Petunia's Book does not document the effects of combined strategies... well... at least, not explicitly. The careful reader of Petunia's Book will be able to discern from the anecdotes some sense of strategy combination. This post is written for those who've read Petunia's Book. I want to show how motivation strategies work TOGETHER (as a recipe) to achieve the effects we want. Individual strategies have limited effectiveness. Mismatched strategies completely WON'T WORK.
Most parents are afraid that if the child is allowed to choose his/her own goals, the little tyke will end up choosing the easiest goal possible. In this post, I will attempt to show how a combination of strategies can ensure that the child will choose challenging goals... instead of the easiest goal possible.
FIRST INGREDIENT IN MOTIVATION RECIPE: EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
First of all, there needs to be a robust Emotional Connection between adult and child. 99.99% of the time, this Emotional Connection transmits clean emotional energy to the child... so much so that the child grows to rely on this emotional sustenance as an important resource when the going gets tough. This ensures that your child views this resource as necessary to his wellbeing. You can tell when your child is dependent upon the emotional sustenance you feed him when like Little Boy...
(1) He is sensitive to even slight changes in your mood. When a lot of clean emotional energy is pumped through the emotional connection (over a long period of time), the bandwidth of this connection increases. This means that reductions in emotional energy can be easily discerned... as compared to an emotional connection that has been so withered by emotional toxin, that very little emotional energy (of the clean or the dirty sort) can get through.
(2) He is anxious to re-establish the flow of emotional energy through the Emotional Connection whenever you withdraw into yourself and temporarily stop being his source of clean emotional energy. Little Boy often asks me "Why do you look moody today?" when I frown a little over an interesting work challenge... or when I am not pleased with someone else. Or simply, when I am tired.
(3) He asks for you to be near him when tackling challenges. Little Boy plans his work schedule around my availability. On days when I have to go out, he plans fun and motivating work. On days when I am home, he plans tedious and highly difficult work like memorizing 2000 word Chinese Compositions. If your child chases you away when there is work to be done, it means you're not managing the Emotional Connection well.
(4) He gets a shock whenever you feed anger through the Emotional Connection. In Singapore, we grow to expect clean, pure water from our taps. None of us are prepared to defend our households against the event of sewage water flowing out of our kitchen and bathroom taps. None of us have the defensive habits to guard against the hurt (diarrhea and stomach upset) that contaminated water can wreak upon our families and ourselves. Similarly, Little Boy has come to expect clean and pure emotional energy from me. On the very rare occasion when I DECIDE to pump a high volume of Mother Medusa anger through our Emotional Connection, Little Boy has no psychological defenses against my anger. The shock and pain for Little Boy is so great that he NEVER repeats the behavior that brought on Mother Medusa. I don't have to hit him. The psychological pain inflicted is sharp enough. Do note that I make a DECISION to pump anger through the Emotional Connection. It is almost never out-of-control anger.
(5) If YOU'RE angry, no one else but YOU can console your child. When Petunia is displeased with Little Boy, it does not matter what Grandma, Grandpa or The Husband says to comfort him. I am the only one in control of the Emotional Connection I share with Little Boy and since he is dependent on MY energy, it is MY good pleasure that counts... and no one else's.
The above 5 points has the following implications. Firstly, a robust Emotional Connection can be used to punish a child by withholding the supply of clean emotional energy OR by a decision to feed intense angry energy through it. Secondly, overusing the Emotional Connection to hurt the child is NEVER a good idea. All you will achieve is to stimulate the child's psychological defenses against you... weaken the Emotional Connection that you share... and eventually, lose any influence you might have had over your child. Thirdly, once the child learns that the Emotional Connection has the RARE potential to hurt as well as the COPIOUS potential to nurture, the child learns quickly to try and manage the Emotional Connection by brainstorming the various ways to make you happy.
When you can get your child to the point where he is keen to make you happy... it is time to add the next ingredient to your Motivation Recipe. Since this post is getting long enough, the next ingredient will be the topic of my next blogpost here.