Jennifer Nacif
The Secret to Motivating Your Child
TEDxSanDiego 2014

I’m excited, not only to be on TEDx San Diego, but to touch on my favorite subject, the secret to motivating your children. We try to motivate. We do the best that we can. Generally, what do we do? We use fear. If you don’t do this, big punishment. We bribe them. If you do this, you’ll get this prize or payment. That works for the short term but there are ramifications and consequences that we’re not aware of, in the long run, when we educate in this manner.

Today, I want to ask you a question. How many of you would love to have a better relationship with your children? Of course, it’s everyone. Here is a harder question. How many of you believe that you know exactly how to motivate your children? I don’t see any hands. Don’t feel bad.

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

Let me start by telling you a real story. I live in Mexico City. I was at a girl’s 10th birthday party. My friend has four daughters. They were behaving, not bad, but terrible. It came to a point that my friend was very tired. She said to the girls, “The four of you, come here. Either you behave well or we’re going to leave.” Let me mention, in Mexico, the best part of a party is the famous piñata. No kid wants to leave before the piñata.

The first daughter stared at her mom and said, “Mom, you’re right. I’ve been telling my sisters to behave but they don’t pay attention. What can I do?” The mom said to herself, “Good job. I’m doing well.”

The second daughter looked at her mom and started crying. She said, “I’m so sorry, Mom. I hate disappointing you, but if I don’t do what my sisters say, then they think I’m a goody-goody and that I always follow you. Then they don’t like me. But I didn’t want you to not like me either.” Total depression. She went to a corner, depressed. She probably needed therapy after that.

The third daughter stared at her mom and said, “My Mom, beautiful, wonderful Mom. You keep enjoying what you’re doing. Of course I’m going to behave. I’m having a wonderful time.” She waited five minutes. Then guess what she did. She went back to doing what she was doing.

Then the last daughter stared at her mom and said, “Oh, really? Then we leave right now.” What happened? It’s the same household and the same education. They were raised in the same place. Why did they react so differently?

You might say, “It’s obvious. They’re different.” If it’s 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.

I brought the four girls all the way from Mexico City. They’re going to tell you a little bit about themselves, and the most important part, what motivates each one of them. They’re going to use several words and then one word.

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, but super-fast. I’m very independent. I like things fast and direct. I have a lot of willpower, since I was a baby.

If I was going on a four-hour drive, I didn’t like the car seat so I would cry. I wouldn’t stop crying until the four hours were over. I get what I want. I don’t ask for it, I demand it. That’s how life should be. Let’s get what we want. Let’s insist on it. I’m adventurous. I’m powerful.

What do you think motivates me? Challenges. I love being right. I know they say that it’s more important to be happy, but I don’t know who says that. Being right is more important than being happy. Winning and control are very important. If you can only remember one word, remember this. I need power. I like to feel powerful. The next time you’re communicating with me, if you’re taking away my power, you’ll bring the worst out in me.

If I’m at a party and my mom said, “If you behave bad, we’re going to leave,” I would say, “Oh, really? We’ll see who wins.” What should the mother have said? Ask yourselves what motivates the dominant daughter. It’s power.

I would tell Donna, “Hey, Donna. I need to ask for a favor. 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. What I’m asking you to do, generally, we ask adults. 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? That’s music to my ears. Now we get the first good outcome. I have a D daughter. This is how I’ve become an expert on the subject.

Now I want to introduce you to Sally. Hello, I am Sally Social. I am a happy kid. I love fun. I love doing happy things and connecting with people, talking to people and knowing people. Is there anything else in life than knowing a lot of friends and having a lot of friends?

To me, helping others and having a great time is wonderful. At the party, you need to ask yourself what motivates me. Social people need to connect with people, make friends and help others. Our key words are connection and fun.

My mother could have said, “Hey, look at all those trees. Don’t they make amazing hiding places? Why don’t you organize a game of hide-and-seek?” Do you think I’m going to resist that? Do you think I want to go back to doing what I was doing when I can play hide-and-seek game?

Do you see how naturally it flows when we are motivated to do what we’re born to do? That’s our social child. Let me introduce you to Vivi, my social sister. She has given me the experience to deal with social people.

Third, I want to introduce you to Patti Patient. Good afternoon. My name is Patti. I love helping, stability and my family. I love being close to my family. I miss them when I’m away. I don’t like pressure. I hate confrontation. It really stresses me out.

I like for people to get along, love each other, share and care. What motivates me the most? Harmony, safety, kindness, acceptance and helping others. The key word for me is safety. If I feel safe, I’ll go to the ends of the world. But if I feel threatened, I don’t do much at all. I will freeze.

What should my mom have said to me? She could have approached me, and in a very loving and caring way said to me, “Patti, I know you want to please your sisters. I understand. I know you feel bad because you want to please me. But remember, life is not about pleasing others. I know, deep down in your heart, you know what’s right. Trust your heart, not people outside of you, but yourself. No matter what happens, I’m always here and I love you.”

That feels so good. If you have kids like me, always be patient, loving and understanding. No pressure, please. We don’t do well with it. This is my beautiful Valentina. She’s my Patti daughter who has taught me the kindness and the wonderful human heart of this personality style.

Last but not least, we have Anna Analytical. Hi, my name is Anna. I am a very responsible child since I was born. I do what I’m supposed to. I follow rules. That’s why they exist. I wish everyone would. I’m very ordered. I organize my things wonderfully well. I’m a very good child. I have good grades. You could almost say that we’re the perfect children.

The problem is, we need to lighten up sometimes. We take so much responsibility and everything so seriously that we often have stomach problems. If you know people like me, when we grow up, we will have gastritis and other stomach issues. We are way too apprehensive.

What motivates us? Order, structure and mental challenges. The key word is clarity. We like step-by-step specific instructions. Then you’ll get the best of us. Anna was the daughter who reacted in the best way. She said, “I know, Mom.” We could give her instructions of how she could help her sister to be better. Let me introduce to you, Bonnie, my analytical sister. When I grew up, I understood the importance of cleanliness, that’s next to heavenliness.

To conclude, I hope that you remember when you talk to your children what motivates them. Is it power? Is it connection and fun? Is it safety? Is it clarity? I invite you to create a chain reaction for all parents to change manipulation to motivation. Thank you.