The safest way to make good parenting choices is to base them on universal principles of truth. One universal principle says there are two forces in the universe — God (love) and Satan (fear). Every choice is motivated by one of these two emotions.
If you are being motivated by fear, you are usually focused on avoiding pain or losing what you have or could have. You may feel it is something you “have to do” to prove your value. Fear motivation produces action up front, but eventually it makes you feel resentful and rebellious about the task because your heart isn’t in it.
Love motivation feels different.
If you are motivated by love, you are focused on making good decisions that give to you or give service to God or other people. You want to do this thing because you love how it makes you feel. There is no “have to” or “should” here. You choose to do it for you because of the benefits it brings to your life. This kind of motivation empowers and builds self worth.
When it comes to disciplining children and getting them to do things, teaching them the right motivation behind what you want them to do is crucially important.
Children who learn to make good choices because they want to, instead of being motivated by fear, become more responsible, confident and productive adults.
But many parents don’t know how to create love motivation in their children because fear motivation is all they know.
Do any of these parenting strategies sound familiar?
Fear of punishment
Many parents use “fear of punishment” as their main motivation strategy. Threats and reprimands will get results in the short term, but the child won’t own the good behavior.
If a child isn’t finding a love reason to behave that way, once they are out of your sight, they won’t keep doing it and they may resent the whole idea.
They aren’t learning why the behavior is a good decision.
This force-based strategy may actually create rebellion in your child. Forcing behavior on a child with threats may also produce passive aggressive behavior down the road.
Jim Fay, the author of "Parenting with Love and Logic," says parents who try to ensure their children’s success by force often raise rebellious, unsuccessful kids. But loving parents who give more freedom, allow for some failures and teach children why they should make good choices more often raise successful kids.
You want smart, thinking children who know how to make good choices for themselves. Instead of threats, try giving children logical choices and help them understand the reasons they might want to behave properly. It takes more time but is worth it.
Bribes, much like punishments, may get the desired behavior temporarily but they don’t work in the long run. When you bribe children, you deny them the opportunity to learn why they should make good choices for themselves.
When you use bribes you can also create a sense of entitlement. After awhile the child may expect rewards for doing anything.
An occasional reward is okay, but it’s a bad idea to offer candy to get a child to stop behaving badly. For example, don’t give candy if they stop throwing a temper tantrum.
Instead reward the child who was happy and behaved well with a treat — but only do this occasionally.
Help your child to understand the intrinsic benefits of good behavior. Help them to see having a clean room means more room to play and fewer broken toys. Help them to understand brushing their teeth means no cavities and fewer trips to the dentist. Help a teenager understand when you speak to parents with respect they are more likely to be treated with respect back.
Trust they are smart enough to choose good things for the right reasons. God has given you free agency and trusts you to make good choices. He also lets you learn from your mistakes. If he thinks it’s a good parenting strategy, it probably is.
As children get older you can give them more and more freedom and more trust.
Here are some positive parenting techniques to guide children with love:
Use praise and encouragement.
Don’t just wing it: Decide on some qualities and attributes you want to encourage in your child. Be specific and just pick a few to work on at a time. Watch for any signs of that behavior and give praise about it.
Lie if you have to: Even if your child is not demonstrating the desired behavior, continue to praise them and tell them you appreciate how good they are. Children will often become what they think you think they are. If you think they are a good kid, they will want to be one.
Focus on qualities: Praising qualities like kindness, generosity, helping others, honesty and courage help a child to identify as this kind of person. This builds rock-solid self-esteem.
Model the good behavior yourself: Talk about how good it makes you feel when you behave that way. Let children see that doing good things for the right reasons feels wonderful.
Ask smart guiding questions
Smart parents guide children through asking questions and listening. Besides helping children figure out correct choices on their own, asking questions and listening builds self-esteem, a sense of empowerment and responsibility in a child.
By asking the right questions you can guide a child to the very thing you wanted him to do — except now he owns the choice as his own. You can say, “That sounds like a great idea. You’re a smart kid.”
Raising children with love motivation means helping them see why good choices are good choices. This kind of smart parenting sets children up for success in life by teaching them how to create their own happiness and success, one good choice at a time.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.