the secret to flipping your kid’s motivation switch

how to motivate your childWe all want our kids to excel. Move mountains. Reach their highest potential. 

I’ve spent many countless hours lecturing my  kids (Oy!). Driving kids to tutoring and church. Sharing my heart with them and passing on my life experience.

I’m no expert, but with one child about to turn 18 and another who’s 14, I’ve learned a few things about how to motivate my children.

In fact, I would go so far as to say I’ve discovered the secret about that internal switch that has to flip. The one that prompts them to step up and move forward without constant external consequences and nudging.

Want to know how to motivate your child?

And the secret is …. It has almost nothing to do with you — or me.

Sorry. Believe me, I wish I had a simple-to-follow, magic, step-by-step formula.

Making this realization is both a freeing and terrifying thought. In one way, it relieves the internal pressure of constant thoughts like, “Am I doing enough?” “Did I start too late?” “Have I been using the wrong method?”

On the other hand, it’s frightening to think that we have no control over that very key and incredibly pivotal event in our child’s lives.

Now, am I saying that limits and consequences aren’t effective? No, not at all. Pain is always motivating. Many times, it certainly does change their behavior and cause them to change course in certain areas.

But that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about simply changing behavior.

I’m talking about a change of heart. A sudden and life-changing realization that they want more from life than their current path is taking them. They suddenly see their value and potential in a whole new way.

I’ve learned that all I can really do is try to lay the foundation that makes it more likely for that switch to ultimately flip.

Those times that we hold them to a standard of excellence that they don’t embrace themselves.

The consequences we give to behavior or attitudes that are rebellious or unproductive.

The hard and unpopular truths we speak into their lives.

The natural consequences we allow them to suffer.

Every prayer we say on their behalf, as we ask God to direct their paths and see their worth in Him.

[Tweet “These building blocks add up to help set the stage for that “aha” moment that changes everything.”]

We don’t have to do it all perfectly. And we have to give up control of how, when and if this all yields the fruit we desire.

After years of trying every method imaginable to turn on that switch, I can say that with confidence.

Are you depressed by that thought? For a long time, I was, too.

But God has given me peace about this. Because I’ve realized that when it’s their choice, their timing, their epiphany about when to take action and step up in a certain area, the change will be lasting and revolutionary.

How will I know if and when this happens?

Well, I have a feeling they won’t be able to keep it a secret. 

Your turn: Do you think it’s possible to turn on your kid’s motivation switch?

How have you seen the switch turn on in your child’s life?

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  • I was just having this discussion with my son again today. He has been slipping on his hygiene (typical teenage boy – yucky) and I have tried all the punishments, rewards, consequences, and really everything in my parenting arsenal for several years now. What if he really DOESN’T get it? I know plenty of adult men who have poor hygiene and it horrifies me that my son might be one of them. In fact, I gave him a couple of examples of men we know who have bad breath or BO and I told him how people will always notice the problem, but rarely will ever tell the offender about it for fear of hurting feelings or making them uncomfortable. I think it made a temporary impact on him, but lasting change is really hard to come by with this issue. Everyone keeps telling me it will click with him one day, but he’s 16 and it hasn’t happened yet. I hope it will one day. #SITSSharefest

    • {Melinda} That is TOUGH. But to give you hope, I have a 17 year old daughter and there are certain areas that I thought would never “click” with her, but I’m watching it happen. Not in my timing, but in hers. I understand your concern. It is SO hard to let them do things that we KNOW will hurt them and their relationships, etc. But the older, they get, the less control we have of those things. Sigh. Keeps me on my knees and depending on God to reach them in ways that I can’t.

  • Bummer 🙁 I eagerly clicked this title from SITS for that magic way to flip my child’s switch. That’ll teach me to believe in miracles.

    • Sorry, Jennifer! Yea, if I truly had THE secret, I’d be a mama guru! Thanks for stopping by!

  • This is a TINY example: I have asked my kids to dump out their cereal bowls before sticking them in the sink. They usually don’t and by the time they go in the dishwasher, the cereal is glued to the bowls. Then one day I asked my daughter to fill the dishwasher for me. Once she saw how difficult it is to remove those cereal pieces (and generally how disgusting dishes with food in them were) she has been much more diligent about emptying her bowl each morning.

    • {Melinda} That is a great example, Rabia! That switch doesn’t seem to flip until something becomes REAL to them. All the words we speak don’t click until that moment!


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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