Back in the day, when personal productivity was a new discipline, the most influential book was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s still going strong today, 30 years later. What always interested me about the book was the last habit, which Stephen Covey called Sharpen the Saw – Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal. It was, and is, business speak and not a very good description of what he really means.
As parents, it feels like it’s our responsibility to motivate our kids to learn. And if we can’t motivate them, we have to just force them. Does that really work, though?
If your goal in homeschooling your kids is to help them love learning, brute force isn’t the best way to make that happen. Teaching our kids to motivate themselves is one of the most important things we as parents can do.
Motivation is a tough topic. If you are already motivated to take on the world, you don’t understand what everyone’s problem is. Why the heck can’t they just get up and do the stuff that needs doing? Don’t they understand how much better they will feel once their math is done? Once the to-do list is accomplished? Once their room is clean? We pass on to our kids the idea that you are allowed to be happy and rest and play only when all the work is done. If you goof off beforehand, you are just lazy.
We have the idea firmly planted in our protestant-work-ethic brain, that life works this way:
Get motivated – Work hard – Be successful – Happiness
Happiness is a reward. It’s constantly in some hazy future once we’ve figured out how to make our kids – and ourselves – perfect. Blah, blah, blah.
This view of life is not only torture, it’s actually wrong. People don’t get motivated and they become successful and then happy. Motivation and success come from being happy. Even for kids. Why is no one talking about this?
One of the leading researchers on the new science of happiness is Shawn Achor. Go watch his Ted Talk. He’s a goofball. You can’t imagine anyone taking him seriously – except that his degree is from Harvard and his job is to go into the biggest, most serious companies in the world and help them get through their hardest times. This guys does serious work in the least serious way possible.
So maybe start gradually making the learning fun and maybe you kids might actually end up MORE motivated. And maybe you can cut yourself some slack, too. Look for the things that bring your joy and take your motivation from there.