We’ve all heard it from exasperated parents: “I just want my kid to clean his room without me having to nag”! Whether in this scenario we’re the parents or the kids (let’s be honest!), the outcome is fairly predictable. Eventually, following what seems like endless prodding, the room is cleaned…but everyone is thoroughly frustrated by the process.
Some level of “room cleaning conflict” just comes with parenthood–but, it doesn’t always have to be this way. If we understand how motivation and behavior are related, we can better understand the root of these frustrations, and learn how to more effectively motivate others to take the actions we require of them.
Are we lazy, or is it just not as important to our personality preferences?
Often we attribute the lack of a desired behavior (cleaning a room, getting a job done at work) to internal processes in the other person, such as being lazy. We try to motivate them to do what is expected, but we typically proceed without any true understanding of the forces that shape their behavior. Motivation occurs at multiple levels, and the fact that people are often motivated to do things to obtain a positive outcome or avoid a negative one tends to shape our instinctual approach: clean your room and get a prize/don’t clean your room and be grounded (we discussed motivation in psychology in our last blog here).
Type theory, however, suggests that some differences in underlying motivations and their subsequent behaviors are the result of the fact that people with different personality preferences find different activities and their results inherently satisfying and comfortable. For example, if you have a preference for ESTJ, you’ll likely find an organized living space deeply satisfying–you’ll be highly motivated to clean, may enjoy the process of running a tight ship, and will probably be baffled by someone’s willingness to dwell in a messy room. If you’re a parent with a messy kid, you may naturally assume that once your kid has a taste of the comfort of a tidy room, it’ll spark a desire to continue to keep their room clean (without the prodding and nagging).
Yet, someone with the opposite preference (such as a preference for INFP) will often derive much less satisfaction from the process of keeping a clean space–they’ll be less motivated to do the work, and may be equally baffled at the amount of energy that someone they view as a “neat freak” expends in organizing and cleaning. If this is you (or your kid), it won’t matter how many times you’re told or encouraged to clean your room, you’ll probably never derive the same satisfaction from a highly organized living space that someone with preferences such as ESTJ will. So how do you get them to clean their room without the conflict? Or how can you work with your own preferences to achieve behaviors that might not coincide with your personality preferences?
Don’t confuse what motivates someone else with what motivates you
People have different proclivities, and as a result the same behaviors may require a different reward structure or approach to motivation. When a personality type is incongruent with a particular behavior, we have to offer rewards that are in line with what truly motivates that individual’s behavior. If your kid has a preference for INFP, while they may derive little satisfaction from a high level of structure and organization, they will often derive great satisfaction and comfort from being allowed to create, for example, their own organizational structure for their room and belongings that meets their idea of “clean and organized”
With insight into the behaviors that they find intrinsically rewarding, we can allow them to work towards their own strengths and preferences, and by so doing allow both parties to be more satisfied with the eventual outcomes.
In these next few blogs, we’ll dive further into what motivates specific personality types and what doesn’t. By better understanding motivation and how it can differ between personality types, you’ll gain the self-awareness to better motivate yourself to accomplish the things you’ve been meaning to, recognize in yourself and others when rewards systems may be destined for failure, and perhaps, armed with this new knowledge, even get your kids to clean their rooms