I happened upon a post in a Facebook group I’m part of that followed a tangent into a discussion about corporal punishment. One mother openly and proudly discussed flicking her child on the mouth with acrylic nails to get him to obey. While I would never presume to call this child abuse or say that this mother is abusive, especially knowing very little about her or her children, her comments led me to ponder the reasons I do not engage in such behaviors with my own children.
I remember once as a child wiping a booger on the curtains in our front living room. When it was discovered that I had done it I was punished physically. For the sake of this blog post let’s say I was flicked on the head. After being flicked I decided a few things. First of all, that if I planned on wiping a booger on the curtains in the future I better not get caught and if someone finds it I better lie about having put it there. And secondly, that the consequence for booger wiping is physical pain. I learned to not wipe boogers or hide said wiping, out of fear. My motivation was all wrong.
I have been thinking about motivation for some time now. And this booger wiping experience has been the perfect one for me to process and study. I try to imagine how different it would have been if I’d been allowed to endure the natural, logical consequences of booger wiping instead of being physically punished. If I had been instructed on how to dismantle, wash, dry, and rehang the curtain, with the bulk of the job left to me, I could have been given the opportunity to see the hard work that goes into keeping things clean. Especially things like curtains that are difficult to take down and put back up. It also would have been a wonderful time to teach me about the hygiene aspect of booger wiping. I could have learned, at a young age, what part boogers play in health, what germs they carry, what sort of viruses they can spread, (I realize this would have been time intensive without the use of google, haha, it’s much easier for me to do this part with my own kids.) and consequently been saved from years of booger picking and wiping and eating. In essence I could have learned to be motivated by love. Using a tissue for my boogies would seem much more appealing if I knew that it would allow me more time to play, something I loved, and less time washing curtains. And if I had understood the health benefits of tissues I could have, out of love for my health and those around me, chosen to use them.
The motivation I learned very early in my life stuck with me though and I’ve spent way too much time making choices out of fear. I went to church out of fear for a very long time. I was afraid that if I didn’t God would hate me and my parents would get mad. Being motivated by fear made it difficult for me to have any sort of real personal testimony. I had rules that needed to be followed but a love for the positive fruits that would accompany having a kind moral compass alluded me. I did things so I wouldn’t be punished, not so I could live a peaceful and joyful life.
School was similar. I was a straight A student, I spoke at high school graduation for crying out loud. But in high school when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say this “I don’t know, I’m good at all the classes I take but I don’t like any of them.” I had a hard time finding something I liked because my motivation for being at school was about good grades so I wouldn’t be looked down on, not love of learning.
As I matured my motivation changed a little here and there but it wasn’t until very recently that I actually realized the power of motivation and started to question why I do the things I do. Fear governed and still has power over large parts of my life. I constantly ask myself the question, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”, and the answer is often far from what I actually do. For instance, at my school there are bathrooms specifically for the staff but I have never used them. Why? Because I’m afraid that I might bother someone when I do or, because I haven’t been there long, I won’t know the “protocol” for using said bathrooms. If I was motivated by love though I would use them because it would, on occasion save me time because they are often the closest bathroom, and I would use them out of love for my body…I would stop “holding it” longer than is comfortable. This example is simple and of limited importance but it illustrates motivation at it’s most uncomplicated.
Motivation is far more impactful when it comes to human interaction. I don’t want to get political and start any sort of debate but I often think of the refugee situation or anything having to do with LGBTQ. When I read through discussions/arguments on those topics (which I don’t do often) and others that are similar I see fear, lots and lots of fear. How different could our country be if we were motivated by love? I know this simplifies these issues but I feel like a more whole consensus could be made if fear was not a driving force.
And that is why I am doing all I can to raise children who realize the difference between having fear as their motivation and choosing to be motivated by love. I don’t use corporal punishment because I believe it teaches children to do things, even good things, and develop habits, even healthy habits, for the wrong reasons. And while the result may come faster and seem easier and more sure, I do not think that there are long term benefits. My kids do their own laundry. I could enforce this by spanking them or hitting them if they didn’t get it done and they could learn that it is important to do laundry to avoid getting hit. Instead, I let them run out of clean clothes. They do not have to run out of clean clothes very many times, one maybe two, to realize that they LOVE having clean clothes to wear. Their motivation for remembering their laundry day and making sure their clothes get done is their love of having the outfit they want to wear be clean on the day they want to wear it.
I once had a child tell me “you can’t tell me what I can or can’t do!” when I asked him to please pick up his backpack. Instead of using some form of physical punishment to force him to do what I wanted I simply told him “Okay, I am happy to oblige.” The next day when he asked if he could have a friend over (and needed my help to do so) I reminded him “Remember, I cannot tell you what you can or can’t do so I guess you won’t be playing with a friend today.” He immediately remembered his words the previous day. I asked him if he’d like to change his statement and he did. His motivation for helping out around the house and cleaning his own things became a love for a household where we help each other. I do not believe that forcing him that first day would have yielded similar results.
I want to live in a house full of people motivated by love. I want to become that person. I am still scared a lot. I hold back because of fear. A few weeks back I was walking into a shopping center when I saw a woman, alone, unloading a cart full of groceries. I immediately wanted to help her but I didn’t, I was afraid she wouldn’t want my help. I let fear win. I could list many more similar instances. Being aware that I am doing it is helping a lot. When I remember to ask myself “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” I make much better decisions. I want the same for my children and won’t be proudly flicking them on the mouth any time soon.
Love wins friends. Every time.