How Do My Teeth Look, Mama?

Beautiful teeth!

Beautiful teeth!

Yesterday morning, my 5-year-old daughter was getting ready for school. I’ve been working really hard on a routine that has the littles (5 - girl and 3 - boy) getting ready on their own including getting dressed, brushing teeth, and serving their own breakfast from items set out on the table. I’m creating self-reliance in them and also setting up our home so that future stepdad and I aren’t running themselves ragged ‘taking care’ of them.

As I was getting myself ready, my daughter came in and said, “How do my teeth look, Mama?”

Typically I would respond with, “They look great, Ella. Great job brushing.”

On this day, I decided to go a little deeper. “How do you think your teeth look, sweet pea?”

Her reply was interesting. She started to explain how she might have missed a few teeth on the bottom and seemed to be telling me she wasn’t really happy with the job she did.

Ella: “Mom, should I go brush again?”

Me: “Well, I’m not sure. Are you happy with the job you did?”

Then she got a perplexed look on her face.

She expected me to tell her what to do!

Ella: “Not Really”

Me: “Ok, what do you want to do about that?”

Ella: “I don’t know…”

Me: “I can tell you what I would do. If I wasn’t feeling good about what I did, I’d probably go do it again.”

And then she turned around and went back in the bathroom and proceeded to brush her teeth again.

Wow! My daughter was looking for external validation for doing a half-assed job. By turning it back around to her and not praising her, by slowing down and asking her how she felt about the job she did, I’m paving the way for her to be driven by her own beliefs about the work she’s doing.

It’s never too early to inspire kids to choose from their intrinsic motivation. From self-reliance!

I can see so many ways this applies to work and personal achievement, even to myself! Things you can ask yourself to help you understand if you are ‘doing’ from extrinsic motivation.

  • Where am I looking outside of myself for validation that I’ve done a good job?

  • How am I motivated by the number of likes, shares, or comments on articles I write or work that I do?

Coming from a place of self-reliance and intrinsic motivation will have you (and your kids) feeling much more fulfilled in what you (they) do.