As you have no doubt discovered, some children are naturally highly self-motivated. They possess a continuous drive to give their best 100% of the time. Others, not so much. Some of our kids require additional assistance in learning to do their best, particularly at school. Still others are motivated to do the things they are interested in and enjoy but can’t seem to get out of their own way if it doesn’t mean anything to them. So how do we help them and manage to keep from nagging or losing our minds?
Obviously our kids—whatever age—are one of the most important, most loved people in our lives. We want the best for them and hope they strive to do well in all things. It can be frustrating to stress doing the work, helping the team, trying your best and then watch them blow it all up. Children, just like adults, can develop motivational roadblocks that hold them back from achieving what they’re meant to do.
Since the inception of the Internet, television, video games, smartphones and social networking, motivating our children has gotten progressively more difficult. To have them complete schoolwork, do some chores around the house, get more involved with school activities, or even just go outside to get some fresh air can be a struggle.
Here are some simple strategies you can use to help you motivate your children: Praise your child for their efforts as well as accomplishments When your child accomplishes something, no matter how big or small, be sure to express how proud you are of them. The trick is to also notice and acknowledge their efforts, whether they succeed or not. We can’t succeed at everything so we certainly don’t want them to feel they can or should. And contrary to what teens often give off, they do care and if they know that they’ve made you happy, they’re more apt to strive to make that happen again. Avoid focusing on the negative We all make mistakes, so it’s much more productive not to harp on them. At the same time mistakes are amazing teachers. Mistakes still give you information to learn from. So use that, teach them how to value mistakes and tolerate “failure”. It’s what builds resilience and strength. So when you can, embrace mistakes you make too–they learn more from what we do than what we say! Show pride in your child’s work Display things they are proud of too. That could be a good grade or report card but it could also be a painting or a poem. Sounds old fashioned, but placing their work on the refrigerator door, believe it or not, still works wonders! When his accomplishments are proudly displayed, he’ll be motivated to achieve as much as he possibly can. Brag Call a grandparent, aunt, or uncle and tell them about your child’s recent accomplishment. When your child sees that you take the time to make a special phone call because you’re so proud, it encourages them and boosts their confidence. I remember one time my daughter noticed a friend’s mother always bragged about her kids and when she talked about it to me it was to ask if I ever brag about her! So they do listen.
Use rewards Every child likes to be rewarded for trying hard and doing well.–whether is washing or walking their pup or studying super hard for a math test. You can try things like a weekly allowance or a special treat, like a movie or ice cream, as a reward for good behavior. Whatever the reward, children will strive to do their best to obtain these special treats. Plus if your child has ADHD, they need that dopamine hit to get motivated. Rewards work way better than taking things away. Children enjoy being able to receive something tangible for a job well done. When they are older you can reframe it so they don’t feel like a kid. I call it If/Then. If they turn in all their work, then they can go to the party on the weekend.
Show sincere enthusiasm in the things your child enjoys As a child grows, his interests may change frequently. As a parent, it’s important that you keep up with your child’s likes and dislikes. People usually like to talk about the things that they think are important. Ask questions about your child’s school work, friends, sports, or art work because that way you’re demonstrating that those things are important to you.When you make it obvious that these things are important to you then you are showing support for them and saying what’s important to them is important to you.
Encourage independence Our kids need to have some autonomy–a little power over their own lives. Allow your younger child to choose what she’ll wear for the day or what she will have for breakfast. When your kids are older, allow your teenager to choose her own style even if you don’t love it. Maybe the kids can choose what’s for dinner and even cook it. Whatever the topic, it’s super important to give your kids options and opportunities to become independent. That feeling of confidence and ownership–and of having your trust— can boost their self-esteem and motivate them to do more.
Balance goals You can help set your child up for success by teaching them the power of goals. If the kids are young, make mini goals–that could be reading for 20 minutes or practicing piano. It feels good to reach the goals you set and can really help motivate them at other times. But the trick is balance. Naturally, we want our children to succeed, but sometimes we can overdo it. After the homework, chores, and after-school activities, children deserve time to just be children. If you give them some free time to do what they want, whether it be playing video games, watching television, or anything else they choose, it will keep them motivated to do other things as well. In the end, motivating your children can sometimes feel really challenging. It’s not easy to influence how someone looks at a task or homework or anything else. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on this encouragement. And while kids are often motivated by extrinsic rewards, in time that shifts. Through your example, persistence, tenacity and the acceptance of risks and mistakes, a child or teen or young adult will eventually learn to motivate themselves. And that is so empowering.