This post is the SECOND in a series of posts on strategy combination that will guide parents towards helping their children choose difficult goals above easier ones. You can find the FIRST post here. This post is written to complement Petunia's Book, which only explains each motivation strategy in isolation, not in combination.
SECOND AND THIRD INGREDIENTS IN THE MOTIVATION RECIPE: STRUCTURED CHOICES AND CHALLENGING GOALS
Provide a range of Structured Choices wherein the most difficult goal is still only of moderate difficulty for your child (not for YOU... for your CHILD... see the goal with the eyes of your child). Ensure that the goal choices you provide are designed in such a way that if he/she succeeds at the most difficult goal choice, it automatically means that there is no utility in working on the more easy goal choices.
For example, in a sub-unit of a Math assessment book, I noted that the questions were provided in order of difficulty, with the most difficult at the end. I gave Little Boy the choice between the last 3 questions, the 2nd last 3 questions and the 3rd last 3 questions. I explained that I expected him to evaluate his own abilities and to make a wise choice between the 3 sets of 3 questions. "Choose the difficulty level you can comfortably manage. You know yourself better than I know you," I gently urged.
As almost an afterthought (this is IMPORTANT... try and look absent-minded and casual when you say this), I also said, "By the way, if you can comfortably do the last 3 questions, don't waste time on the other 6. However, if you cannot manage the difficult questions, then do the easier ones first, and the difficult ones later. If you finish earlier than expected, go and play, ok? "
This means that the child has a discreet (and subtly communicated) incentive to choose the most difficult questions he/she can manage... in order to do less work, and play more. Since even the most difficult goal choice you gave him earlier, is still quite doable, you've set your child up for success even though he had just chosen the more/most difficult of the 3 sets of questions given him to choose.
Upon succeeding, your child will certainly feel rather happy. Intensify his pleased mood by pumping through the Emotional Connection large volumes of happiness and approval. Smile... show your joy... drop everything and play with him when he is done. Commend him for having chosen challenge and conquered it.
This creates a clear association between the emotional resources you pump through the Emotional Connection and the fact that he chose to take on challenge. He knows that the joy that came through from you to him came about because he had chosen to do the most difficult something he could manage.
Subconsciously, the child wants to experience that rush of pleasure that came through the Emotional Connection again. The next time around he is more likely to willingly choose the more difficult questions even if you don't provide any discreet incentive in the form of play. He would want to choose challenge simply because he wants another dose of joy to come through your Emotional Connection. If your Emotional Connection is weak, it stands to reason that this part of your recipe will fall completely flat.
At this point, we aren't finished yet. We still need to stabilize this nascent tendency to choose challenge... by turning it into a habit, and an essential part of the self-concept. However, I will not blog about this here because Mommies/Daddies who have read Petunia's Book, will be able to strategise on their own how to achieve this.