** Important Note: When considering to write an article like this about either of my awesome teenage kids, I always get their permission first. My primary responsibility is to be a parent first, and a blogger and working mom second. When asking the Awesome Son if he was comfortable with me discussing this topic, he selflessly told me he didn’t mind sharing this situation if it could help other families. That’s why I love that guy so much!! **
This article is part 3 in a series on articles discussing motivation in kids. You can read part 1 on how parents can encourage their kids to pursue passions and interests HERE and how parents can encourage their kids to be more motivated for everyday chores and responsibilities HERE.
In today’s article, I want to share with you a real-life situation that my Modern Family has recently experienced with regard to motivation and how I handled it. In sharing our story with you, it is not with the attitude that I handled this situation with my son PERFECTLY or that my action for this scenario will work for every family.
My hope for sharing this story with you is that you can find comfort in the fact that all families struggle at times and that parents CAN be a big influence in their child’s life.
The Awesome Son And His Struggle To Get Motivated To Drive
So let me point out that I think my son is awesome – that’s why I call him the awesome Son! He is an A and B student in honors and AP classes in high school. His passion is to be a lawyer like his dad and he DOMINATES in his mock trial club at school. Like every kid, he has his unique strengths and weaknesses and what I appreciate the most about him is that while he dislikes getting criticism from his parents (who does, right?), he still considers our opinion and integrates our suggestions most of the time.
So the Awesome Son is not motivated to get his driver’s license.
Not one bit.
He is 16 ½ and still does not even have the learner’s permit. This has started to become an issue in our house mostly because of me. I have been counting down the days until he becomes a licensed driver for years now. This is mostly due to the fact that my life will be a lot easier when I don’t have to drive 2 different kids to 2 different schools every day, take an hour off of work in the afternoon to pick both of them up in the afternoon, and then go back to work for another hour or so.
It seemed like the more I pushed the son to take the learner’s permit exam, the less excited and motivated he became about accomplishing this goal. Now keep in mind that this is a kid that can pass the AP Euro exam with flying colors, but can’t seem to take the time to study for and pass the learner’s permit exam. It didn’t seem like he COULDN’T pass the exam, it seems like it was because he DIDN’T WANT TO PASS.
My Attempts At Solving This Problem
So my first attempt to solve this problem was to put my foot down and make him enroll in the driver’s course and take the exam. With some enthusiasm, he did his part and completed the online driver’s course. Next, I took him to the DMV to take the learner’s permit test, and he did not pass.
I still continued on my course to insist that he pass that test. I re-scheduled another exam appointment at the DMV for two weeks later and reminded him DAILY to look over the DMV booklet. Two weeks later, he took the exam again, and again he did not pass.
So this time I changed my tactic. I backed off totally, thinking that maybe some reverse psychology would work on him. You know, if it looked like it didn’t matter to me he would suddenly find the motivation to pass the exam. Well that didn’t work either.
Flash forward 6 months and still no interest in taking the exam again. So, I decided that I needed to be more proactive about this situation again. The difference this time is that I first considered two things: 1) if the goal of passing the test still wasn’t met (because this part of the problem is out of my hands – I can’t take the test for him), how was I going to parent in this situation that also respected my personal parental values and beliefs, and 2) what would the consequences be for the Awesome Son if he did not meet this goal?
My Goal #1: Parent Using My Personal Values And Beliefs. My personal goal with regard to parenting is to use more calm words and thoughtful conversations and to resort less to yelling, blaming, and name-calling. I also like to teach my kids through modeling positive life skills on my part, as well as through setting up goals and consequences and allowing the kids to CHOOSE to meet these goals or suffer the consequences (and they usually make really good decisions).
There are certain families that I have had the pleasure of being friends with in my life that I consider to be great parents with exceptional kids. These parents seem to make a point of treating their kids as respected family members and creating an environment that includes respectful conversations, family expectations, and consequences for not meeting those expectations. Because of these wonderful families, this is the parenting style I have always tried to emulate.
So I challenged myself – how could I make this frustrating situation both a bonding experience for me and the Awesome Son, as well as an opportunity to complete this driving goal? After thinking about it for a while, I decided I would set up a fun day for the Awesome Son and I where we could enjoy each others’ company and study for the test at the same time.
So last Saturday, the Awesome Son and I spent the afternoon at Dave and Buster’s playing fun games with each other. This was a fun couple of hours because we laughed together, strategized over video games together, and just simply enjoyed being with each other. Most importantly, we were able to discuss what the Son didn’t like about driving without a lot of pressure or negative emotions interfering.
During our lunch break, we reviewed the DMV booklet. I even learned some driving facts that I had forgotten, so it was a really fun day.
My Goal #2: Creating A Goal And Setting Consequences. During our lunch, I also let the Awesome Son know that it was his decision to take the test or not, but that when he turned 17, I would not be driving him to school or taking him to his events – he would have to figure our his own transportation.
I have to admit that this was hard for me because I feel like one of my primary responsibilities is to provide an education for my child. How can he learn if he cannot get to the school? But I know that is short-term thinking and I want him to be a responsible adult in the long-term, so setting up this goal and consequence actually is best for him in the long run.
When I explained this consequence to the Awesome Son, he took it really well. I was so proud of him.
Current Driving News
Not much. We had an appointment at the DMV last Monday, but we had lost a pink paper needed to qualify for the exam, so he couldn’t take the test that day. We went down to the driver’s ed school and got another one, and now we just need to set a new appointment for a new time.
I’ll keep you updated on future driving news.
Take Home Message
So the take-home message here is that even a child psychologist who has a lot of training with regard to kids even struggles with her own parenting decisions.
Even if the Awesome Son does not get his license anytime soon, I feel as if I handled this situation in a way that I feel proud of. I stepped back from making this situation about my needs and conveniences and remembered that this is about the Awesome Son becoming a responsible, awesome adult. I like to be the kind of parent who is warm and loving, as well as one who creates standards for her family when needed.
I also want to challenge you with re-evaluating some of your parenting tactics. Is there a situation that is not working in your family that might benefit from you taking a step back and trying something new? Are you parenting using your personal values and beliefs as a guideline, or are you parenting out of convenience or emotions?
I would love to hear about your parenting dilemma. Take the time to comment below, email me, or start a conversation on my FaceBook page. I love to interact with you guys – you guys have such great things to say!