The Unmotivated Child


bad childSometimes children just do not seem to care about the things we feel are important. Often they are described as “lazy”, taking everything for granted, and perhaps having no desire to do well in school. All this, in spite of a parent’s best efforts to teach them to do their best in everything.

Often, in cases like this, there is not a meaningful connection between the parents and the child. By this, I mean meaningful to the child. Without this, parents end up pushing against the child’s resistance. Imagine trying to move a mule against its will. Or even a cat. These creatures simply brace themselves, and you can’t push them an inch.

However, if you stop pushing, and somehow encourage them to move forward, often they will. It is pretty easy to have a relationship with a young child, but as children get older, there are more challenges.

Our relationship skills may be tested to the limit, and if all we have in our kit bag is our “authority” as a parent, then we will surely run into difficulty.

Authority alone just doesn’t cut it anymore. Anywhere. If rules and power were enough, we wouldn’t need law enforcement or lawyers.

Questioning authority when something does not make sense to us is well within the normal range of intelligent, human functioning. Many of us have grumbled about taxes as much as any child ever grumbled about cleaning his room. Many adults resent fines from traffic violations as much as kids resent being grounded.

But who wants to bicker? It’s no way to live, so we must establish good relationships with our children, and model cooperative efforts. We must truly listen to their side, not just try to force our will upon them.

If a child has emotionally “dropped out”, we have to find out why there is no motivation. Children are very tuned in to their parents, and they know if they are not accepted and valued for who they are. If we are not treating them with integrity, they will not be that way with us.

If, even in our minds, we treat a child like a “bad” person, he or she will take on that role even more. A child who is totally unmotivated is often, although not always, the scapegoat in the family, and/or the school.

We need to find out how they are feeling, what they need, and what would motivate them. If yelling, nagging, and punishing has not changed the situation, then why continue? It’s time for a new strategy.

Making the problem strictly the child’s problem serves to alienate him even more. A family is a system, and if one aspect of family functioning is not working, the whole system needs to be readjusted.

In marriage, we vow to love and honor both in joy and in sorrow, in good times and bad. The same should hold for our children.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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