Motivation problems | Teaching Self-Government

Motivation problems

A woman with an 18 year old daughter wrote me asking how to motivate her daughter to work more and to follow instructions. She said;

“Following instruction” seems insulting to her -  and rewards or punishments like sodas, TV time, etc etc are not effective at all.  In fact, I don’t know of anything in the way of consequences OR rewards that would motivate her."

I have had 18 year olds.  I will tell you what this situation sounds like to me.  As with everything, without really meeting this young woman, I can't be sure what would help her best. 

I could see how learning how to follow instructions could seem a little bit elementary to an 18 year old girl.  However, if she really views it as "insulting" then she probably doesn't have a vision of what your family is trying to do and she has an attitude problem. 

Since this mother told me that she only heard me do a one hour presentation, I would recommend the CD seminar set, because the first 1.5 hours talk about creating a family vision and finding mission as a family.  A family vision is the reason a person cares about treating their parents with respect or working to improve the home. 

As parents, we all have a vision of what we want our relationships with our children to be, and that is why we work so hard to learn how to most effectively inspire them and communicate with them.  The children usually only think about what they want for themselves.  They don't often evaluate their relationships with their family members, this requires already having an IDEAL to compare to.  Most youth are also in the habit of assuming that if they don't like something, it is someone else's fault.  This extrinsic mentality works against learning how to govern themselves. 

To help with this vision problem, I would create a family vision and use it as a large topic of conversation.  I would empower my daughter with really dwelling on her roll in this vision. 

I would start having weekly mentor meetings with her where you talk about her dreams and progress toward her dreams.  If she says she has no dreams, then you need to take a close look at the friends she is associating with, because they may be either distracting her from dreaming, or they may not be inspiring for her. 

She could also be depressed.  If she is depressed, then you need to talk to her more everyday about everything, and help her see that she can accomplish goals, by setting goals with her and helping her set attainable goals.  Children often get depressed when there has been too much stress in their lives about moving forward and not enough skills development time or practice associated with the actual movement.  Sometimes our good intentions push some children too far too fast.

If she is not doing well in school, she probably either has lazy friends, lacks some skills and doesn't know what she is lacking or is afraid to ask for help.  Someone could have made her feel dumb by asking a basic question once, so she has chosen not to ask any more.  These are just thoughts, since I don't know your daughter.

I did have a foster daughter once who would come home from high school and do hours of homework.  She really wrote great papers too.  She was by far my smartest girl.  At the mid-term, I found out she was failing every class.  This boggled my mind.  I had a special meeting with her about it.  In the meeting she told me that she did all the work, but chose not to turn in her work, because she didn't want to look smart.  Apparently the group she was a part of praised ignorance and shunned intelligence.  Shocking but true! 

After making sure your home has vision, and the Spirit, and regular meetings that help maintain both of these things, then I would bring up following instructions.  She needs to know that if she chooses not to follow instructions, she is communicating to you that she doesn't respect your authority as her parent, and that she doesn't want to be treated like an adult. 

I would tell her that you want to have a relationship with her where you can treat her like an adult.  See if she wants that too.  Then explain to her that if she shows you she is committed to the family vision by making good choices and following instructions, then you will know that she has matured enough to be considered an adult living in your home instead of a child. 

As basic as this sounds, most youth really don't know this fact.  They don't know that their behaviors and attitudes influence how they are treated.  To recognize this takes self evaluation.  Learning how to choose to control behaviors and follow instructions helps youth start to analyze themselves. 

You MUST follow the program that I present, making sure that cause and effect is taught consistently.  If she doesn't follow instructions or complete tasks, then she needs to earn other tasks.  If she doesn't follow that instruction, then you know she is out of instructional control, and you need to do the rule of three.  She my not like SODAS, but they are great to do, even if she only does a few.  Be sure to talk them over with her in a mature way.  Appropriate consequences for her would be extra chores, loss of snack privilege (be sure to make snacks that day), major maintenance's, loss of friend time, loss of phone privileges, car privileges, and loss of all privileges for 24 hours. 

****Tip*****If she gets down on herself easily, maybe you need to set incentives, or positive consequences for times she follows instructions for a whole day.  Also, it is very possible that she sees no positive consequences when she does sometimes choose to help out.  It is so easy to expect an 18 year old to just do things with out praise.  Everyone needs praise, or they loose motivation.  Tell her how much you appreciate her, or show her by noticing when she does follow instructions and then spontaneously, say, "You are so great at following instructions.  When you follow my instructions I know you respect me.  This makes me feel closer to you.  Do you want to go get a smoothie with me?"  Or, schedule a girls afternoon or something. 

***Let her know that as soon as she shows you she is able to govern her own behaviors, then she will not have to be part of the "instruction" system anymore.  Show her an end. 

****Just following instructions for a week is not enough.  You need to see her constantly on task and helping out at home, then you will know her heart has changed.  When she has vision and a change of heart, then she is ready to be treated like an adult.  At this point you change from a superior role to a companionship type role.

Also, the 18 year old described above sounds like she has character problems.  My character presentation in the seminar CD set could also help with that.  For that I would schedule time in your day to do lots of meaningful work time with her.  I would even go so far as to schedule whole days that are work days.  Think of BIG projects that you NEED her help with.  Everyone needs to be needed.  Working side by side with a fun, loving parent gives a youth a vision of who they want to become and what they want their relationship with you to be like.  You may be surprised at how much about staying on task she learns from your example of staying on task. 

The most important thing is to work on your relationship with her.  She needs to see you as cool, approachable, and knowledgeable.

Note** 18 year olds are almost out of your parenting reach.  They can really only be parented at this point if they let you parent them.  (This depends, of course, on the maturity level of the youth.)  Example and genuine relationship building is the best teacher for this age.  Discuss her future and then write down all the steps she needs to get to that future.  Then start at the first step.