Jennifer Nacif: The Secret to Motivating Your Child at TEDxSanDiego (Transcript)

Following is the full transcript of Speaker, Consultor, Coach Jennifer Nacif’s TEDx Talk: The Secret to Motivating Your Child at TEDxSanDiego 2014 conference.

 

Jennifer Nacif – Speaker, Consultor, Coach

I’m so excited!

Well, I’m excited not only to be in TEDxSanDiego, but to touch on my favorite subject: the secret to motivating your children. I mean we try to motivate, we do our best, but generally what do we do? We use fear: “Ah, if you don’t do this, mmm, big punishment.”

Or we bribe them: “OK, if you do this, you’ll get this prize, or this payment.” And, well it works, on the short term. But there are ramifications, consequences that we’re not aware of in the long run, when we educate in this manner.

So, today I want to ask you a question: How many of you would love to have a better relationship with your children? Raise your hands. Everyone, of course!

Now, a harder question: How many of you believe you know, exactly, how to motivate your children? Don’t worry, don’t feel bad, I don’t see any hands. Don’t take it personally.

My studies – I’ve been studying this for more than 20 years – are that less than 2% of parents have the exact answer to this question. The good news is: all of you, by the end of this talk, are going to know, exactly, in one word, how to motivate your children.

So, let me start by telling you a real story. I live in Mexico City and we were at a party, it was a girl’s 10th birthday; my friend has four daughters and they were behaving, not [badly], no, [terribly]! It came to a point that my friend was very tired and went to the four girls: “The four of you come here, either you behave well or we’re going to leave.” Oh, and let me mention, in Mexico the best part of a party is the piñata, the famous piñata (a figure filled with goodies). No kid wants to leave before the piñata.

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So the first daughter stares at her mom and says: “Mom, you’re right. I’ve been telling my sisters to behave, but they don’t pay attention, what can I do?” So the mom goes: “Good job, I’m doing well.”

The second daughter looks at the mom… (She sobs) “I’m so sorry mom, I hate disappointing you, but see, if I don’t do what my sisters say then they think I’m a goody goody, and I always follow you, and then they don’t like me.”

“But I didn’t want you to not like me either.” (Sobs) Total depression. She goes to a corner, depressed. She needs therapy, probably, after that.

The third daughter stares at her mom: “My mom, beautiful, wonderful ‘preciosa mamita’. You keep enjoying what you’re doing, of course I’m going to behave. I’m having a wonderful time.” She waits five minutes and guess what she does? She goes back to doing what she was doing.

And then, the last daughter stares at her mom and she says: “Oh really? Then we leave right now!”

What happened? Same household, same education, [they were raised in the same place]. Why did they react so differently? You might all say, “Obvious, they’re different.” So if it is so obvious, why do we so often give one instruction to different people expecting the same outcome? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

So, what I did is that, all the way from Mexico city, I brought the four girls. And they are going to tell you a bit about themselves, and the most important part: what motivates each one of them in several words and in one word. So let me introduce you to the first daughter. Oh, these are mine by the way. Let me introduce you to the first daughter. Her name is Donna because she’s so dominant. “Hi, I’m a controlling child, yes I am. I know it and I don’t care. I like things done, not fast, super fast. I’m very independent, I like things fast, direct, I have a lot of willpower. I mean, since I was a baby, you know, if I was going maybe 4 hours drive, I didn’t like the car seat, so I would cry. And I wouldn’t stop crying, ’til the 4 hours were over. I mean, I get what I want. I don’t ask for it, I demand it. I mean, that’s how life should be, no? Let’s get what we want, let’s insist on it. I’m adventurous, I’m powerful. So, what do you think motivates me? OK, challenges? I love being right. I know they say that it’s more important to be happy. I don’t know who says that. I mean come on! Being right is super more important than being happy. Winning and control, very important. But if you can only remember one word, remember this: I need power. I like to feel powerful. So the next time you’re communicating with me, if you take away my power, you bring out the worst in me. “So If I’m at a party and my mom says, ‘if you behave badly, I’m going to take you away. Oh really? We’ll see, we’ll see who wins.”

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So, the question here is: what should the mother have said? Well, the answer, before creating things, is ask yourselves: what motivates my D daughter? Power. So, why don’t I tell Donna: “Hey Donna, I need to ask for a favour. See, your sisters follow you. I wish they would follow me more, and I need your help. I know I’m asking a lot because you’re just 10 years old. And what I’m asking you to do, well, generally, we ask adults. So I hope you can do this. Can you help me set an example for your sisters? Can you do that?” What? D is going to resist that? I mean that’s gold to my ears. So we get the first good outcome.

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