Recently, I was talking to one of my teens about an upcoming choice. I was laying out the consequences and helping her consider the cost of not doing what she should do.

But she cut me off, and said, “Mom, STOP. You’re guilting me for something that hasn’t even happened!”

I was shocked. I said, “I am? I didn’t think I was guilting you. I was just trying to motivate you. This is what I would be saying to myself if I were in your shoes.”

She said, “But I can motivate myself! I don’t need you to. It’s harder when someone else tries to motivate you…”

I had to stop and think about that. I think she might be right.

So much of what I do, as a mom, has to do with motivating or directing or corralling…. or if I’m honest… controlling my kids.  

When they were babies, it was easier. If my child reached for a penny to put in his mouth, I put the penny out of reach, and gave him a cracker instead. If my daughter crawled for the stairs, I put a gate up and a basket of toys in the opposite direction. If she tried to get into the cleaning supplies, I put safety locks on the door and interested her in her coloring book.

It was easy to be a good mom back then. (In an exhausting sort of way.) Now it’s harder. Partly because I can’t pick my kids up and set them in a new direction. I can’t put gates on everything. I can’t lock away all of the things that will hurt them.

Now that they are teens, I’m reduced to motivating them. And so I do it with fervor! I am quite the motivational speaker when I’ve got one of my kids buckled into the passenger seat on the way to swim or soccer practice. But I have to agree with my daughter. The most effective scenario is when my child has an internal motivation to do what is right–not a motivational mom who runs the scnearios or ‘guilts’ her into good decisions.

Honestly, much of what I call ‘motivation’ is actually me trying to control the outcomes–to make things turn out the way I think they should. It’s me being a ‘Control Girl‘ again. I’m strangely convinced that I am more capable of motivating my child toward goodness than the Spirit of God is.

Do my motivational speeches drown out the gentle, persuasive voice of God? Do I put his voice on hold, while I hog the direct line to my child’s ear? My great God is strong enough and wise enough and good enough to draw each of my kids to himself and to his ways, and infinitely better than I am at ‘guilting’ them out of foolishness.

I’m so glad that He lets me be part of the process–I’m still the one responsible for putting baskets of ‘goodies’ in the good and right direction and locks on the things that threaten to hurt my kids. But once I’ve done this, it’s time for me to sit quietly, put myself on ‘mute’, and wait on God–the best motivational speaker of all!

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