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Motivating kids to try new things

Introducing a new task, activity, or challenge to a child can yield some hesitancy on their end. While many kids enjoy getting out and about to new places, suggesting that they push themselves outside of their typical routine can make them feel uneasy. Since kids are the masters of speaking up when they don't want to do something, they have no problem saying no to a discomforting idea. That being said, parents don't have to stop there. That's not the end all be all to trying out a new challenge.

While its important not to override your child's feelings and make them do something (apart from safety concerns and attending school), there are a few ways to best support your child while encouraging them to try out something new. Whether it's riding a bike without training wheels, inviting a friend over for a play date, trying out for a team sport, or approaching their teacher about an unfair grade, you can be by their side and coach them through the discomfort. This builds life long skills and boosts their self esteem.


One of the first things that you want to do is introduce the idea. Check in with your child when they are in a good head space (not during a meltdown or a particularly stressful time) and bring up the idea; "you mentioned that you didn't think Mr. Martinez graded your paper fairly. What do you think about speaking to him about it?". Then leave some room for discussion. You may get some push back or your child might surprise you by agreeing. If they do hop on board, you can still follow the next steps to make sure they are equipped and prepared for the task.


After bringing the new idea up and hearing your child out, validate their feelings, thoughts, and/or concerns. Your child may say "I don't want to talk to him. He will get mad and probably won't change it. I'm too nervous". No matter what they say here, their feelings are 100% valid. Try to be supportive instead of combative. "It can be scary to talk to grown ups and suggest they made a mistake, I get that. You may feel like there isn't a point".


The more open that you are to hearing them out, the more information you have to help them out in the next step and bridge the connection between an absolute "no" to a possible "yes"

Once you have held space for their feelings, you can move onto reminding them of past success and logical thinking. Verbalize times where they showed courage in a similar situation, share times where they had positive experiences, use rational to encourage the behavior you would like to see; "remember when you couldn't find your permission slip Mr. Martinez sent home and you asked him about it the next day? He said he forgot to send it home and apologized! Was he upset about it? No! That's right. Everyone makes mistakes and he gave you the slip and wasn't mad! I remember you felt happy after doing that".


This usually flips a child brain into a receptive state and they are more open to trying a new idea


You can practice and role play to prep them, or even come up with a plan where you're able to be by their side when they try the new task out. If your child still is refusing, that's ok! The more we push, the more that they cement the idea as a 'no' in their head and it can make it harder to have them work towards that goal. You can say "I understand that you still don't feel ready and that's ok. If you change your mind or want to talk about it more, I'd be happy help help you come up with ideas on how to try it!". Feel free to check in with them another time and suggest it again. At the end of the day, they will be ready at their own pace and whats most important is that they feel seen, heard, and respected by you.


Oh, and if they do try it out, praise them like crazy! Any effort made, even if they don't complete the task exactly how you imagined is progress and huge! A positive response from their best supporter is worth more than a million dollars to your LO. Watch this quick video below and see how I got my son to bomb this ramp at the skate park! Proud mama moment.


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