Finding My Son’s Motivation

At kindergarten orientation for our 5-year-old son a few weeks ago, the school’s principal handed each family several sheets of “sight” words that the incoming kindergartners should know prior to the school year. Being a Type A parent, as soon as we got home I cut those words into flash cards and started drilling my son.

Before you picture me like that over-the-type, obsessive Rick Moranis character from “Parenthood,” please know that after our initial day or two of working on those cards, they sat in a kitchen drawer for about 2 months. Obsessive, yes. Forgetful, absolutely.

I recently dusted the words off because I suddenly realized that kindergarten starts in like 4 weeks. When I showed them to my son, he smacked his forehead and said, “Oh brother.” His excitement rivaled my excitement when my wife says, “Let’s repaint the bedrooms.”

But I proceeded anyway. As he barely shifted his eyes from the television, I showed him a flashcard of the word “Here.” He playfully said every word that he could think of other than “here.”

“What are the letters,” I asked him.

“S-L-R-Q,” he said, matter-of-factly, not averting his eyes from the tv.

Ok, I thought. How do I find this kid’s motivation point? He clearly has no interest in doing this and, to be honest, part of me felt bad about pushing him. It’s summer, after all, and he’s a really good and smart kid. Still, if I slack off as a parent what message does that send to him? These are formative years and if we develop a solid foundation for building a work ethic, we’ll all be better off.

I wish I could say that I experienced a parenting epiphany and solved the problem. But the solution appeared in the form of our 3-year-old son.

“I wanna do the words, Daddy,” my younger son said.

At that, my older son perked up. “No, I’m doing them,” he told his brother, indignantly.

It was my light bulb moment. My older son is motivated by competition. Duh. Once his little bro wanted in on the action, it became a game. “Who can tell me this letter?” I asked. Both boys responded. “And this one? What sound does this letter make? What is this word?” I made a breakthrough.

It didn’t matter to my older boy that his brother knew only a few of the letters and is too young to recognize any of the words. He simply didn’t want to lose.

Now, we work on those words for a few minutes every day. And whenever my older son gets bored or his minds starts to drift, I call in my ace in the hole.

“Hey, little guy,” I yell out to my younger son. “Want to come learn some new words?”

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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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