How to Motivate Your Kids When Their Goals are Big

how to motivate your kids
“I want to be an NBA player when I grow up.” My son has been saying this statement for a couple of years now. Basketball is his first love. Like many young boys, he dreams of being a professional athlete. However, the chances he will go pro are not in his favor, only 0.02% of boys will make it to the NBA. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the chances of such a reality for him, balancing my role as a parent to support his dreams, and pushing him to be his best, while also balancing the realities of life. So that left me with the question, what is the right way to motivate your kids? How much reality should we share when they are young.

Rocco is a die-hard basketball fan. He spends hours watching basketball highlight reels on YouTube, knows more about old and current players’ stats than anyone I’ve met, and seems to genuinely love the sport. He practices most days and plays whenever he gets the chance. But here’s the reality – only 1 in XXX will ever become a professional athlete. That is not meant to discourage him, that is to make sure he understands the hard work, dedication, and effort required to make it to the NBA. And even with all that work, does he have the talent to make it?

I’m currently struggling to find the balance between motivating him to put in the work required to be a professional (or even a college) athlete, while also ensuring he has other goals besides basketball. Since my daughter was 5, she’s always said she wants to be a doctor, specifically a ‘baby doctor’. When Rocco talks about his career aspirations, he is always a professional basketball player. The last time he mentioned it, I asked him what was his backup plan if he didn’t play basketball. I struggle to know if that is the right thing for me to do or not. Am I discouraging him from pursuing basketball? If there were no other options in his mind, would be more likely to make it? But what about being realistic? Is it OK to have a backup plan?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Because I do wonder if a person truly doesn’t see another option if they’re more likely to meet that goal. If the mentality is simply that there is no other choice. Yet, the realist in me who wants my son to have a certain path and secure career and financial future worries that not preparing him for a backup plan could lead him to flounder in college/his years after high school. That’s why I think it’s really important to consider how to motivate your kids, yet be realistic at the same time.

I can relate to not being sure about my future. Honestly, I never thought about a career path until after I was out of college. I had no clear direction, and it wasn’t until after college that I realized I was not properly prepared. That is why I ended up going on to grad school to become a college advisor. Given my lack of direction, I thought I could help other people think through their future goals sooner so they didn’t struggle to find direction like I did. Although I no longer serve as a college advisor, I did do that for a while. Plus, I found I really enjoy working in higher education, which I’ve done for the last 20 years.

I haven’t come to a resolution with Rocco’s career aspirations quite yet. But these are the steps I am going to take to support his goals and dreams.

How to Motivate Your Kids

1.     Be Supportive –  I will always support my kids’ goals and dreams. If they want to do something, I will absolutely be their biggest cheerleader and offer any financial, physical, or emotional support they need. I am in the financial position to enroll Rocco in basketball camps, one on one coaching, etc. As long as he is willing to put in the time, effort, and work, I will continue to support him.

2.     Encourage Excellence – When it comes to a goal like becoming a professional athlete, I think it’s important that Rocco understands the weight of a goal like that. That he understands just what it takes. We have been providing relevant examples of players and how they got there, and we remind him how he needs to play and practice. When he wants to stop or quit, we remind him of his goals and what it takes. Ultimately, he decides how much work he wants to dedicate to basketball. But, we can motivate and push him to always work hard and do his best.

No matter what ends up happening with Rocco’s basketball dreams, we will be there to support and encourage him. And if in a year or two, he decides basketball is no longer for him, we will be there to support him in his next endeavors. I remind my kids all of the time that they can do anything they set their minds to. I do believe that, wholeheartedly. Here’s to finding that balance between achieving our dreams and realism. If you have a better solution or ideas for how to motivate your kids, I’m all ears.

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