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How to Motivate Your Kids

“Because I said so” is not a phrase that motivates and inspires kids to get their schoolwork done. Neither is “Because it’s good for you” or “Because everybody needs to know (or do) this.” So why, when my child begins stabbing his eraser with frustration and moaning “Why do I hafta do this?” would I answer with those words?

Probably because I’m at a loss. After all, the curriculum said I need to teach you that, some source told me it’s good for you to know this, and “everybody” expects me to make sure you can do this in order to ________ (fill in the blank).

Some kids are intrinsically motivated to get stuff done and check it off their list regardless of what it is while others will only give it 100% when it’s a FUN subject for them. Still others would rather be curled up with a book and left alone, while on the flip side, many students are more motivated to work when they’re doing it with someone.

So, parent, what motivates you? What motivates you may or may not be the same as what motivates your child. Most of us are familiar with the concept of different learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), but are we familiar with the different types of core motives?

A couple years ago I learned that typical personality tests simply describe predicted behavior, while the driving force behind it (the core motive) often gets overlooked. Of course, we are all influenced by our upbringing, circumstances, family dynamics, and socio-economic demographics. These factors play a role in our personality. But at the end of the day, there is something inherent - innate - that motivates us at a deeper level regardless of our personality.

Enter: the Color Code. The Color Code is an online test that determines which of the four core motives drives you the most. Sound cheesy? Maybe. But I’m telling you, this stuff brought a ton of clarity to our family and how we relate with each other. It was revolutionary. (I’ll give you a link for a FREE test and a coupon at the end of this post so you can see for yourself.)

Here’s what it entails in an oversimplified nutshell. There are four basic driving core motives that are identified by a certain color.

*If you test as a red, you are motivated by power. This means you like to move things from point A to point B. You like to get. Stuff. Done.

*If you test as a blue, you are motivated by intimacy. Connection with others is at the heart of what makes you tick.

*If you test as a white, you are motivated by peace. You are intuitive and tend to bring resolution to situations - a peacemaker.

*If you test as a yellow, you are motivated by fun. As long as something is fun (or has the promise of fun), you’re in!

Each of the colors has strengths and weaknesses depending on how healthy and mature a person is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For example, a red may accomplish many wonderful things, but if she isn’t “healthy” in her color, she will place task above relationship and run over the people she loves most. A blue desires connection but can also be highly critical of himself and others, resulting in broken relationships. A white may want to avoid outward conflict to the point where he becomes stubbornly quiet (passive aggressive), and a yellow may be so intent on fun that she starts projects and doesn’t finish them when the going gets tough or when she becomes bored.

What does this have to do with homeschooling, you ask? Plenty. When we understand our core motive and the core motives of our children, we can avoid that eraser-stabbing stage of exasperation and become a source of inspiration to our kids rather than a source of frustration.

Here’s how this plays out for me. After graduating our kiddos from our homeschool, we are now empty-nesters, and I am currently running a private school from my home. In other words, I’m “homeschooling” other people’s kids (as a legal private school). As soon as I was able to discern what my students’ colors were, I began to employ my Color Code knowledge in our schooling. I know that I am motivated by getting things done (accomplishment, productivity) and I know I have students who are not motivated by that.

One of my students has mostly white traits, so I know he is motivated by peace (lack of conflict) and simply wants to avoid being wrong. When I discuss his completed writing assignments with him, I use words like, “What do you think could be improved in this sentence?” instead of “No, that’s wrong.” I also know he prefers working when it’s quiet and peaceful, and accomplishes more in that setting.

Another student, however, is as yellow as they come. He is motivated by one thing: fun. He also thrives with plenty of verbal praise for work that gets completed, particularly because he both needs and is distracted by the presence of other people when he works. Making learning game-like and dramatic hits his sweet spot, as does my enthusiasm for how “fun” certain assignments and activities are.

Yet another student is a strong red. She is self-driven, enjoys checklists, like to be right, and looks for opportunities to achieve. She is motivated by accomplishment at her own pace in her own way. So all I need to do is give her opportunities to accomplish and excel (like letting her do corrections even when she has already earned an A grade).

When I look back at homeschooling my own kids, I see how they (and I) showed up in their colors. For example, as a red, I got right to work with my older kids each day after making sure my 3-year-old had his basic needs met and had some toys to play with. Well, that 3-year-old had a phase where he became very naughty every day during my school time with his older siblings!

One day I decided to start the school day with him first, by rocking him and reading books with him and calling it school. No more naughty. I learned 15 years later that he is a blue and is motivated by intimacy and connection. When I set aside my red “need to accomplish the task” and instead opted for “connect with your little one first,” our school day ran smoothly! My 3-year-old’s little bucket got filled so he did not need to get my attention by being naughty.

My older son is a white, and he loves to bring resolution and solve problems. I realize now that’s the reason he thrived on a math curriculum that was literature-based and required him to solve riddle-like problems. He's always had the natural clarity and instinct to solve problems and bring order to disorder. Now, he gets to use and enjoy these helpful white traits in his career.

My daughter is a red like me, so she wanted to create her own homeschool schedule of what she wanted to accomplish each day and preferred to work independently so she could get it done her way - the “right” way. ;) Allowing her to succeed independent of my control was the way to go for her. She felt ownership in her education and her success and earned academic scholarships for college.

What would you like to see improved in your homeschool? By learning what motivates you and your kids, you’ll be equipped to inspire them without words like “because I said so” and instead use words like:

*“I wonder how many minutes it will take you to finish history today. How about if it takes you more than 20 minutes, I pick the game we play afterwards and if it takes less than 20 minutes you get to pick the game we play?” (yellow).

*“You get to call the shots here. How would you like to arrange your schoolwork this week so you can get the most done? If you meet your goals for the week, what do you think would be a fun reward?” (red).

*”I’m going to assume you can work through the answers for your math assignment today. You can work on it for awhile and if you happen to have any questions, let me know and I’ll give you a hint so you can figure it out” (waits for long pause while white considers this before agreeing to it…).

*”Let’s see if Billy wants to come over to be your lab partner for science once a week. When you two finish your lab work, you can hang out for a couple hours. Would you like to sit at the table with me and we can have a little snack while I quiz you on your spelling words now?” (blue).

I wish I knew about the Color Code when I first started homeschooling (and general parenting for that matter). I see it as an opportunity to better understand (and therefore enjoy!) my kids the way they are, not the way I think they should be. The students I teach are an absolute treat because I appreciate how they’re wired. They show up in their colors and it is a joy to experience them in all their predictability and uniqueness.

Curious about the Color Code and how it can impact your family and your homeschool?

Here’s the link for a FREE test: The test will tell you your primary color and provide a description of it. If you want to know your percentages of each of the four colors and read your full printable report, that link will give you $10 off.

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