What is your child’s motivation? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you are likely to be a very frustrated parent. Kids, just like the rest of us, are all motivated by something. If you know what motivates your child, you can use that as a tool to help get the behavior you desire. Here are a few possible motivating factors that may or may not get your child moving in the right direction. I know some of these things are great motivators for my own kids, but not all the time, and not always in the same ways.
Praise and admiration
My kids love praise for a job well done. They won’t always work hard to receive the praise, but when admiration comes their way they just beam. Of course, when praise is extended to their siblings and not to them, it can be a pretty big motivating factor as well.
My daughter is much better at cleaning up her room than my son. Really, I have found few positive factors that encourage him to do a better job at cleaning his mess. But when lots of praise and attention are showered on my daughter for a job well done, he feels left out. Sometimes that is just enough to get him to try a bit harder.
Fear of consequences
Unfortunately, sometimes negative consequences are a bigger motivator for kids than positive rewards. The fear of those consequences can be enough to make kids work to avoid them, especially if the consequences remove from them something of value. My son enjoys playing video games. If he behaves in a way that is unacceptable, his video game privileges may be revoked. A warning that this consequence is on the table is often enough motivation for him to behave properly.
My youngest is at the age where there is nothing like a simple reward to keep her motivated to be good. If we are going into a situation where I know it will be a challenge for her to be good, I might offer a reward like an ice cream cone or some time playing on my computer if she can behave herself. This sort of reward system could be taken for granted if used too often. Therefore I try to reserve it for big outings like trips to the museum, although I have been known to offer a reward for good behavior at the grocery store.
Cold, hard cash
Sometimes there is no better motivator than cold, hard cash. We typically reserve cash rewards for big tasks like an afternoon of picking up rocks out of the field or some serious household chores. I have, however, sometimes surprised one of the kids who was extra helpful without being asked by giving them a couple of dollars to put in their piggy banks. The possibility of a bonus is a great motivator that somewhat mirrors life in the working world.
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