I have three kids. Like most parents, I wouldn't trade my kids for all the oil in the Middle East. They're intelligent, funny, multi-talented, and extraordinarily difficult to put to bed.
Sunday night, as I was screaming to them that they'd lose all things dear to them if they didn't get to bed and stay there, the little voice inside my psyche whispered, "You're motivating out of fear."
More often than I'm willing to publish, I threaten, cajole and raise my voice to decibels unhealthy for my kids ears and my vocal chords. Does that make me a bad parent? Maybe, but it makes my parents and millions of others bad parents, too. Honestly, I believe my kids will grow up to be well-adjusted, responsible adults despite the fact that I have used "do-it-or-else" tactics.
Does it make me a hypocrite? Absolutely.
This is one area where I can test my motivation hypothesis and see immediate results. I'm a father. Despite their actions to the contrary, my kids love me. I have the perfect opportunity to use love as a motivator -- my love for them and their love for me.
Well, I tried Monday night -- and generally succeeded -- to be measured, calm and persuasive. And, just as I suspected, the tactic failed miserably. One reason: appealing to higher motivations takes time to produce results, because a change of heart, attitude or habit takes time. An object at rest, especially an object whose visual perceptors are glued to a television set, tends to stay at rest.
But I'm optimistic that a change will occur. And I'll continue to report on this experiment every so often.