'm taking a look at internal motivation and heart parenting. Motivate Your Child isn't the first book about heart parenting that we've read as parents. In fact, out of all of the parenting books that I've read- and there have been many- books that deal with reaching the heart of your child are the ones that have most resonated with me and the ones that have guided our parenting philosophy the most. Heart parenting, in short, means that as a parent, my ultimate goal is not to have a child whose outward behavior conforms but to have a child whose heart is turned toward God with a desire to do what is right.

Motivate Your Child is coming from that same perspective. As I read, I began to realize that some of the tools and methods I used as a parent might not be reflecting my desire to reach the heart of my child. Instead, maybe some of the things I'm doing might be reinforcing the need to conform with outward behavior. Here are some of the things that made me think.


*Right away I was struck by this quote from the book: "The study of moral development in children doesn't come from a psychology textbook. It comes from the Bible. In order to maximize parenting, it's important to view children from a biblical perspective and understand how they're designed." 

I had to reread that one a few times. I have an education background. I have an undergraduate and a graduate degree in education from a secular university. When we learned about managing children's behavior in the classroom, we certainly weren't looking at children from a biblical perspective. We were taught to use various forms of behavior modification. It usually went something like this: If you break a rule, you have to pull a card. Each card pulled has a specified consequence. The consequences aren't tied to the rule broken at all. They are just designed to increase in severity. If you don't lose any cards, you receive some type of designated reward. None of this has anything to do with understanding the child from a biblical perspective.

Unfortunately, some of this psychology carried over into my ideas of parenting as I began to have my own children. Those old ideas of modifying behavior that we used in the classroom were carried over to be used in the home. As I read more about reaching the hearts of my children, I realized that behavior modification didn't work. All it does is enable the child to conform on the outside without any change to the inside.

Motivate Your Child puts it rather plainly: "Behavior modification works because it appeals to the selfishness in a child's heart." Wow! When I use the tools of behavior modification what I'm really teaching my child is to do something good to get something out of it. Eventually I'll have to use bigger and bigger rewards because they'll catch on pretty quick that if they hold out, I'll have to offer something more. I'm not teaching my children to do right because it's right.

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

*Helping my children to develop their conscience brings them to the point where they have an internal desire to do what is right. The book differentiates between the conscience and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure I've ever heard it explained this way. Most of the time I've heard that the conscience really is the voice of the Holy Spirit. But the authors of Motivate Your Child define conscience as the internal promptings that we have to do what it is right.

The conscience as defined in the book prompts us in four ways- to do what is right, to deal with wrongs, to be honest, and to care for others. When we teach our kids to listen to the internal promptings of their conscience, we are teaching them to be internally motivated- not motivated by rewards and punishment. As the book puts it "Internal motivation develops when parents focus on the heart instead of simply using rewards and punishment to get kids to act."

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

*Rules for behavior aren't bad, but they are more effective when kids know the biblical conviction behind the rule. If we teach kids why a particular behavior is important in light of Scripture, then they will be more likely to internalize that rule and heed it even when no one is around to punish or reward.

I think this shifts the focus of my parenting. Instead of constantly presenting my children with a list of rules I want them to follow or behaviors I want them to exhibit, I'm now constantly leading them to Scripture to teach them what God wants. If I have a constant focus on rules and behaviors, I might get my child to conform because of punishments and rewards. However, if they are in a situation where I'm not around, they'll probably break the rule because they can't be punished.  But if I teach my kids what God wants and they desire to please Him, then they'll chose the right thing even when I'm not around.

This also holds me accountable for what I ask of my kids. Often we as parents are tempted to have our kids follow a certain rule because we want to look good to other people. But the rule we want them follow isn't really a biblical issue at all. It really is just our desire to look good. Kids will catch on to this quickly, and they'll realize that we just want them to conform to look good to other people. If my goal is heart parenting, however, I'm going to associate the rules I set with what God wants. I'm going to make sure that what I'm requiring of my child really is to draw them closer to God, not to make me look good as a parent.

This quote from the book really made me think: "Much of the work of parenting is identifying what heart quality needs development and then practicing it to increase internal strength." Another wow! If that's my goal as a parent, then I'm going to be focused on helping my children to develop internal motivation, to do the right thing because it's the right thing, not because it pleases somebody else or because they want a reward or because they are avoiding punishment. This can truly help me to turn my children's hearts to God and His purpose for their lives.

Tomorrow I'm going to look at another topic the book has me thinking about- correction. You can find our more about Motivate Your child from the National Center for Biblical Parenting website here.



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