• I’m fortunate that I have two daughters who have each found their little niche and have taken to a specific extra-curricular activity that they’ve stuck with for the past few years.  For the most part, they tend to be pretty much self-motivated.  Sure, we had some trials and tribulations at first but they knew what they wanted to do and were able to stick with it.  My 9 year-old son, on the other hand…well, he’s another story.  He’s bounced around all over the place and tried everything from piano, drums, violin, soccer, basketball, baseball – you name it, you name it, he’s tried it.  But nothing seems to stick.  I’m torn whether to force him to stay with one specific activity at all expense (a là “Tiger Mom”) or to just chauffeur him around from one activity to the next.  His motivation rarely last for more than a month or two at best, at which point he complains that he’s bored and wants to move on.  The problem is that it’s getting expensive and my patience is wearing thin.

    I originally went with my first instinct and tried to force him to stick with whatever activity he started.  I pushed him toward swimming and would force him to go, but soon realized that I was the one that was getting a workout.  It was a constant battle and even when I persuaded him to go, he was miserable and would have such a sour face that he ended up putting in minimal effort.  I guess it was his way of letting me know that I can’t really force him to do anything.  Eventually, I got the message and just allowed him to quit.

    I understand that some kids need a push to get motivated but he needed more like a kick in the you-know-what and he still moaned and complained about it.  My options were to push through his crying and force him to go, punish him, or continue to bounce around from place to place.  In school, they often label some children as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because they can’t sit and focus on certain subjects in class. Some diagnoses may be appropriate but do they ever stop to ask: perhaps the child is simply not interested in this topic?

    The reality is that if the child was exposed to something he liked and that interested him, he’d probably be much more engaged.

    You can’t force children to like something or make their body go against their basic instincts. Well, I guess you can – if you medicate the daylights out of them!

    I finally realized that I was burning myself out and that it was not doing either of us any good. I wanted my son to participate in an activity that would help build his self-esteem but, at the same time, one that he was motivated to attend on his own.  I didn’t want to be one doing all the work, or the one who was more invested in the activity! I realized that my job was to expose him to as many diverse activities as possible, without breaking the bank, of course. Luckily, most places didn’t charge me for the first “trial” session.  So, I stopped pushing and set up initial sessions with as many diverse activities as possible. This changed the dynamics between us since I was no longer forcing him to go back to activities that he didn’t want to pursue.  I encouraged him to try as many different activities as possible and verbalized that whatever he chose was purely for his benefit and not mine!  As soon as I let go, he found his niche and began reacting differently by asking me to go back for a second, third and fourth class.  Maybe it was “reverse psychology” that finally worked, but when I acted like I didn’t care, he seemed to pick up the slack and was much more motivated to attend on his own!