Motivating Children in Positive Ways
You’ve probably heard the old adage “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that honey is the answer when it comes to motivating kids as well!
Keeping things sweet by motivating kids in positive ways instead of negative ways helps kids form positive habits and behaviors more effectively. While negative consequences can encourage kids to behave in a certain way out of fear, the best form of motivation--and the form of motivation that helps kids form lasting, healthy patterns of behavior--comes when the child is intellectually or emotionally satisfied!
All About the Attitude
Kids are literally hardwired to learn from you and to pick up on your attitudes. So, what’s one of the best ways to motivate your kids in a positive way? Have a positive attitude yourself! Take, for example, the start of a new school year. If you want your kids to be excited about school, set the stage by getting excited about it yourself--and expressing that excitement. For example, try saying things like, “Fourth grade is such a fun year! I’m so jealous,” or, “Sixth grade is going to be a blast. You’re growing up so much!” Instead of adopting an attitude that school is a kid-free parental oasis for you (which encourages kids to see school as a punishment), try seeing it the way you’d like your kids to see it--as an opportunity, an adventure, and something they can and should look forward to.
Infusing the Fun
What’s the difference between an exasperated parent trying to cajole kids into cleaning up their room, and giggles and clean bedrooms? Infusing positivity and fun into the situation. If there’s a tedious task that needs to be accomplished, making it into a game or approaching the task together is a great way to motivate kids. For example, try playing the game "Rockstar Cleanup" before bedtime. This is where you pick your child's favorite song (try to make sure it’s around 5 minutes long) and see if you and the child can clean up their room before the end of the song. Don’t worry about shooting for a deep clean--just set a goal of tidying up! Adding an element of fun makes an intimidating or difficult task feel fun (just think of Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar!)
Rewards can be another great form of positive motivation. These don't have to be expensive, but they should be something your child can measure! For example, a simple jar full of cheap, decorative pebbles can make a world of difference for your kids! Simply give each child a small mason jar (you can make this extra fun by decorating the jars together!). Then, at the end of the day, spend a moment with each child talking about their accomplishments, chores, homework, and goals. For each accomplishment, a pebble goes into the jar. For example, one pebble for each chore they complete; two pebbles for doing a really good job or a kind deed; and three pebbles for getting a good grade. When the child fill up their respective mason jar, they earn a prize proportionate to how long it took to earn it. You could mark goals on the side of the mason jar to show the different levels! Conversely, you can also deduct pebbles for tantrums, bad behavior or fighting.
Where do your kids struggle when it comes to motivation? Try a few of these ideas to add some positivity into the motivation equation, and spend some time thinking about how to turn potentially negative experiences into positive ones. Then watch great things happen as kids model more good behavior and a positive attitude!