Rewards can motivate people, but it’s short term. If the reward stops, then the behavior stops. If you stopped getting paid for work, would you still go?
We see rewards and bribes everywhere: including schools and in homes. For true motivation, it has to come from within. For example, if you take anyone who is at the top of their game: athlete, musician, businessperson. The motivation comes from within. Nobody has to stand over them telling them to practice every day. If they did have that, they will surely get burned out of doing it.
So how do we motivate our children? Well, it’s certainly important to first have a strong relationship with them. Let’s go over
1) Talk to Them – Talk about the importance of the activity. “It’s important to have your room clean so you can find things when you need it. Or so that nobody gets hurt while walking through it. Don’t use words like “have to” must” or ” should”.
2) Positive Reinforcement – When they do something that may require motivation, make a big deal about it. Be sure it’s unsolicited. “Wow son, I really appreciate you taking out the trash this morning.” or “I saw you put away your dish after dinner. That was really helpful”
3) Offer choices – Kids like being in control and when they are young, love to test it. Offer them choices to help motivate them in the right direction: “Would you rather take a bath or a shower tonight?” Would you like to do your 15 minutes of homework reading with me tonight or by yourself? It gives them a sense of control but still requires them to do the activity
4) Set Goals – Make sure they are realistic but setting goals on individual accomplishments can be helpful. Make sure the child is setting their own goals. It will be more powerful and it’s important for them in the learning process.
5) Understand their capabilities – If they are having difficulty with something, don’t always assume it’s a motivation issue. They may simply not have the skills or yet developed the skills to do it. For example, homework. They may find it difficult to do math. Not understanding something can be discouraging. Try to understand if it’s a non-motivation factor that is affecting performance.
6) Make it a Competition – Healthy competition is good. Make sure they understand not to be negative toward the other person but being competitive is a good trait.
7) Model the behavior – Monkey See – Monkey Do – You can’t expect your kids to clean up after themselves if you are not doing the same. You want them to eat healthily, you better be doing the same.
Overall it’s really about what feels good inside. It’s important for us to communicate with our children, understand their perspective, and respect where they are coming from. Maybe your son doesn’t want to play sports and would rather play music. Maybe your daughter prefers reading to doing math. Be mindful of what is important to them and what motivates them internally.