Tips on Motivating Your Kids

Just the other day...I became a mom. Whew! I had LOTS to learn!! I remember when I was pregnant with my first daughter, my sister in law asked me if I was scared about the task ahead of me. Very nonchalantly I said, "Nah. I've been around my nieces and nephews so much, I think I know what to do. The only thing that truly scares me is potty training." OH. MY. GOODNESS...that makes me laugh!!! I was so naive! Poor little optimistic me. By the way, potty training still scares me and I'm now a mom of 3:)

I don't claim in any way shape or form to know all there is to know about being a mom. However, I can say that I have learned quite a few tricks along the way. When it comes to getting my kids to help do a task, I feel that I do a decent job. Therefore, today I'm sharing my best tips on motivating my little ones.

What you must realize first and foremost is this...rewards are golden!! When my girls were a little younger, a great motivator was marshmallows. Tell them they would get marshmallows for completing something and the task would be magically accomplished! These days, my girls are more into computer games, so offering extra computer time (I limit it) is a huge motivator for them! Pay attention to what your kid begs to do or what they really love. Use that knowledge to your advantage. Think about it: All of us work for rewards (a job=money, prestige, independence, etc). I believe children need to learn that hard work pays off!

One of the easiest ways to get your kids moving is to make any task into a game...all kids love games! In fact, sometimes when I just say to my kids, "Go do this or that", I find that they automatically come up with a way to make the task into a game. Let's face it...it's more enjoyable that way!

Here's some fun stuff you might want to try -
  • Assign each child a certain color and say, "Okay, go find everything that has your color on it and put it in it's proper place." You could do this using any distinction - i.e. one picks up books, the other picks up stuffed animals, another picks up dress-up clothes, and still another picks up blocks OR one picks up things in the shape of a circle, the other picks up things in the shape of a square, etc. There are so many possibilities!  Bonus: They are learning at the same time:)

  • Set a timer and race to see how many items can be picked up/put away by the time a beeper goes off. A reward is given when they meet or exceed a certain number of items.

  • Surprise them! Around here I try to "catch" my kids doing the right thing! I often say, "I caught you being good!" (for proper manners, being a good sister, doing things without being asked, etc) and then reward that child with a coin to go in their piggy bank. Of course they love to be able to buy things on their own and they love seeing their money add up!

  • Place rocks or marbles in a jar for the completion of chores, hard tasks, etc. Once the rocks get to a certain level, reward your child with a trip to somewhere really special....their choice! 

  • Use a chore chart (with pictures for younger children who can't read yet) and let each child mark off his completed tasks. That simple act is fun in itself! Give a reward for the completion of all tasks at the end of the week.

  •  Demonstrate teamwork - using a stopwatch, gather the entire family into one room, and have everyone pick up that room for a certain time period (around here it's usually "5 Minute Pick Up"). When the time is up for one room, go to the next room and reset the time. If this is done twice a day, you'll be surprised how clean your house stays!

  • Pretend! My girls love to do this and get all the credit for coming up with this tip!! They really love the movie "Annie", so they have me pretend to be "Miss Hannigan" and they are the orphans. It's pretty fun to get to say, "This place better shine like the top of the Chrysler building!" (wink)
Unfortunately, there are times when little attitudes flare up and children just do not want to obey no matter how "fun" you've made a task. At that point, punishment becomes the motivating force. Again, we are all motivated...at times...by fear of punishment or consequences of some sort, so resorting to the negative is not necessarily such a bad thing. For example, when my kids are given a "race to clean" time and the task is not completed, I simply put the remaining items in a trash bag and that bag goes in a closet for a certain time period. When my kids know they are going to loose their toys for a while if they aren't put away, they start moving really fast! Again...know your children. Some respond better to one type of punishment (i.e. time out) and the other, something else (i.e. loosing a privilege).

I realize this is not an exhaustive list, but it's what I've found to work the best with my kids over the years.

What about you? Care to share some of your own tips? Feel free to leave a comment! I'd love to learn some new tricks!

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