My son, 19, has always been very wise, which is why he chooses to do his school work well. His desire to be wise and pleasing to God helps him self-motivate, set goals, complete his tasks on time and well. But underneath that wisdom lies a reluctant scholar, who, for some of the tougher or more unpleasant assignments, has needed extra motivation from me.
For example, when it came time to bite the bullet in high school, when he was 16, and learn how to write a 5-paragraph essay, he needed LOTS of motivation. His assignment? Write 40 practice essays, then take the College Composition CLEP, which was a 2-part test consisting of 90 English "Usage" and writing multiple choice questions (he didn't need to practice for this part), and then two timed essays, "persuasive" style, where he needed to be able to use, to support his position, relevant examples and quotes from anything he could think of (such as literature, history, current news, etc.) It took him at least eight months to write these 40 essays... something his sister could have done in a week. Eight. Months. I was able to tell him he could not play with Legos each night until his homework was done (one essay, about 40 minutes), and that helped a little. But it was not enough. Really. It was just a 1-2 page essay that didn't even require any research! I told him that if he didn't have one essay done each night, then the next day he was "grounded" and could not drive his truck, which meant he could not go to work or to class at the local college, which means he would suffer the consequences of not showing up to work or class. He got those annoying essays done. And passed his CLEP. And in the three years since, he has developed into an excellent writer.
Right now he is struggling to finish his VERY LAST course that will earn him his Bachelor's Degree. It is an online statistics course and it is beyond frustrating. Every problem is very long, and if you type one space wrong, or reverse the numbers in multiplication section (as in, type 3x4 instead of 4x3), the computer marks you "wrong" and gives you two additional problems as punishment. He has had to learn, more than learning "statistics," how to keep careful notes of how to type in his answers, space by space, jot by tittle, and refer to his own notes. And just when he learns what the computer wants, the computer changes its mind--uses different terms and formats! He is more learning to crack some programmer's "code" than learning statistics. But, he has persevered, and now he has 5 topics left (3 problems per topic, unless he gets an answer wrong, then it snowballs from there).
He has needed help with motivation. He is burnt out on this dumb course, but he decided it wasn't worth bailing on it to replace it with a different course or class, which we did talk about several times. He decided to stick it out, and he's almost there. It has to be done by September 30 to receive his degree in the December graduating class.
Since he is now 19 and considered an adult, I have to think of different ways to help him. I can't ground him or take away his truck. He is a manager at his company, and it just wouldn't work to not show up and have to explain he was "grounded." So... what to do. My husband and I tried to think of several things... including the promise of a new Kindle Fire if the course was completed by a certain date. That didn't work. He has his own money and could have bought himself 10 of them if he had wanted. He ordered a giant new Lego Technic set and decided not to let himself open it until his class was done. It's still sitting there. It didn't really make him work any faster. I considered telling him he couldn't touch the piano until his class was done, but knew that wasn't right. He plays to unwind when he needs a break. Could I tell him not to buy pizza? No. He would just buy Hot Pockets, or calzones, or... . How to help?
But you are going to laugh when you hear how, after praying about this for a few days, I realized what I needed to do. I forbid him to mow the grass.
It's my grass. I can tell him not to touch it! I wasn't trying to upset him, really. I was trying to help him see that his class was more important than mowing right now. And he likes mowing, and he likes the grass to be nice and neat and short--he likes everything neat. And he hates Statistics. It was too easy for him to bail on working on the class because he "HAD to mow."
So, that motivated him. And removed a major distraction. I wanted to help him see that he needed to do school, then worry about mowing later.
I told him flat-out: "Nope. You don't touch it until your Statistics class is done." I knew it would help when he froze on the spot, processing this information.
|A kitten playing "tiger" in our long grass!|
He still found a way to get out of school work, though. He spent a day cleaning and organizing the garage.
He found another way to motivate himself, too. He made a pact with the guys at work (who are all cheering him on in his degree pursuit) that he would not shave until his class is done. Oh boy... his beard is driving him crazy! But he's enjoying the little challenge at the same time. It's always interesting for a young man to grow out his beard for the first time!
|Mountain man, Gabe!|
He's probably in 3-day range, now, of finishing the class. He's been able to get two or three topics done per day. Then he has to pass an assessment and send the email to apply for the credit towards his degree.
Then he will shave, show up to work in triumph amongst the cheers of his colleagues, and then he will come home and mow whenever he likes. With a Bachelor's Degree to hang on his wall, smiling at him, reminding him of his diligence and wisdom and perseverance.
Boy, am I proud of this kid! Thank you, Lord, for being with us every step of the way as he has grown!