Have We Got Motivation All Wrong?

People’s theories about motivation are fascinating. When we talk about unmotivated kids, the conversation often ends up being focused on how we have to provide severe enough consequences to prompt kids into action. Unless they feel bad enough about the way they have treated others, or unless they stand to lose something that really matters to them, we think that kids will continue to make bad choices.

In my ongoing quest to understand human nature, I’ve found myself exploring the world of advertising. It seems likely that people in that business understand a thing or two about motivation. Advertising works. Companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars on it if it didn’t. And as parents and educators, I think we can learn something about motivating people from these folks who motivate us every day to buy the things we do.

Think about how many commercials paint a picture of how wonderful your life will be if you purchase their product. They give you hope that buying their beer or using their tampons will give you that carefree, happy life that you’ve always wanted. They tap into each one of our needs – showing us how we can be popular, powerful, free, and have a great time doing it!

I’ve witnessed adults many times who are trying to motivate kids by telling them that they behaved badly, and that they should be ashamed. I watched as these children hung their heads and were demoralized.

Imagine how successful an advertising campaign would be if it made you feel bad about yourself instead of making you believe you could have it all?

What would happen if instead of punishing our kids if we were to talk with them about what life would be like if they could meet all their needs, and help them figure out how to do this?

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