Tag Archive for motivation

Before You Apologize, Consider This

Apologizing is humbling, even difficult. It becomes even more difficult if you’ve ever experienced a time in which apologizing backfired and just made things worse. Or, if you have childhood memories of being forced to apologize for something you didn’t even do. Maybe that’s part of the issue. No one ever taught us how to apologize. In marriage, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice apologizing. It will go much more smoothly if you take a moment to learn how to apologize well. With that in mind, the first step in making an effective apology is to answer two question.

The first question: What motives underlie my desire to apologize? Why am I apologizing? Many times, we have poor motives for apologizing.

Husband coming home late to an angry wife who is holding a rolling pin
  • For instance, apologizing just to get back in good graces or to put the event behind us are bad motives for an apology. Your spouse will see through the apology to the motive and become even more upset.
  • Sometimes we apologize because we fear our spouse will dislike us or remain angry at us. We don’t like other people (especially our spouse) having negative emotions toward us. So, we apologize in an  attempt to free ourselves from being disliked, to free ourselves from the burden of another person’s negative emotions. It won’t work. It will only increase those negative emotions. You need a different motive.
  • Sometimes we apologize because we want our spouse to “forget it about it” and “get on with our happy marriage.” We apologize to get our spouse to “move on.” You’ve heard it, “Why are you still upset about this. I apologized.” Once again, won’t work.
  • Sometimes we are tempted to disguise our defense or justification for our action in an apology. These apologies start with an “I’m sorry” followed by a “but” that transforms the apology into a defense, justification, or blame. “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have….” “I’m sorry, but I was tired.” “I’m sorry, but you have to understand….” These apologies really aren’t apologies at all. Notice that each of the four motives mentioned so far focus on “me” and “my” relief. They will not work.
  • A motive for true apology is the recognition that I did something hurtful to my spouse. I did or said something wrong. I was thoughtless, rude, uncaring, hurtful. I love my spouse and I do not want to hurt them. As a result, I want to apologize for hurting them. I want to take ownership for my hurtful actions or words and apologize. I want to tell my spouse how I plan to avoid those hurtful words and deeds in the future. I apologize to sincerely express my sorrow for hurting the one I love and to explain my plan to avoid doing it again.

The second question: to whom am I going to apologize? Think about your spouse and their personality.

  • Some personalities welcome an apology. They are glad to hear the apology but become upset recalling the hurt for which you are apologizing. If you have experienced this in your marriage, know that your spouse needs a comprehensive apology. They also need you to stick with them so the two of you can process the original hurt. This will allow them to hear your true remorse and your plan to avoid hurting them in a similar way in the future. Don’t get caught up in their emotions. Stay calm. Stick with your apology. Listen, empathize, and restate your plan to change.  
  • Some personalities get uncomfortable with the vulnerability and emotion aroused by an apology. They often accept your apology with a quick “It’s alright” or “Don’t worry about it.”  Unfortunately, they may still hold some resentment even as they avoid talking about it. So, take a moment to let them know you are willing to talk more about it and answer any of their questions and fears any time they like. Then be willing to do so.

What are your motives for apologizing? What is the personality of the person to whom you are apologizing? Answering these two questions before you begin will make your apology more sincere and effective.

Motivating Our Children

Have you ever wondered how to motivate your children? They could have better grades but they just don’t hand in their homework or study? They could accomplish so much more but they just seem to “lack motivation”? Researchers at the University of Michigan recently published a study that might just help. In a series of three studies, they explored how positive relationships impact motivation. They discovered that even a brief reminder of a “supportive other” increases motivation for personal growth, even in the face of challenges. The participants who reported actually having supportive relationships showed a greater willingness to accept challenges that promoted personal growth. They also reported feeling more self-confidence (Read For a better ‘I,’ there needs to be a supportive ‘we’ for more on the study). In terms of parenting, having a supportive relationship with your children will help increase our children’s motivation. I’m not suggesting that a supportive relationship will end all motivational woes. It will not result in your children suddenly becoming perfectly motivated to complete every chore and homework assignment given.  However, a positive supportive, relationship with your children will increase their motivation. A positive, supportive relationship with your children will increase the chances of them doing the chores more readily and even completing their homework. The question is: How do we develop and communicate a positive, supportive relationship with our children? I’m glad you (well…I) asked.

  1. Remain available. Our children know we are available when we engage them regularly. We communicate our availability by remaining open to interactions with them, putting aside our own agenda and responding to their direct, indirect, or even awkward attempts to engage us. Let your actions express your belief that being available to your children is more important than the game, your book, the paperwork, or whatever other distraction might pull you away from your children in the moment.
  2. Accept your children. Our children feel supported when they know we accept them whether they succeed or fail, experience joys or fears. They know we accept them when we acknowledge rather than criticize their efforts. They know we accept them when we acknowledge and allow for differences in taste and preferences. And, knowing they find acceptance in us they feel supported by us.
  3. Listen. Our children feel supported when they feel heard. This requires us to listen beyond mere words. We must listen with our ears to hear the words, our mind to understand their intent, and our hearts to understand their emotions. Then, our actions need to communicate our willingness to let their ideas and beliefs influence us. When we listen in this manner, our children know they have found acceptance and a supportive parent.
  4. Encourage. We communicate support through sincere encouragement. Sincere encouragement does not offer false praise. Our children abhor false praise. Nor does sincere encouragement manipulate. It is not offered to push our children in a particular direction or toward some action. Instead, we encourage our children by recognizing their inner dream and promoting it. We encourage them by acknowledging their effort and resulting progress.
  5. Offer honest, gentle correction. Children recognize honest, gentle correction as supportive. They benefit from a supportive parent who lovingly “nudges” them to grow, mature, and become a person of honor. Honest, gentle correction avoids screaming, name-calling, and belittling comments. Instead, it offers clear limits, consistent consequences, and loving correction. Gentle correction teaches from a foundation of love, communicating a value in our children.

These five actions can help our children feel supported. This will translate into a healthier sense of self-confidence and greater motivation to engage in behaviors that promote their own positive growth.

Motivation & Focus in Children

Did you see the article in Time magazine (7/23/15) entitled “In Praise of the Ordinary Child”? The author (Jeffrey Kluger) made several excellent observations. I would like to share two of his quotes along with a few comments.

  1. young photographer“There’s a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation;” and, I would add, parents need to learn the difference. As parents we need to become students of our children. As students, we learn what interests our children, what they get excited about and what “turns them on.” We discover passions dwelling within their hearts and minds. In other words, we uncover what they find intrinsically motivating. With that knowledge, we help them find ways to satisfy their passion. Their passion might vary from music in one child to carpentry in another…or babysitting, cleaning, law, or any number of other interests. In some children, their passion may change weekly (or daily), making it hard for a parent to keep up. Still, parents help their children find and pursue interests that arise from within. Too often parents cross the line from encouraging intrinsically motivating activities to extrinsically motivating children to pursue some activity. We push our children to pursue the activity we see them perform well whether they find it interesting or not. Or, we strongly encourage them to pursue an activity related to our interests like sports, reading, or music. Many children will initially comply with our interests simply to please us (their parents). However, they day will come when they rebel against us and pursue something more intrinsically motivating to them.


  1. “We force kids to focus prematurely.” As soon as children exhibit a glimmer of talent in some area, many parents swoop in and compel they focus on that talent with all their time and effort. Unfortunately, focusing too early kills interest and joy. Eventually, children “forced to focus prematurely” will burn out, lose interest, and quit. Talent, on the other hand, blossoms under the guise of play. Our children benefit when we allow them the opportunity to explore and pursue talents and interests in a playful leisurely manner, slowly developing a greater focus as their interests grow stronger. Rather than push your children to focus prematurely, allow them to develop a focus over time at their own pace. You will likely find yourself pleasantly surprised at their growing interest and talent.

3 Tips to Motivate Your Child

What did you do as a kid just for the fun it? I remember spending hours riding my bicycle. On the other hand, cleaning my room was not very fun or motivating. I recently read a review that described 3 factors that help build internal motivation. Contemplating these three factors (yes, I know–who contemplates motivation “just for the fun of it”), I could see why bike-riding was motivating and fun for me. First, bike-riding gave me a sense of competence. It was easy enough that I could do it; but it also presented challenges. For instance, could I make it up the next hill or would I have to get off and walk part way? If I did not make it up the hill one day, could I make it by the end of the week? How long will it take me to get to my destination…and can I shorten that time over the next couple of trips? Each of these challenges presented an opportunity to grow more competent and efficient as a bike-rider. A growing sense competence motivates people.


Second, riding my bike gave me a sense of autonomy. I was on my own. I could make choices about where to go, what path to take, and how fast to travel. The choices were mine! I had the “wind at my back and the sun on my face.” An adventure awaited around every bend. One time I was even “tailed” by an army helicopter. Later, I discovered it was my uncle, but the adventure of fleeing before an unknown army helicopter was exciting. Yes, riding my bike gave me a sense of autonomy, filled with choices and adventures. 


Third, I often rode my bike to visit friends…or, I rode with friends. Bike-riding helped me connect with other people. Where ever we went, my friends and I could stand around our bikes and talk.  Riding my bike was a ticket to connection, a journey to relationship.


You can see why I was motivated to ride my bike. It gave me a growing sense of competence, personal choices that built autonomy, and the opportunity to connect with friends. Cleaning my room, on the other hand, did not instill a sense of competence and presented no real challenge. I usually had to do it in response to my mother’s directive–I had no choice and no sense of autonomy. And, cleaning my room did nothing to enhance my relationships. My friends weren’t even allowed in my room. I know cleaning my room was, and is, important; but it is just not very motivating. But, could a parent use these three factors to help motivation their children to do things like clean their rooms? I think it might work. Consider these tips:


Help your child build a sense of competence or independence by allowing your children the opportunity to help with chores and jobs that present some challenge. Instead of simply “picking up the clothes,” let them help paint the bedroom, devise a new plan for storing their clothes (check out this fun theory video for ideas in this area), or make it a game in which you score points based on speed combined with efficiency and final cleanliness. We once attached each task of a morning routine to a puzzle piece for our preschool daughter. She then faced the challenge of finishing her morning routine to see what picture she produced with the puzzle pieces. She loved it…and the morning routine suddenly became easier. Do whatever you can think of to make the chore more of a challenge. Of course, some chores are simply boring. But if we can find creative ways to make more of them exciting, maybe the boring ones won’t seem so bad.


To help your child develop a sense of personal autonomy, give them options and choices. Let them choose when to complete a chore, which of two necessary chores they will do for you, or how to do a chore. I like to cut the grass–sometimes in vertical rows, sometimes in horizontal rows, sometimes in a square, sometimes in diagonal rows, and sometimes I even start with letters (see the picture on the left for a message I recently left in the lawn for my wife when she returned from a trip). Either way, the grass still gets cut. Let your children have the same freedom in completing their chores. Teach them that they have options and choices.


Use chores to build connection with others by doing some chores with your children. Chip in and enjoy working together in the yard. If you plan on painting something, have a paint party with pizza and pop that your children, their friends, you, and your friends can all enjoy. Sing a song together while working. Enjoy working in groups to complete volunteer work in the neighborhood as well. Use your imagination to discover more ways to build connection by having fun working together.


I know that children will still not enjoy every chore…who does? But attempting to incorporate these three ideas into some of the household chores may help reduce their resistance to chores in general. And, your whole family might have a little fun in the process.