I recently ran my first 5K. It was really fun! My goal was to be ahead of the parents with strollers. I finished and felt strong with a sense of accomplishment! For the next run, my goal is to beat my time from this run – not a bad goal…
As I stood waiting to run, I saw so many families preparing together. Some of the kids were not running, but were there supporting their parent. I heard one 4-5 year old tell her mom, “You can do it! I am proud of you!” I thought to myself, “I wonder where she heard that before?”
As I ran, I heard parents talking with their children about how to run, how to pace themselves, how proud they were of their child, and how close they were getting to the finish line. There were two preteen girls, who I passed toward the end of the race that were talking as tweens will talk (Did you get that? I passed them…OK they later passed me. Anyhoo…).
One said to the other, “Did you want to do this or were you forced?”
With peer pressure hesitancy, the other girl seemed to be conflicted about what the “cool” response might be. After a pause, she responded, “Wellllll, I wanted to do it, it is kind of fun, my brother also runs and my parents.”
The first girl quickly replied, “Me too. My family runs!” That is when they broke from their walk and ran passed me.
It was so great to see the power of what their parents had modeled for their children. Even in the face of peer pressure, both girls clung to their family values.
Important: Parents’ Valued Behaviors Cannot Be Forced
The comment about being forced to run was interesting to me. The difference between feeling like you are forced or enticed and following a model is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside of a person. They do what they do because it feels good and right to them. They want to do the behavior out of their own free will. That is our goal as parents. We want our kids to do well in behaviors we value because it feels good to them and it is their own desire.
3 Tips for Encouraging the Behaviors that You Value
Here are a few tips to help develop your child’s natural desire to do the behaviors that you value:
1. Make sure it is fun!
2. Be sure that you model the same behavior in a positive way.
3. After a child has engaged in the behavior you want to develop, ask “How did that feel?” Linking feelings with behavior reinforces the behavior in a powerful way.