Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Motivating - No One Size Fits All Solution

Potty training has to be my least favorite part of parenting.  It is messy and stressful.  And oh the pressure I felt from friends, the culture and myself.  Ugh.

After a couple of messy starts with my oldest, I waited until he was good and ready and then accomplished the feat of diapers-to-underwear, in a weekend with only an occasional accident afterwards. "Naked time" proved to be the trick for him.  My extended family found it a little disturbing, but it worked and I wasn't left with soiled underwear or carpet.

Fast-forward to Keegan.  I knew enough this time around to wait.  As a seasoned parent, I now knew EXACTLY how to do this! Sure enough shortly before his third birthday he showed signs of being ready.  Confidently, I planned for our weekend.  My hubby took Xander and Treyton out for the morning, so we could focus. {Oh my heart leapt at the thought of being oh so very close to less diaper changing!}

The weekend was a flop.  This son of mine hated naked time, could care less about his pride or my carpet and refused to 'try' when I asked him too.  Frustrated and convinced that this stubborn son of mine would be in diapers forever, I started to put the train, airplane and dino undies away...  Keegan balked.  As cheerfully as I could I got down at his level and explained that it was ok, but he wasn't ready.  With three little boys running around, mommy didn't have the patience or inclination to deal with wet underwear and carpet.  Keegan persisted in asking for the underwear.  Finally, in a moment of Providence, I agreed to give him one more chance.  I calmly told him that he could wear underwear, like his big brother, as long as he kept them dry.  With a steady, focused gaze, this nearly 3 year old son of mine agreed to my bargain, grabbed the underware and got dressed.  That week he potty trained himself.  This boy of mine was self-motivated.  When he put his mind to a task, he was tenacious.  While Xander thrived on words of affirmation and having me there for guidance and encouragment, Keegan simply wanted to be left alone.

And then son #3.  Don't get me started...  This happy-go-lucky guy took his own path.  A messier one.  But we survived.

What I learned through all of this was to value them as unique human beings. They each had special temperaments and abilities.  What ultimately motivated them was as unique as they were.  I'm learning day-by-day to embrace their distinct personalities.  I'm learning to rely on the Holy Spirit in communicating with them and reaching their hearts.

When it comes to homeschooling, these same lessons apply.  There are moments when I just sit, befuddled.  How do I teach this one?  What am I doing wrong?  This 'technique' or that 'approach' worked for 'so and so', etc...  Just like with the potty training example, I'm learning that each of my children are wired differently.  God created them special and unique.  He entrusted them to me which means that God is going to provide me the means to figure them each out. 

And you know what?  He's going to do that for you too.  As you read, pray and try new things with your children, He is going to provide.  He always does.  Sometimes we live such noisy, distracted lives that we don't hear it. 

I've been praying a lot lately for wisdom in how to motivate these unique human beings that I'm called to train and educate.  And God dropped this little nugget in my lap.  I found this great article by Marilyn Boyer on the 4 Motivational Types of Learners.  She talks about 4 primary motivational categories:
  • the self-directed learner
  • the sensitive learners
  • the slothful learners
  • the steady learner
In addition to describing characteristics that apply to each, she also gives a treasure trove of ideas on how to motivate them.   It was eye-opening, encouraging and practical.  This mama of 14 {no, that is not a typo} would know a bit about unique learning styles, wouldn't she?  I need to print this off for my lesson-plan binder.  I also enjoyed the reminder to embrace their differences when I read her related post on Struggling Learners.

Pause, pray and then move out in faith.  If God has called you to teach these children of yours, He will give you the grace and ability to do it!


  1. Good post! On the potty-training note: Two days ago I tried undies on my 2 1/2 year old. I changed 6 underwear/pant combinations in one day. Today, I put him in underwear again and he pooped - diarrhea all over - which made this pregnant momma almost throw up! Tomorrow I will put him in diapers. I'll try again in a month. ;)

    1. Ugh... Yup, that is the point when I put them BACK in diapers. Potty training has to be my least favorite part of parenting.