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Monday, November 12, 2007

A Delve into motivation

When I was small we lived in several houses where many of the doors had handles at shoulder height of an adult. We children quickly devised methods of overcoming this shortage in stature. Piggy backs and handy chairs, anything to gain access. Similarly, when my mother called us for a meal, we would scrabble to get to the table first. When we were admonished for our dirty hands, we would race to overcome the oversight. Experience taught us that often the meal would be a disappointment but we still rushed to find out. If my mother had offered us a candy to do something we disliked, she would have won every time. I don’t know how similar other people’s childhoods’ were, but I suspect that many of them are commonplace variations on a theme. Motivation is most pivotal when it is absent.

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that he has the Gameboy in his hand as he exits the hated car, when we are faced with an obstacle. The obstruction? A mere door. I watch him tussle with the door, first with his shoulder, then with his foot followed by the full body slam. None of the methods employed achieve success. Whilst many people would acknowledge the error of their ways, others are more determined to hold onto their Gameboy with both hands.

“You know it will open if you turn the handle with your hand?”

To anyone else, this would seem like a facetious comment, but it isn’t. It’s a prompt to help him connect the dots. He continues to chuck himself at the closed door, the Gameboy clutched in his vice like grip. The little annoying tune still whirlitzers around, which would certainly be enough to distract me from the task at hand.

So often it is the tiny little steps that are so hard to overcome. It would be simple to say that he just gives up, lies back on the garage floor and continues to play the electronic game, the battle with the door forgotten. The battle he’s really fighting is the captivation of the electronic game, which is so much more exciting that a door. If I were him, I would enjoy playing the game far more in the comfortable confines of my own home, rather than the garage, but we differ in so many respects.

Whilst there were many things that I enjoyed doing as a small child, I cannot recall anything that was sufficiently interesting to persuade me to lie on the floor in the garage by the door and play there?

I could bribe him from this spot with chocolate, or maybe Goldfish, but only if death by malnutrition was imminent. He would lie there for as many hours if I permitted. Until it was dark, until the battery was flat. He might need to use the bathroom, but that urge wouldn’t prompt him to move. It is especially odd for him, because he is usually so hypersensitive to textures and temperature, but not now, not when he is fixated on something else.

Of course there are lots of techniques available to parents to help their children with these simple self care skills, to challenge inertia and kick off the sequential steps towards task completion. That is not really the point here. For me, the point is to recognize that the preferred activity is all encompassing, totally captivating and excludes the entire universe. Hopefully, such single minded concentration will serve him in good stead in the future. Now if I could just iron out a few of his lumps and bumps, he'd make a very attractive and unusual welcome mat.

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