Unhappy Children are Very Difficult to Motivate

Unhappy Children are Very Difficult to Motivate


We have four basic needs beyond our physical condition. Certainly we all need food, shelter, and water, but that is not the kind of need I am talking about. In addition to those physical needs, we also have psychological needs. They are Love, Power, Fun, and Freedom. We need these every day. If you are not meeting these needs daily, then you are not happy.

Your children need love – not the romantic type of love, but the type that is fulfilled through family and community. They need people that love them, care for them, and contribute to their sense of belonging. This type of love comes from involvement and a commitment of time and energy. They need this love every day.

They also need power. This is not power over someone. We experience power when we know there are things we do well. Your children need to feel good about what they do and to have those skills acknowledged every day. Sometimes we help provide this by allowing our children to have opportunities to reinforce their skills and to do things that they are good at to achieve that sense of power.

The third need is fun. We know that kids are really good at this, but family members of all ages need this. Fun involves pleasure, enjoyment, learning, and laughter. Things that refresh and renew our energies are fun. Having taught these concepts at conferences for many years, I have seen that this area is difficult for adults. However, our children need to see us having fun as well. If ‘growing up’ isn’t fun, why will they want to do it? Look for ways to have fun and be seen having fun so that this need is met for all of the family.

Finally, they need freedom, which is a big issue for kids. They need to know that they have the ability to choose how they meet their fun, love, and power needs for the day. They need to learn how to make decisions and find the freedom to be decisive, which are two very different things.

I work out with my neighbor and sometimes, on a really good day, I can meet all four of my needs before 6:30 in the morning. My neighbor, Teresa, is my friend. So, when I go over there in the morning, I get the need for love fulfilled. I can also meet my need for power on some days, because Teresa is an orthodontist, and she works with teenagers. Sometimes teenagers don’t brush when they have braces, or mess with their rubber bands, etc. So, we will brainstorm during our workout about how to behaviorally help them through that, enabling me to be the expert on behavioral issues. We always have fun every morning when we work out. I mean, would you get up that early if you couldn’t have a little fun? In addition, this hour is very important to me; it is my little piece of freedom every day. So, on a lucky day, all four of my basic needs are met before 6 a.m.

One thing I encourage you to do and to teach your children to do is to run a mental checklist at the end of each day. Did my needs get met? If not, why? What was missing? What can I do differently tomorrow?

I mentioned physical needs at the beginning of this chapter. Our bodies, when treated well, offer an immense amount of information about how we are feeling and thinking.

Children need to be aware and articulate their needs and their abilities to meet these needs without infringing upon anyone else’s abilities to meet their needs. To do this they must be trained to think about the signals they are getting from their body, consider the actions they can take, and then act.