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Monday, January 3, 2011

Help your child find his motivation switch



There is a TV commercial aired in Japan for a well known cram school. It makes a joke about how a student needs to find his "Yaruki Switch" ["Yaruki" is probably best translated into meaning "Motivation" or "Will to do"]. One boy no matter where he looked, could not find it until he went to the cram school and the tutor located the switch in the middle of his back. Flicking it on, the boy ran screaming to get his homework done. A funny commercial and one with a good message. They even came out with a key chain version for sale.

My wife and I have the pleasure of raising an energetic, curious, active, boisterous son. This is actually true for our daughter too but much of the learning process we went through was for our son since he was born first. In order to find ways to understand and channel all this raw energy we read quite a bit about active kids. There were several approaches that psychologists suggested to help manage life at home and it was interesting to see a pattern emerge among the techniques. There is a common theme suggesting that the child imagine one's body to be something of a machine with various switches. Volume was a major one. The books recommended that we tell our son that he has a volume control knob (some suggested we make a physical one out of cardboard for younger kids). Once there was an image of some sort of control, our son could then make the adjustment, from outside voice to inside voice for example, by dialing down the knob.

So, what does this have to do with our kids getting good jobs after college? The "Yaruki Switch", when found, will help in many areas of your child's pre-career life. If we consider the job interview as the target (for the purposes of this blog) then an applicant with obvious energy, motivation and enthusiasm for the company will do better than one who seems just like all the other new grads. Prior to the interview, with the switch "on" your daughter will be diving into preparation for the meeting, learning what she can about the company and even trying to find out if there is anyone she or her parents know who works there. Even later in life, preparation for an interview is critical to getting the job offer.  Moving further back, our children flip the switch to "on" for exam time to get better grades and therefore get into better schools and have more opportunities to go to those interviews.  The schools matter.  Many company recruiters will eliminate half of the pile of resumes on their desk just by the name of the applicant's college.

My son and I had a long discussion about him finding his "Motivation Switch". Interestingly, the trigger to this discussion was not his schoolwork but rather a day at soccer practice. For whatever reason, he was not into the game. He played, but without much energy or enthusiasm. Afterwards, when we had some time to talk, I told him about the "Motivation Switch". He had seen the commercial on TV so knew what it was about. We talked about how he needed to find his switch and that he had to learn how to turn it on himself rather than relying on other people to get him moving. I tried to impart some of my parental wisdom about life, sharing something that took me more than 25 years to figure out.  If he (my son) was going to get out of bed for anything in life, he should be prepared to put 100% of his energy and effort into it.  He needs to find his switch and learn how to flip it "on" so that he will excel and, in a very real way, get the most out of life.

Granted, he was 8 and this discussion may have been forgotten by dinner time but one positive thing that came out of it was that my son and I now have a key phrase that can bring this idea back to mind.  If I notice him slacking a bit I can remind him to "turn on his switch" which is a bit more friendly than some of the alternative phrases I have heard and used.  The reminders are inevitable, nothing sets with young kids the first time.  Hopefully, he will get it though and find that if he can motivate himself, he can accomplish anything.










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