That Really Fine Line

25 Aug

One of my favorite sessions to present to both educators and parents is called Unleashing Excellence – I’m going to thumbnail it for all of my parent, teacher and coach friends – and also anyone who manages others in any capacity.

This is a way for each of us to take a good look at ourselves and see which side of the ‘line’ we stand on – and to recognize how we might be perceived in the eyes of kids and others…

Do you Motivate or Manipulate?


Motivating others involves helping them explore and find their passions and giving them the freedom and encouragement to develop their own ways to achieve success or enjoyment.

Manipulation is a tactic used by lots of adults to coerce kids to get involved in activities that fulfil them (the adult – and perhaps an unfulfilled dream or childhood), but not necessarily the child. Manipulation often comes with unrealistic expectations for our kids.

We all need to ask ourselves if we respect our kids enough to let them explore, learn, fail, get up and try again. Or try something else. I’ve seen dads insist on having their sons play sports when all their sons ever wanted was to play an instrument or tryout for the school play. Worse, I’ve known kids who gave up dreams that meant the most to them, in order to ‘make their parents proud’ and instead followed in their footsteps to become doctors, attorneys or accountants.

Bottom line for adults: Motivating is for others – Manipulating is for you…

Do you Inspire or Intimidate?

When we Inspire others – particularly kids – we help develop positive self-discipline and personal thought process; we model commitment and the benefit of living up to our own expectations and standards and we draw on and accept our potential.

Intimidation takes on a whole other dimension and very often a damaging one. When kids feel intimidated, they often are afraid to fail – not because not winning or getting ahead is so bad, but because they fear the wrath of the parent, coach or teacher. (Isn’t that awful to even think of?)

And because so many of us sadly base our own self-worth on the success or failure of our children, we lose sight of the natural progression of kids growing into their own versions of themselves and their need to find their autonomy through sometimes difficult and snarky means.

The bottom line is – are you giving (inspiration) or getting (intimidation)?

So how do we keep ourselves on track as adults dealing with and raising kids?

Well, do we wish for Rewards – helping kids to develop the kinds of life skills and perspective to eventually become productive, happy and confident people?

Or would we prefer Results – pressuring our kids to be the best, win at all costs and claw their way to the top of a self-imposed, mostly unrealistic top of the heap?


Rewards or Results: Outcomes can deceptively look the same – but here are two more ‘R’s that will help us identify where we are with our kids and how they might perceive us….in the end, will they Respect or Resent us?

Go for the rewards….

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