Monday, I talked about not using children as your main goal for self-improvement. Instead of working towards being a better parent, figure out why you struggle with the aspects you want to improve and work on that instead. Improved parenting becomes a secondary benefit when you feel better about yourself. So when I say, kids as self-improvement motivation, it feels like I am taking a step backward from Monday’s post.
But I’m not.
Because children are a part of our daily lives, they can also be a part of our motivation. Seeing your children born and grow may motivate you to become healthier to live longer. Or they reflect behaviors that you do but know needs to change. Their appearance in your life may be enough for you to say “I need to make some changes!”
With that in mind, kids can work as self-improvement motivation.
A Clarification: Parental Responsibility
Before I go any further I need to make some clarifications and disclaimers to contextualize the rest of this post.
Your children are not responsible for motivating you. They do not create or affect your happiness or ability to succeed. Only you are responsible for yourself and your behaviors. Things in your past may influence your current behaviors, but you are responsible for your own actions. Therefore, your children are not responsible for your ability to make and achieve your goals.
What I do suggest is to use their natural behaviors and inclinations to achieve your goals. If you have a toddler it’s near impossible to keep them still, so if you want to exercise, try to take advantage of their energy.
Jai loves to exercise and run around the house. One of my short-term goals this year is to do more yoga. Why not combine his need to burn energy and my need to practice? Using his natural need to expend energy as a means to motivate me to exercise is using him as a motivator. I am placing no expectations on him, no responsibility, he doesn’t even know that he is helping me out.
Likewise, if you are looking to de-stress and improve how you react to your children under stressful circumstances, do not expect them to behave any differently. Look at how they react to you when you react to them. Sometimes seeing a look, that look, that they give can be motivating enough to work harder to avoid getting it next time.
You are placing no expectations on the children, no responsibility on them to help you through your journey. The only responsibility your children have in this journey is being their own, individual person, enjoying their childhood, and reaping the benefits of the work you do for yourself.
How My Child Helped Me
I have talked multiple times on my blog of how much Jai helped me become a better person. I wanted to manage my illness so he would have as much quality time with me as possible before I transitioned into SPMS. I also wanted to be a positive role model for how I behaved in front of him. I recognized that it was my own responsibility to model good behavior, make changes so I was more emotionally grounded if I expected him to do the same thing.
In a conversation with Ash a while back, I mentioned that it was important that Jai is proud of me when he gets older. I am proud of Jai every day for all the new things he’s learning and the young child he’s developing into, but when he’s older and on his own I want him to look back and see all that I’ve accomplished and say “that’s my mom.”
I know my mother made self-improvements to model positive behaviors for me and I am proud of all that she does. I want the same with Jai. There will be no expectation of pride from him, but I want to be the person my child currently believes me to be.
Make it a Family Affair (within Reason)
If you want to be more active and your child already does physical activities, then try to join them when they have to practice at home. Running sprints? Try and run a few yourself with them. Sure, they may get a laugh at how winded you get, but it’s a fun and positive experience that they will remember fondly.
There are days when I want to cross-train and I can only do it when Jai is up. He toddles over to me while I am in plank pose and attempts to get on my back like I am a jungle gym. Nothing helps work those core muscles than 25 extra pounds sitting on your back that necessitates stability to prevent them from toppling over. He absolutely LOVES the game so I will be enlisting him this year to help me with my crosstraining.
Getting your children to join you is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with them and bond in ways that you may not expect. It’s a way to manage two possible goals at once: self-improvement for you and spending more time with them.
If they say no…
If your child says “no” or isn’t interested in the moment, that’s okay. Move forward on your own and perhaps curiosity will beckon them to join.
Keeping your goals pressure free for yourself and pressure-free for them will help keep you motivated. If you have to have your children involved and they catch a whiff of that, it will become a power struggle and you’ll both end up at odds.
Clarification: what I mean if you need to have your kids involved in order to do your goal, then you will run into power struggle issues. I don’t mean because of a lack of childcare, because you can adapt around that scenario.
It may work out that you can get them to be a part of your wellness journey, and it may not. But keep this in mind: if your children are young enough, they will see what you are doing and be interested in joining you at some point. Welcome it even if it means doing a little less work that day, or having to alter your plans.
Gentle encouragement from them wanting to spend time with you will go a long way for your success, just like gentle encouragement from you when they join you will go a long way in continuing to seek you out.
Everyone Enjoys the Reward
If you need to motivate yourself with rewards to keep moving forward with your goals, why not make it a reward that benefits the family? Want to get a new job by the end of the year? You apply and get it? Then take your whole family to a fun event to celebrate.
Doing this will get your children excited about helping you meet your goals because they are seeing the benefits themselves. You may find that they start hounding you and reminding you in ways you wish they wouldn’t because they want you to meet your goals,
You have your own personal cheering section. Take advantage of the positive energy they put into you and look at it at face value: they believe in you with no hidden motive or agenda. They want to see you succeed because they see you cheering them to succeed. Embrace the love that they give when you meet your goals.
Kids as Self-Improvement Motivation
We may want to improve because we want to be there for them when they get older, so they are the perfect motivators. Look at the world through their eyes: see their excitement, love, and positivity. Use that perspective to keep moving.
While it isn’t their responsibility to keep you motivated, they can function as living, breathing reminders of why we want to do what we are doing. If working through some difficult emotional situations is your goal, let their presence remind you that you are doing it for them.
And you may find that they will be your strongest allies and cheerleaders, possibly making a grueling task more tolerable. Who knows? You may pick up a new hobby together that becomes a life-long passion.
How do you think your children will function as self-improvement motivators in your own life? Have they helped motivate you in the past? Leave a comment below with your experiences.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton