Understanding child motivation (my first vacation post from France)

This summer my wife and I took the family to the south of France for an extended vacation. I’ve truly been in vacation mode, so sorry about not posting much to the Talking to Toddlers blog in the last few weeks.

We’ve been going to the beach a lot. The other day something happened that reminded me about how a child’s behavior can depend upon his or her motivation. It’s really a simple lesson that I hope serves as a good reminder for you.

My oldest daughter has this obsession with making sure there is no sand on her towel. Whenever there is some sand on it, she wants to pick it up and shake it off.

That’s fine and dandy when she’s downwind from us and there is nobody else around. But if there are other people beside us we usually take the towel down towards the water and shake it out for her.

She’s not quite skilled enough to shake it off herself without flicking sand on our neighbours, especially on a busy day at the beach. She knows that, so she asks us to do it for her.

The other day she asked Mom to shake out her towel. Mom was busy getting something out of the beach bag, so she simply told Anne, “Hang on a second.”

Feeling a bit impatient, Anne carefully started to shake out her own towel – just as she’d been asked not to do. So of course my wife jumped up to take over – not wanting to toss sand on the people beside us.

Now here’s the thing: You can’t really get mad at your child for this type of behavior. She was trying to be careful, and she had asked for help at first. But she didn’t feel like waiting and she took her own initiative to solve the problem. In her mind she saw nothing wrong with this. If we had scolded her for it, we’d possibly be damaging her future willingness to go out and solve her own problems.

As my wife was helping Anne with her towel I thought to myself, “Clever girl”. She knew that by taking it upon herself to shake out her towel she would accomplish her goal one way or the other. Either she would do it herself, or she’d get Mom to stop whatever she was doing and take over immediately rather than making her wait.

I’m not the type to simply let my kids get away with breaking all sorts of rules, but in this case I had to sit back and realize that she was developing into a person who takes action, and thinks for herself, and doesn’t want to rely on someone else for help all the time. I’ve got no problem with that.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a wonderful summer too.

Enjoy your children,
Chris Thompson

SEE ALSO: This audio lesson will forever change the way you interact with your kids

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