August 11, 2009
Why Pleasing Parents Too Much Can be Bad for Your Health By Eleanor Chin
Development of Self-Motivation
The theme of change is in the air. The country needs so much change—our financial markets need an overhaul, our relationships around the world need some care and fence-mending, health care and education are still in need of serious revamping, and on and on. On the family level, parents of teenagers are thinking, “Mr. Obama, you have two pre-adolescent daughters. If you can tackle all these problems, can you change our teenagers? Can you get her to keep her room clean or him do his homework without so much prodding?” Human beings change. Young human beings need our support as they change. How can parents and other adults help children to grow and change in healthy directions?
Injecting Motivation: Does it Work?
It’s an age-old question about change that can rule the lives of parents as much as any national problem: if behavior is driven by motivation, how can we motivate our children to do what we know is best for them? Part of the answer is “We can’t.” Why, because human motivation is driven partly by internal (intrinsic) and partly by external (extrinsic) factors. Parents are an extrinsic factor.
Here’s a small example to illuminate the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When our daughter was 6, we signed her up for soccer. It seemed to be a good way to develop physical and mental agility as well as to make friends in the neighborhood. Somewhere between the ages of 6 and 12, soccer took on new meaning for us, her parents. We thought: if she continues with it, and gets better at it, it will give her a sense of fun and accomplishment–not to mention, a team sport that she can play in high school. We invested time and effort into making it fun. We didn’t want to notice that she didn’t seem to relish soccer practice.
Then one day we drove by an indoor archery range and I watched as her head and body spun around like the girl in The Exorcist to read every word on the sign. “Are you interested in archery?” I said tentatively. “Oh yes!” she said without hesitation. The rest of the story is that she took up archery, competed at a national level, and continues to shoot archery in college, nine years later. Needless to say, she quit soccer immediately after taking up archery. She was playing soccer because we wanted her to. She shoots archery because she wants to.
Check back next week for the continuation of this interesing article.